Thursday, January 6, 2011

[Insert Title Here]

"I am struggling with titling this novel. I suck at titles."

While I do not have a Twitter account and fully intend to keep myself as far away from Twitter as possible for as long as possible (seriously, Facebook eats up enough of my time), I do fully admit to stalking John and Hank Green on their Twitter pages... 'cause they post interesting stuff.

Like that quote there? That's John trying to come up with a title for his new project, I believe. Proving that, even though I've loved all his titles thus far (I mean, come on: Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, and Paper Towns? How much more epic can you get?) he is struggling from the same problem I have right now.

I hate titles. The titles of my essays for school are the most uncreative things ever. I am monumentally bad at shrinking something the size of a novel to a couple of well-chosen words (one reason, perhaps, that my one-sentence summaries in the side bar look more like one-paragraph summaries...).

I'm fond of two of the titles over there - Preposterous Things was taken from a quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it makes perfect sense. Letters to Oliver is about exactly that - letters written to Oliver, even though they aren't sent. (I did get an awful lot of rather nasty comments about the title when I put my query in Query Letter Hell for critique; some people thought it sounded like the title of a cheap romance novel, but I like it.)

I am having an awful lot of trouble retitling A Bridge to War, and it is most irritating. That title comes from the very first draft of this story, said by a minor character who no longer exists and referring to a plot that has completely changed. The only replacement I've managed to think of sounds like a bad CIA thriller - and no, I'm not going to tell you what it is, you'll laugh at me.

I've been perusing my bookshelf trying to get inspiration from other titles, but so far it's been like watching professional ballerinas - I know enough to know just how hard the steps and leaps they're doing are, but they just make it look so EASY.

My favorite title ever has to be The Once and Future King (which is a shame because I actually couldn't finish the book; I found it sort of annoying). It just has a great ring to it.

Some other titles I like (other than John Green's great ones) are all very direct: The Thief Lord is about a character who calls himself the Thief Lord. Her Fearful Symmetry is a very creepy story about identical twins. Sorcery and Cecelia involves both sorcery and Cecelia. So all I have to do is come up with a word or a phrase that sums up this story in its entirety, right? Right. Well... I'm having a lot of trouble coming up with something sufficiently werewolf-y and sufficiently French-Revolution-y at the same time.

Hopefully something will come to me.

How do you come up with titles? Do you agonize over them, or do they come to you as lightning bolts of inspiration? What are some of your favorite book titles and why?


  1. They just come to me! *bats eyelashes and look innocent* Nah, usually it gives me headaches and takes an awful lot of time, but there'll be a point where something just clicks and the world fall in the right place.

    If it's finding the right title or going insane... I don't know. :P

    Totally agree about The Once And Future King, by the way! And never finished the book either, but I love the Disney film! :D

  2. *I* like your titles, especially Letters to Oliver. There are a lot worse titles out there - I'm beginning to dislike all the paranormal YA with single titles. Prime examples are words like 'Passion', 'Bitten', 'Moonlight', 'Bloodright' or whatever. Urgh. Tell me what the book's about, dammit!

    I think your story should sell itself - the title can be changed later on. Twilight was originally 'Forks', so, you know, yours aren't all that bad :D

  3. I like Letters to Oliver too. It makes me think it would be sad if that's totally off, then maybe not, but if so, it's a good one! :-) I really like titles. I usually come up with ones before I even start the story and I get so attached I would hate to change it. LOL But I can see how hard it would be. Sometimes certain story ideas won't give me a title.

    As for favorite titles...I really love The Perks of Being a Wallflower (because it grabs you and makes you wonder)


  4. Marieke: Hopefully that'll happen to me. And I love The Sword in the Stone! Possibly because Arthur comes across as sort of cute and bumbling, rather than as a huge prat, which is good.

    Other Caitlin: Ugh, yeah, I generally don't like one-word titles either. The exception being, of course, when that word has to do with the actual story and not just "oh, vampire novel, let's call it something creepy." Like the Inkheart trilogy. And Shiver - that has a lot to do with the story!

    Lauren: Thank you! Um, well, I don't know if it's sad, exactly - the letters to Oliver aren't exactly cheery, but the story has a happy ending.

  5. Yeah, my titles tend to come as lightening bulb of inspiration, but I find myself agonising over them until I do. The first stages of my sni are hilarious as they are usually titled: CRAZY GIRL STORY or BULLY AND MEGA LULZ.

    oh dear.

  6. Haha, I don't know. BULLY AND MEGA LULZ sounds like a good title to me. :P