Sunday, August 12, 2018

What's in a Title?

I'm thrilled to post my first blog as the newest blogger and look forward to sharing ideas with you. I'm a Canadian mystery author, living and writing in Ottawa Canada with eighteen published books. My latest projects include the Stonechild and Rouleau police procedural series (Dundurn) and an adult literacy series of novellas (Grass Roots Press) called the Anna Sweet mysteries. So with this brief introduction, I'll get right in to answering this week's questions!


How do you choose your titles? Put a bunch of words in a hat and pull them out at random? Use a title generator? Does your publisher do it? Do you find it easy or hard? Do you start with a working title, or just start writing? Has the title ever stayed the same?

Choosing a title is usually one of the toughest parts of the writing process for me. I say usually because the odd time, a title has popped out without much thought, however, this is the exception rather than the rule. A book title needs to satisfy a few criteria. It must:  match the story and tone of the book; attract/intrigue readers; and, be original, the latter being increasingly difficult with all the books on the market. 

So, my process for selecting a title. Since I'm writing murder mysteries, I try to have a word in the title that conveys some sense of crime fiction. My past titles include the words: mourning, bleeding, kills, graves ... you get the idea. I will choose a word and then play with word combinations, usually for an entire weekend, sometimes for an entire week. I've read poetry and music lyrics searching for a line or phrase that fits the theme of my latest book. Tumbled Graves came directly from T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" - In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing / Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel

I also like titles with a double entendre or two possible meanings. For example, Bleeding Darkness. Is the darkness bleeding or is something else bleeding the darkness? Both meanings actually work in the context of the story. Butterfly Kills - Are the butterflies killing or are the butterflies the 'kills'? Maybe, I'm only amusing myself:-)

To add to the challenge with my Stonechild and Rouleau series, the first two books have two-word titles: Cold Mourning and Butterfly Kills. My publisher called this a pattern and asked that all the books in the series have two-word titles. Once this limitation came into play, I of course, could only think of longer titles and the torment went up a notch.

When I land on a perspective title, I do an Amazon search to see if the title has already been used. Sometime, the title can still be a contender if the title was used many years ago, especially if the book is somewhat obscure. A couple of times, I've sent my choice to the publisher and they've asked me to come up with something else. Usually though, they like my choice and the designer works to create a cover to match - another key marketing piece to the puzzle.

The manuscript that I'm working on now is book seven in the Stonechild series, and it will be the last. I have a working title that miraculously appeared and might just be there when all is said and done. I'm halfway through the book and Closing Time is still in play. For this once, the stars may have aligned and saved me from another drawn-out, painful search for the perfect word combination. Let's hope my publisher agrees.







10 comments:

RJ Harlick said...

I love the thought process you go through in coming up with your titles. Welcome to the blog, Brenda. I look forward to reading your posts.

James Ziskin said...

Welcome, Brenda! Great first post. Looking forward to many mire to come.

Jim

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks so much Robin and Jim. I'm most happy to be part of such a terrific team!

Susan C Shea said...

Ah, titles. Harder to find 2-4 words than to write 80,000 sometimes! Thanks for your debut post and welcome to the Minds community.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thank you Susan - Happy to be aboard :-)

Paul D. Marks said...

Welcome aboard, Brenda. Enjoyed your post.

Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks Paul!

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Great post, Brenda. And welcome aboard.

Cathy Ace said...

Welcome Brenda - super post :-)

Brenda Chapman said...

Thank you Dietrich and Cathy - great to be part of your team!