Monday, 6 March 2017

Titles by Val Tyler

I’m reaching the stage in my manuscript where a title would be useful. I know it’s not essential, but it would help me.

I could go down the Harry Potter or Jane Eyre route. Both characters are expertly named. Harry’s is an ordinary name for a far-from-ordinary boy. Jane sounds plain, with a touch of something extra in the surname, just like the heroine. In Rebecca it takes the entire book to find out what Rebecca was really like; at the same time we never learn the first name of her successor. Clever!

A more oblique way of naming a book for a character is found in The Woman in White. We meet her at the beginning of the story; she is pivotal to the plot, but it takes most of the book to find out why. In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the title alludes to the notion that although the tenant is central to the story, no one knows anything about her.

My story is about two people and so they should both be in the title. Romeo and Juliet works for Shakespeare, but probably not for me. Perhaps I could use The Prince and Pauper idea, but my main characters are not so easily categorised.

I could take my inspiration from Pride and Prejudice. Angry and Stubborn? No, I need alliteration. Snappy and Snotty? Artful and Ardent? I’d better keep thinking.

The 39 Steps is an important clue to solving the mystery. Do I have three or four words that are key to my story? I don’t think so. Austen, Adams and Eliot went for place names – Mansfield Park, Watership Down, Middlemarch. Kellerthrale is an important place in this story. Kellerthrale? Does that work?

How about taking an important object from the story like The Silver Sword. I do have something I could use, but if I give it away in the title it may spoil the read.

House of Cards is what I would call a clever title. It describes the book perfectly while giving nothing away. On the other hand My Family and Other Animals tells us everything about the book and yet I am still inspired to pick it up. Oh! for a title like, To Kill a Mockingbird or Of Mice and Men. Perhaps I’m simply not clever enough.

I’ve just discovered there are entire websites dedicated to finding titles, which is heart warming. I am not the only one who struggles. Perhaps I should take a look.


I may take some time.

11 comments:

tracy alexander said...

Yes, I too don't seem to have a talent for knowing what the title should be.

Dawn Finch said...

I am rubbish at titles. When I do school workshops I tell children that they don't have to come up with a title until the story is done, but one teacher stepped in and told me off for that. She said that "the title is the place to start" and all children had to write their title first.
What?! I've never managed to come up with a title before the story.

David Thorpe said...

What is the theme of your story? Would that help?

Lynne Benton said...

Lovely post, Val - and it's a problem faced by many of us! I find my titles either come instantly (sometimes even before the story!) or I have to struggle for ages to think of something that fits the story, without, as you say, giving away any secrets. And as for that teacher telling the children they have to write their title first... well! Words fail me! However, in the case of your book, I'm sure the right title will come to you eventually. Good luck!

Val Tyler said...

It's fabulous to realise I am not alone in this.

I do dislike it when teachers only have one way of approaching a subject. That's the whole point about learning. Your teacher, Dawn, clearly finds it easier to have a title first, where as we discover our title as we go along.

My story, David, is a YA fantasy adventure about two youngsters who separately discover they are not who they thought themselves to be. Over the course of the story, they have to come to terms with their revelations, learn to live with the changes and make a success of their new identities.

Lynne Benton said...

"Who Am I?" Would that work? Sounds a great story! I'm sure other people will come up with other, much better, ideas, but there's one for a starter.

Val Tyler said...

That's a good thought, Lynne. Thanks.

Rowena House said...

I feel for you! Titles are so hard. I tried one of those online generators & superficially they look good but then one realises they're very samey. Inevitably, I suppose. Maybe a working title a stepping stone to The One. Good luck!

Becca McCallum said...

I think I remember a discussion here (or maybe it was on the history girls website) about 1970s era book titles that featured an object + adjective e.g. 'The Peppermint Pig', 'The Stone Book' and things like that...

Becca McCallum said...

OK - it was bugging my enough for me to spend at least ten minutes searching through previous posts (and re-enjoying many a good read in the process!): it was was waaay back in Feb 2015 and it was Cathy Butler's 'Amazing Patented Title Generator' post. Myabe you could give that a try? ;)

Val Tyler said...

I agree, Rowena. I wasted more time that I should on them.

Thanks, Becca. That's a good thought. I'll give it a go.