About What's In A Name
I’ve spoken with writers who abhor titles. Not the case for me. I love naming chapters, books, short stories, songs, all of it.
A title can’t give up the game. In my opinion, it should say something about the story that the reader won’t understand until they actually read the thing. But…it shouldn’t mislead them, either.
I’ll give a good example. I wrote a book called the Laws of Space. This is a novel about the lines people draw between each other, how it’s possible to imagine a world where the average person doesn’t want any contact with anyone else.
Obviously a strange notion. But this is obviously a very different world and it needs a lot of world-building, ergo Laws.
A lot of people open it up and expect it to be a sci-fi adventure set in outer space, but they are mistaken. I put faith in the storytelling to allow them the time to adjust to the paradigm that the opening pages present—the rest is up to them. I can be a cheeky bastard, and in this case, I’m trying to be. Don’t hide what you are, but do hide what you’re going to do for your reader, just a little.
The ideal title is probably something simpler. My first book was called On Killing and Innocence, because that pretty much summed up the ethos of the story. On the other hand, it’s not a straight ahead tale. I was going for a slightly ironic take on War and Peace and/or Crime and Punishment. It’s total hubris to even set my story in the same galaxy as these two giants, but again, that was kind of the point. Mine is a much more lighthearted take on serious subject matter.
So this probably did more to obscure my methods than to illuminate them. Hopefully something can be gleaned from the explanation set forth. Play with your titles, have fun trying to think what can provoke interest and still be germane to the narrative you wish to tell.
What’s in a name? Not everything, certainly, but it might be what makes someone pick up your work. In a world where people can choose anything, don’t pull punches you don’t have to.
Cheers to you animals. See you after.