Sunday, October 15, 2006


Patrick has taken up the Titles issue on his WHAT IF journal so I guess I should talk about my titles. I wouldn't say I need them the way I need characters and setting at the start (and characters need to have names before I can start writing), but it really helps me focus. Just as character names help form the character's identity in my mind, story titles help solidify stories in my mind, making them real to me. And it bugs me if I start writing before I have the title, and it's such a relief when, maybe 10 pages in, a title leaps to mind.

I get titles from a lot of places. Phrases (if too common, I try to twist them a bit), song titles or lyrics, something from the story itself if I know enough to come up with something that way (for my WIP, I'm using a locale I created on Mars as the title), or sometimes, something I see or overhear. I once borrowed a quote I saw on a statue and chopped off the first few words to make the title. For a story in my self-published spy series that delved into the psyche of the main character, I used a psych term. So sometimes, I guess I use the theme in the title, though I don't set out to write themes and in the cases where they do come clear to me isn't usually until I've written the story.

I used to jot down title ideas but never used them so stopped doing it.

Writing collaboratively (a topic I plan to discuss at some later point) makes coming up with titles a bit harder. For the on-hold Mars book, my co-author had an idea in mind, but couldn't find the words she wanted. The universe is her creation -- I just added to it -- so I had no problem with using her idea. So, when I was visiting her one day, we went through a thesaurus, looking up words that fit her concept until we found a two-word phrase that suited us both. It's not what I would have named the thing, but it's what has now become cemented in my mind.

And if a publisher ever asks for me to change a title? If I couldn't talk them out of it, sure, I'd change it to get the book published (same as for character names), but in my mind and heart, I would always think of it with the original name. After all, that's how I've identified them for a very long time.

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