Thursday, March 24, 2011

(Title Goes Here)

How do you title your work?  Do you pick a key phrase from the story?  Do you use one word or two?  Does your title start with the word the?  Do you pick a word that relates to the idea of the story, but has nothing really to do with the body of work?
In one light, I love titles.  I could spend hours making up titles.  In my writer’s notebook I have an entire page devoted to scribbling down titles.  “The Tomorrow Turkeys” is one I came up with about six months ago.  It sounds great; it has a bit of a Thanksgiving sound.  There’s just one problem with the title.  It doesn’t have a story to go with it!  Sometimes, when I want to make myself feel really overwhelmed, I will turn to that page in my notebook.  I stare down at the list of twenty or so titles and think, Gee, girl.  You have a lot of work to do.  All these stories need to written.  Why haven’t you started any of these stories?  The titles are RIGHT HERE FOR YOU!!!!
Usually by then, I start to cry.  I know this is a self destructive behavior, but it feels good.  It gives me hope there is many, many, many stories inside of me.  I know I will never run out of ideas.
Then there is the other side of titles—the dark side.  When you have to title a piece of work you just finished.  You know the kind of story: the one you worked on all night.  It’s awesome.  The dialog is great and the descriptions are creative and you know it’s one of the best things you’ve ever done.  But what to call the darn thing! 
I hate titles that start with “the,” but I am totally guilty of doing it.  Some selected titles from my work:  “The Green Flannel Napkin.”  “The Autumn Rock.”  “The Danger of Knowing Your Name.”  The, the, the…  To me, it sounds like the work of an immature writer.   I’m starting to get better:  “Tahiti Sandal.”  “Two keys and the Timberlands.”  “Bracelet in the Bush.” 
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  It’s because I am working on my first novel/ saga.  “Two Keys and the Timberlands” is a short novelette I wrote for a contest.  It didn’t win, but the judge of the contest told me it was good and would be worth the investment to make it a novel.  When he said that, the story’s universe totally opened up.   So now I’ve planned two more books and a book of poetry dealing with their world.  I just don’t have a title for the saga!   I want to title it as fast I can, but I don’t want to just pick anything.  In the past, I have been put off from reading prose because of bad titles.  I don’t want that to happen to my work.  My story is worth it to wait for a great title.  I just wish it didn’t have to wait so long.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rebecca, thanks for the nice comment on my blog. And that is so cool about Jamie Reynolds!!!! Like titles, the name just "came to me." Love this post about titles, so here's a few thoughts. For me, the titles just come. And like you, sometimes they terrorize with me with the unwritten stories that go with them! But I do like having a title that is a touchstone for me as I write. The Christmas Village just came to me. I am working on another children's novel called The Fairy Queen's Crown. That just came to me too.

    I was at a workshop last fall where the speaker told us that 99% of bestsellers have titles that are four words or less. Interesting!

    I am following your blog now and will list it in the blog list on my site. Would love it if you would become a follower of mine too - would love to see your face in one of those little boxes!

    Look forward to reading more.