The Power of Names

Titles mean much, so much, wow.  They have the power to help or, as my friend likes to say, “shit all over” a book.  They can draw you in or turn you off.  It makes sense, therefore, that there’s a mystical appeal to the creation of a good title, so here is a transcription of sorts of my writerly instincts and what they tell me about titles.  They could be totally off, but that’s okay.

A good title is immediate.  It grabs your eye, forces you to linger a while.

A good title conveys depth.  Sure, it’s attention-grabbing, but that’s because it hints at something more, raises questions.

A good title is true to its material.  It doesn’t initially mislead the reader.  A title designed to mislead the reader is probably followed by a mischievous, misleading, sarcastic book.

A good title has a picture of a mountain.

France Mtn.

A good title is poetic.  When read aloud, does it pass the goose-bump test?  Do the words work together, or against each other?

A good title is readable.  This is especially important for fantasy!  Florquisord’s Herbdizerd of Superfluous Might might be an interesting book, but as a title, it’s pretty useless.

As far as my own titles, the process of creating a main title is pretty rigorous.  I go through a bunch of ‘working titles’ that try to angle at the meaning.  Then, through trial and error–and relentless masochism–I discover the ‘true’ title, or I wimp out and go with my favorite ‘working’ title.  Either way, it’s hard to be truly satisfied with a little label that will forever color the way people regard your art.

Chapters, you ask?  Well, I use iTunes song titles at first.  I pick songs that best approximate the mood of each chapter, and then, at the very end, I change them to match the content.

So, what are some of your favorite titles?  Of albums, of books, of poems, of ships?  And why?

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Don’t steal my words.  They’re mine. Zachary Barnes 2015©

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