Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Title this

James Michener once admitted that he was not gifted with great book titles.  Hence, he simply used locations (he wrote historical-based novels) for most of his book titles:  Hawaii, Chesapeake, etc.  He often said he was envious of writers who could create exceptional titles for their work . . . titles like A Streetcar Named Desire or Look Homeward, Angel or The Grapes of Wrath.

Yes, titles are tough.  A great title can be the beginning of a mediocre work, and an exceptional title grabs attention.

I've never been gifted at creating titles, myself. But that doesn't mean I don't try.  And it doesn't mean I haven't hit upon a few exceptional ones that have grabbed the attention of editors.

Among my personal favorites, and titles that have caught the eye of editors are my short story titles "The Sea and All That Is In It" (science fiction); "Playing the Straight Man" (suspense); and "Coulrophobia" (mystery/suspense).

But for these, I'm afraid that all of my other fare, by the hundreds, are second-rate titles.

But interestingly enough, I sometimes create titles before I have concepts or characters to fill them.  I am warming, for example, to a science fiction story that I have worked on for nearly two years that will be entitled (if I ever complete it):  "Musca Domestica".  (You'll have to look this up in a biology text book to catch the drift.)  And I have a notebook of other titles with illustrious lines such as:  "A Thousand Words From Home"; "A Thousand Years in the Sight of the Lord"; and "The Cattle on a Thousand Hills".  (Note the "thousand" theme?)  But I have no idea when, or if, a story will ever fill these up.

I love a good title.  Hence, some of the best books I've read in the past twenty years would probably be:  "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"; "Angela's Ashes"; or "Mornings on Horseback".

See what I mean?  A great title makes the writing.

Maybe I should spend more time creating my titles.  I'm troubled by my lack of creativity.  There are some good titles out there that no one has taken, and I've got to find them.


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