Thursday, May 12, 2011

Your Title Here

     The art of naming a work is a tricky thing.  I will cop to being much better at naming my own short stories than my longer works.  Those That Wake was originally titled Four until someone looked at me somberly and said "you know, your book isn't going to be named that when it's published."  I grant you that Four is not such a great title (and I'm not at all bitter about someone else going with I Am Number Four), and Those That Wake (from Matthew Prior's words quoted at the left of your screen) turned out to be both a fitting title and one that summoned the ominous sense I was looking for.
     What makes a good title?  Well, immediate impact certainly serves a purpose, something that grabs -- even demands -- attention the first time you hear it (like, say, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).  Something iconic that can conjure an overall sense of the work is good, too (for instance Star Wars).  Personally, I fall for the more subtle things: something that sounds mellifluous but also evokes a tone (The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers) or something so weird or mysterious you've just got to pick up the book and find out what it means (The Devil Is Jones by Lester Dent).  The very best titles, I think, work almost like a twist ending.  They function as one thing before you've read the book, but take on a new level of meaning -- or even give the work itself a new level of meaning --  once you're done (The Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton).  I was shooting for that with Those That Wake.  I also did some tricky stuff with the chapter titles, too, but don't get me started on chapter titles.  I've got so much to say on those, I'm going to have to save it for another post.

No comments:

Post a Comment