Thursday, 25 March 2010

What's In A Name?

What's In A Name?

Continuing in my efforts to keep this blog as focused on every aspect of writing as possible, I found myself wondering the other day this most seemingly irrelevant of ponderables? : What’s in a name?

How important to a book’s success is the title to which it is finally ascribed? Is the name of the story really so important? Or is it of any importance at all?

Stephanie Myer’s original title for her saccharine saga was ‘Forks’ before some media darling at her publishers recommended (insisted?) ‘Twilight.’ Would ‘Forks’ have been as great a success?
(Stepping away from literature for a minute, the intriguingly titled ‘The Long Good Friday,’ the brutal British gangster film about troubles with the IRA, was originally to be called ‘The Paddy Factor!’)

I wrestled with the christening of my debut novella ‘Swan Song’ for quite some time, a process that began at the start of writing and was only resolved at the very end. I compiled a list of some eleven titles (some of which I adored but did not suit the story) and simply chose one, taking into account my wife’s enthusiastically given opinion. I like the title I ended up with but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed when I see a book online with the same title. I strive for originality, even in a title.

So now to my new novella, yet to be written, and already I agonise over what to call this yet to born opus.

I really like the title ‘A 187 In May’ (187 is the code cops use to denote a homicide in America I believe) as it recalls the lurid exploitative stylings of ‘A Nightmare On Elm Street’ or ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ However, as a 187 technically only occurs in America, this would mean moving my story away from beloved English soil and across the ocean, a move I am loathe to make. Well, that and I promised my publisher all my stories would remain stoutly distinctly British! Besides, it seems a trifle dramatic to change a setting based on the love of a title, doesn't it?

I can’t honestly imagine a wonderful book suffering quite so greatly from a lacklustre title. It certainly didn’t seem to hurt Philip K Dick’s ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?’ (the cinematic counterpart later to be brilliantly re-titled as ‘Blade Runner.’) or Stephen King’s ‘The Tommy Knockers’ (seriously, what the hell is that meant to mean anyway?), but I ask you ladies and gentlemen of the jury, can you imagine the following books being titled anything else?

A Clockwork Orange
To Kill A Mockingbird
A Tale Of Two Cities
Interview With The Vampire
The Damnation Game
The Ka Of Clifford Hilary
The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy
The Bible (just kidding!)

...and so on and so forth, the list is endless.

The mystery continues...

(Oh and my new baby novella’s name will be announced here shortly...

...I hope.)


  1. Interesting post, Jevron. I disliked "Dance on Fire". I always assumed that something better would make itself known to me, but I never spent very much effort trying to help that process along. After twenty years of writing the thing, the novel somehow decided that that was just exactly what it wanted to be called, whether I liked it or not! LOL! Good luck naming the new baby!!

  2. Lol! I get obsessed with titles. If I don't like a title, I have to change it! Usually the last thing I do. I quite like 'Dance On Fire' mate.

  3. I wrote a piece some time ago Jev, about finding a great title for a novel it was called 'Alien Vampires Ate My Granny!' and lots of people read it just to find out what he heck I was taking I think.

    The fashion at present seem to be for single word titles Twighlight, Release, Alone etc. Thing will change though they always do. I've always liked Agatha Christie's titles and had great fun watching Dr Who identifying all the novels.

  4. Great title Gwen! I try not to go for one word titles as it increases the risk that there's another book out there with the same title. I know, it's almost impossible to have a completely original title but that's what I strive for. Now I know the full plot of my second book, all these easy simple titles are occurring to me but I will endeavour to find one that's unique!