Thursday, September 10, 2009




If I'd had my way, those would have been the titles to my first two novels. The novels that became WHEN ONE MAN DIES and THE EVIL THAT MEN DO... two clearly superior titles, I think.

I find titles to be a key element to a novel. Maybe, intially, THE KEY ELEMENT. When I walk through a bookstore, I scan the titles first. I look for one that jumps out at me, and that's what I take off the bookshelf to inspect some more.

And the problem is... with my third book I just can't find the right title. I've been through four so far. With another 70 pondered and tossed out before I even typed it on the title page. This book has been just out of my grasp for a long time, going through many many drafts... and it might not be done yet. But each time I come up with a title it just doesn't feel right.

It's been driving me batty. I'm at work and I'm just talking about titles to my colleagues. As I run, titles are jogging through my head as well.

I even forgot to post this post on time because all I've been thinking about are titles.

I'll come up with one. I'll pour through a book of quotes or I'll find a phrase in the book I like and it'll speak to me... but until then... I'll just be thinking of different phrase in my head... OVER AND OVER AND OVER...

So two questions...

As a reader, how important are titles to you?


As a writer, how important are titles to you?


Anonymous said...

I think titles are good for giving a clue to a surprise later in the book. Usually I read books suggested by friends or by authors I like, so it doesn't affect buying it as much. It is cool to have title that keeps you guessing for the first two or three chapters.


David Cranmer said...

Yes, titles are very important and I think they have become bland of late. Yesteryear offered winners like "SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES or A WRINKLE IN TIME. Titles that made you say hmmm and open the cover.

RDJ said...

As a reader...I don't know. I've heard it said that a good title is the title of a successful book, and to an extent I think that's true. Is The Shining a good title? Erase the book (and the movie) from your mind, and I think it's kind of eh, as far as titles go, but because we associate it with the content it's describing, it works.

As a writer, titles are very important to me. I can't even begin a project until I have a name for it, even if it turns out to be a temporary one, and I think long and hard about it throughout the writing process, and after, trying to pin down the right tone.

Scott D. Parker said...

As a reader, titles as essential and the initial hook that gets me. Pretty much anything with "Adventure" in the title I'll give additional consideration. And atmospheric words I like. Flashy words like "Murder" or "Death" tend to get me less interested. And I'm really enjoying the resurgence of pulpy titles, like Gabriel Hunt at the Well of Eternity.

Like David, I like old-school splashy titles and tag lines. We need more of that.

As a writer: the title of my first novel came to me late in the process, literally when I needed a title for a contest. Ditto for my steampunk novel: I needed a title and made one up. For my crime novel, however, I had the title first: Justice (originally Redemption but that gave too much away) in H-Town. The writing of the book forced the title change so I guess titles are important only after the shape of the book is clear.

Dana King said...

As a reader, I don't think a "good" title does much for me; however, a bad title can keep me away.

As a writer, I used to suffer over them. Now I come up with something jus so the computer file has a name. I can work with an agent or publisher on it when the time comes; they'll probably want to change it, anyway.

Unknown said...

The publishers changed two of my favorite titles. No amount of argument from me convinced them to change back. So I pretty much stopped worrying about it.

Steve Weddle said...

Dave, PROMISES TO KEEP and WHEN ONE MAN DIES were both phrases throughout the book, either of which would make a good title.
PROMISES TO KEEP speaks directly to Jackson Donne's commitments to his friends in investigating the death, while WHEN ONE MAN DIES, in my reading, has a broader look concerning all the people in the book-- it's a 'bigger' title. To me, WOMD works because it is a title that covers the various stories in the book, all of which unravel when one man dies.