Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Titilating Titles

Some titles are wistful and subtle like Gone With the Wind while others are a bullet straight to the heart like Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes. But no matter which angle they take, titles are a large part of a consumer's first impression and can make the difference between a sale or re-shelving. No wonder that coming up with a good title can be the hardest part of writing a book!

So far I have written two books. And I have encountered two different dilemmas where titles are concerned. It appears that crafting a title may forever be the bane of my existence.

Dilemma the first:  My first novel is about the latent effects of childhood sexual abuse and one family's journey toward healing once the memories surface. Even during the first draft of writing, the working title Scream Out Loud stuck in my head. It said everything I wanted it to...it was strong, unambiguous and emotional. It was uniquely contradictory as is the the entire subject of abuse. In my novel, the victim is screaming and screaming - on the inside. What she really wanted to do, what she really needed to do, was Scream Out Loud. But as much as I love the title...it is also reminiscent of a Stephen King horror novel. What I don't want is to miss my mark and not only attract the wrong audience but alienate my target. Nevertheless, after toying with other titles, I stuck with Scream Out Loud and am hoping for the best.

Dilemma the second: My second novel is a mother daughter saga in which the daughter ultimately suffers for the mother's bad choices. Immediately upon finishing the first draft, I chose the title Sins of the Mother. That was my title until I checked Amazon and found at least a dozen others by the same name. Obviously, I hadn't been nearly as clever and original as I had thought. So I began brainstorming about a dozen other combinations and finally settled on The Last Goodbye. Now that I've changed the title, I've grown to love it and see that it better suits the tone and ultimate theme of the entire piece. But I'm not going to lie, it was hard getting over my first instinct. After all, much of the writing process is instinctual. Plots and characters just feel right. We as writers learn to trust and hone our instincts to near perfection.To deviate from them is difficult.

Now that I've made peace with my first two titles, I have only to wonder if my next project will pose yet another title conundrum. How do the great writers find just the right mix of chic and savvy while hitting the mark every time?

Do you have a favorite title of all time? And if you've had the experience of titling your own book, was it a challenge or did it just naturally evolve from your story?