Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Today, let me talk about titles.

As far as I'm concerned, I don't have a knack for titles.  Every now and again, I light upon a good one, but most of mine are utilitarian ... and the few times I've had to re-title a story due to editor's requests, the process has been a struggle.  Sometimes the results are worthwhile (Firstborn = The Dreamweaver's Dispute; The Clockwork Oracle = The Oracle Unlocked), but other times, about all you can say about it is that it's a title (Sailing The Seventeen Seas = Currents and Clockwork).  Post-writing titles tend to be dicey for me, so I try to come up with something before I start.

The kind of titles I enjoy the most - and the style I try to emulate - are those that use some appropriate word or phrase ... which turns out to have multiple interpretations in the story.  Often, this takes a turn to the punny - Terry Pratchett's Making Money; or one of my all-time favorite titles, Laura Resnick's Disappearing Nightly - but it can be absolutely serious, too.  Much of the Dresden Files falls into this - Summer Knight, Death Masks ...

Of my own stories, I'm proud of the titles First Contact - in which "contact" is of new species, but also of physical touch - Diminishing Returns - about a shapeshifter who loses a bit of her substance each time she transforms - and City Limits - wherein the city is a self-contained prison, and the story focuses on the characters' attempts to escape.  Even Scylla and Charybdis arguably falls into this category:  it's a fancy way of saying "between a rock and a hard place," but there are also mythological influences in the novel.

Another type of title that jumps out to me is the one that stops and makes you go, "Huh?"  It's a simple phrase that doesn't go the way you expect, an unusual combination of words, or something that immediately raises a pressing question.  Here you get humor, too - John Moore's The Unhandsome Prince.  When it comes to what intrigues, what creates a burning question, that's more a matter of personal taste, but here are a few of mine:  Mistress of the Art of Death (Ariana Franklin), Channeling Cleopatra (Elizabeth Ann Scarborough), and Thirteen Orphans (Jane Lindskold).

These are the type of titles I don't think I do as frequently or as well, but one I'm proud of is Ten Cities Down ... and, of course, Journal of the Dead possibly falls into this bracket as well.

And just to do both at the same time, Bird Out of Water (From Trespass), which ... nope.  Going to make you go read it.

What are your favorite title conventions?  Any titles that fall into these categories (or any!) that leap out as particularly strong?

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