You would think that a writer would have a good enough imagination not to be phased when it comes to finding a title for her magnum opus. Sadly, not in my case. When it comes to ideas for stories, it’s standing room only inside my brain, but finding titles for those stories is an entirely different…well, story.
A title needs to stand out, to grab the attention of potential agents, publishers and readers. It needs to inform, intrigue and entice and most of all, it needs to be relevant. It shouldn’t be boring, mustn’t sound pretentious and can't afford to be instantly forgettable. So, we’re not asking much of it, are we?
And is it any wonder that I develop something akin to stage fright when I have to come with a title?
I indulged in a little moan about this recently on Twitter. No one seemed to be able to offer me the magic solution, sadly. One Twit (sorry, Tweep) said he had the reverse problem, plenty of titles, no story ideas. After reflection that did make me feel slightly better, though it didn’t solve my problem.
I mean, take my first novel: ‘The Apple Tree’. I still cringe at just how unimaginative that sounds. One sensitive soul asked me what the relevance of the title was and was clearly unimpressed to hear that the heroine had an old apple tree in her garden which seemed to represent her childhood triumphs and achievements. It’s a minor character in the story, however, and tells nothing of the dramatic traumas the heroine undergoes as an adult.
My most significant novel (the one of which I’m still so possessive that I can’t yet send it out into the big wide world to try its fortune) still has its working title “Unworkers”. In fact it’s lived with that for so long that I doubt I could bear to change it now. A good friend kindly pointed out to me that I'd invented the word, which was meaningless. Not to me, it’s not! The work is women’s fiction (with a supernatural twist) and one of the characters explains its meaning in Chapter Two. “Unworkers”, she claims are those “Unpaid, unvalued, unnoticed [women] ... we’re like those little elfin tailors, beavering away invisibly, putting the world to rights with our neat little patches while we put our own lives on hold for everyone else.” Speaking as one of them, I think I invented a pretty good word…it remains to be seen whether it will work as a title, however.
And now my latest dilemma is to find a title for my current work – a romantic suspense. This has lived – untitled – in my mind for so long that naming it now seems almost wrong! But name it I must. So I put on my oversized thinking cap and went to work. The moment I stopped toying with ideas, one popped into my head. ‘In Loving Hate’. Now, why I had been thinking of Romeo and Juliet at that moment, I have no idea. So I asked my chief critic and mentor (my son) what he thought of it – and he told me in his delightfully honest way. ‘Don’t like it. Too commercial and common. It lacks sophistication.’ Well, I wonder how William would feel about that? I asked my good friend and fellow writer, Deb what she thought and this was her response: 'I LOVE the title!!! It's short and powerful, intriguing, and catches the reader's attention. And it has a Shakespeare connection'. Hmm...
So here is my question to any readers kind enough to respond. To be or not to be: ‘In Loving Hate’?
Oh, and if you have a secret for coming up with great titles, please share it!