What makes you pick up a new book? Usually it’s the title that catches my eye first.
Here are some titles that have resulted in the discovery of a great story: The Crossing Places (Elly Griffiths), Though Not Dead (Dana
Stabenow), Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters), She Walks These Hills (Sharon McCrumb), and many, many more. I’m sure when I blow out the kerosene lantern I’m going to remember several I should have listed. And it would be interesting to see what titles you like.
But this is more about the difficulty in catching just the right title for your own work. What an impossible thing. I’ve recently sent a story off for editing, with no title. Here are a couple failed ideas.
There’s a line in the story about a small house up against a canyon wall, with rocks scattered on its roof ‘like some weird mountain rain’. I love that line and thought ‘Mountain Rain’, great title! Until I realized that this is part of the ‘Mountain Mystery series’, which is just way too many mountains. The title and subtitle could almost form a mountain range on their own.
Then I thought about the name of some liquid libation that shows up in the story: Silver Mist. Because the liquid is distilled in a silver mining area. But honestly that title did nothing for me.
So I’m still wandering around waiting for inspiration. The right title will show up eventually. In the meantime, I’m pondering what makes a good title. Why one works and another doesn’t.
In some ways it’s obvious. A book called Encrypted won’t be picked up by me. Neither will Lady Sophia’s Rescue (but my sister will snap that one up). So the title clues me in that the book is a genre I like to read. Like I said, obvious.
Yet there are a lot of mystery titles I don’t pick up. So just as obviously, the title is simply luck of the draw. There’s something in the words that I as a reader respond to. The mystery reader standing next to me might pass up the same book I just felt an urge to read.
If it’s all so arbitrary then why is it so hard to come up with a title? Seems like it should be the easiest part. Or at least a little easier than writing the whole story to begin with.
I wonder if anyone has ever titled their book, ‘Pick me! Pick me!’