Choosing a title is one of the most important things a writer has to do and is perhaps only superceded by the crafting of synopses as the most hated task. So, where do we find our titles?
Sometimes, the theme of the book suggests a title. Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” falls into this category. The perfect description in three words of the basic characters of the two main protagonists, Elinor all head and Marianne all heart. Short, snappy, says everything.
Some titles are just alluring whilst referring to the subject matter of the book and I would choose Linda Acaster’s “Torc of Moonlight” to illustrate this. A timeslip thriller, it deals with the distant past infringing on the present. Again, the title is short and sweet, but has an eerie quality about it that tells you all you need to know about the tenor of the story. A play on words is frequently hard to resist. Stuart Aken’s “Breaking Faith” uses this and it reflects the multi-layered story of Faith as she comes from darkness, through adversity into light.
The genre can also help with formulating a title. Shirley Wells’s “Presumed Dead” uses policespeak to set the mood for ex-cop Dylan Scott’s search for woman who has been missing for a long time. Sometimes authors use repeated phrases; the perfect example of this is J D Robb’s ‘In Death” series, now up to about No 34. Karen Wolff’s ‘Seers’ series uses this device, too.
For the rest of us, and I include myself in this category, searching for the perfect title can be a game. I must know my title before I can begin to write. I think about the theme or tone of the book and go initially to Shakespeare, always good for a pithy bon mot or a phrase that can be tweaked to say what I want it to say. Penny Grubb used this to good effect with a quote by Joseph De Maistre in her crime novel “Like False Money”.
For my contemporary crime series featuring Georgia Pattison, I use musical titles, because she is an early music soprano. For these, I generally go to opera, so the second in the series, not yet published is “When I Am Laid In Earth” from Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ and the third will probably end up as “Say Goodbye Now” the title of Figaro’s first act aria to Cherubino in ‘The Marriage of Figaro”. It is amusing how many musical titles fit a crime story!
So, when you next pick up a book from the library shelves, don’t think the title was just added as an afterthought. Nothing could be further from the truth.