Making the Title Count

November 7, 2018

 

We've all seen it, those penny romance novels sitting in rows at the dollar store with titles like "My Holiday Cowboy" or "His Muscles are Strong." They're obvious, and their one purpose is to sell themselves. Your goal as the serious and enthusiastic writer is to avoid this obvious trap, but you also want to avoid other title traps as well. The title can be just as important as the novel itself, and obviously everyone wants to write a stellar book. The great author will shoot for a title that is so much more than a catchy phrase or an obvious attempt to just sell their work. Simply put, the title can be intriguing and provide a huge focus of discovery for the reader. Look for that 'oh yeah!' moment when the title finally jumps out at you and the meaning comes full circle.

 

So how can a novelist make the title of their book count? The best novel titles are very meaningful to plot and character. And the best authors make their readers work for that special moment when the light bulb pops on and the meaning of the title is glaringly clear. And they don’t just lay it out simplistically for the reader either. They make them struggle for that payoff, which makes it sweeter when the reader finally makes the connection. And if the author has packed in a huge emotional punch, well, that’s all the better.

 

I hope I’ve accomplished something like this in the opening volume of The Stonehenge Chronicles. The book is titled Veiled Memory, and its title is loaded with meaning. I challenge readers to look for that meaning as they immerse themselves in plot and character.

 

Subtle foreshadowing is one way authors like to work in bits and clues to guide their reader to a full understanding of the title. These clues are often buried in plot and character, the two guideposts or pillars of a story. We all know what plot is. Philip K. Dick, that great science fiction author, explained it best when he said, "plot is just one damn thing after another." And character is much more than the people populating the novel, it’s who they are, inside and out, and what makes them tick for good or bad.

 

So look for those subtle clues if you have an inkling that the title of the work is going to be meaningful to plot and character and vice versa. And have fun in the discovery.

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