Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What was the inspiration for the title of your WIP?


Titles are tricky.

A great title can catapult a book, a bad title, well, the worst are probably just dull.

How did you think of the title of your WIP or last project?

My current WIP is untitled, but I named Jacob Wonderbar after my favorite coffee drink at Philz. Coffee wins again.

What about you?

Art: Don Quixote in the library by Adolf Schrödter






50 comments:

Mary Kate said...

This poem:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

Its meaning has always haunted me. I'm still in the querying stage so unsure yet if any agents will like it, but we shall see :)

Julie C. said...

I am HORRIBLE about titles. And when I say horrible, that is not an exaggeration. I'll be reading people's comments for any tips on how to become better at it!

That being said, at least I'm more malleable than, say, Salinger. *cough*Blue Melody*cough*. (Although, I do like "Scratchy Needle on a Phonograph Record" better than "Blue Melody".)

Melissa McPhail said...

Great question! The titles of my fantasy novels are based on a common theme that threads through each book in the series. There's a deep connectivity between the title of the book and the central conflict that each viewpoint character is facing. Somewhat challenging to establish that precedent, but it's worked so far.

Amalie said...

My publisher always gives books a new title, so now I just name my WIP something to amuse myself. Also maybe to make my editor wonder if I'm insane(or to confirm what she already wondered before I started this practice). It's a lot easier to title something if you are just making yourself snicker.

Current Working Title: Frogmarched to Enlightenment

CourtLoveLeigh said...

For writing, I normally choose a theme, image, or idea that is present throughout the entire work. I like them to relate and I like them to have a bit of lyricism. Right now, my WIP has a lot of things going on with bodies of water, so the current title reflects that.

For songs, I usually just pick a short phrase or word from the song itself. I try not to think too hard, either way.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

My last one, I didn't get the right title until more than a year after I'd finished it. Then my daughter made a chance comment (she was claiming dibs to play the part in a movie, when and if) and I realized the title was all wrong. I'd been calling it "The Wreck of the Gladys B." since i started it, but obviously "Chrissie Warren: Pirate Hunter" is orders of magnitude better.
On my current WIP I actually knew the title first. I actually saw the cover, knew the title and what typeface it would be printed in. Then the story that went with that title started showing in my head. It's been different. And fun. It's almost like it's already written, I just have to remember it.

Mirka Breen said...

I think of titles as "working titles," subject to change(s). One of mine was changed, (several times, by the editor) while the other was once, but ultimately reverted to my original. However, I can't imagine not having one *while* working.

Zan Marie said...

Mine is currently FRIENDLY FIRE due to a character using that term to describe child and spousal of all types. It much better than the oringinal MOTHER'S DAY, but then the WIP's theme has more depth and breadth now.

Sarah said...

Mine is currently "The Prior's Fee". It's set in Norwich (the one in England) around the Cathedral and Close which, until the Reformation, was called the Prior's Fee, meaning the area under the rule of the Priory. The last Prior features, as does his fee in the sense of a payment, and there's a certain amount about the conflict between the church and the city...

Maggie said...

Mine doesn't really have a title yet. It's still very much in the pre-stages.

Roger Floyd said...

Don't put too much effort into choosing a title. The publisher will probably change it anyway.

tcscrib said...

I like playing with common phrases that people will feel familiar with and hopefully wonder what the twist is.
Question for Nathan:
How much influence do you think a title has on a query's effectiveness?

Sarah Brentyn said...

Mine is a peek at the characters and the plot. A play on words. I like your coffee one better. :-)

And, as some others have said, I think of it as a working title--subject to change.

Nathan Bransford said...

tcscrib-

A great title can help a little and a bad one can hurt a little but neither one is likely to be a major differentiator. Titles can be changed, after all.

Magdalena Munro said...

My son took my totally boring/lame title and whipped out the title the smell of the pink sky. Not bad for a four year old. Not sure it will stick but it was infinitely better than the original idea.

Eugenia Parrish said...

I used "The Last of Camelot" as a working title, but I began to realize that 1) it was actually set some years after the Kennedy administration, and b) it sounded like a medieval romance (not). My publisher came up with "The Last Party in Eden", which was much better than I could think of. I mean, at least the kids do party, and with Viet Nam heating up, their childhood Eden was over. My next book I based on a beat-up local bar called "The Wreck" and changed the bar's name to "The End of the Line", which still fit the ambience. Then to differentiate from my mainstream novel, because it was a murder mystery, we settled for "Murder at the End of the Line". Voila. I hate trying to come up with titles, but at least the sequel is easy: "Death at the End of the Line"!

terryd said...

My first novel's working title was "The Winter of God and Man" but my editor went with "The Unit." The sequel's working title is slang for a different part of the human anatomy.

Jil said...

"When you are amber dust,
no more a raging fire like the heat of the sun."
This poem haunted me since early schooldays and fit perfectly my novel "Amber Dust" the story of a woman fulfilling her husband's last wish - to take his ashes to England and spread them on his true love's grave.

Nancy Thompson said...

For my debut, The Mistaken, it seemed appropo since the MC kidnaps the wrong girl, but also because just 3 of the 4 major characters were mistaken about major plot points. My second book, Leverage, well, the entire book is about the antagonist using the MC's family as leverage to force him to do what he wants. Both titles came to me easily.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I love, love, love the title of my WIP.

HEAD-SLAPS, SPEED-BUMPS AND LIGHT-BULBS;
one woman’s WTF, oops and ah ha moments of life.

I’m a columnist. The book is a memoir - with why I wrote what I wrote and what happened after each piece was published. The title came to me during a three and half hour ride from Vermont to Connecticut, (I had just dropped my daughter off at college). Alone in the car and heading home to an empty nest, with a husband who falls asleep on the couch during Wheel of Fortune each night, had me itching to get to it. That ride was one of the best conversations I ever had... with myself.

Sandra Stiles said...

This is something I struggle with.
Steps to Courage is a 9/11 story. It was inspired by the courageous things 3 teens had to overcome in their life in addition to surviving 9/11. It was also a look at me taking steps to publish when I was so afraid. Current WIP no luck yet with a title I like.

G. B. Miller said...

My current WiP (a personal slush) has a title that sort of connects with the plot of the story (serial killers) but my first novel had a title that was found on the 1040 tax form.

Father Nature's Corner

Bryan Russell said...

I actually love doing titles. I often look at the themes, and then I try to find a fragment of a sentence from the book that ties in with that theme. Or sometimes the title is a sort of dream fragment that inspires a story.

Petrea Burchard said...

The comments are especially fun today!

My working title was "Real Camelot," but although my beta readers liked the book, a couple of them mentioned that the title wasn't interesting. The story is a time-travel fantasy about a Hollywood actress who ends up in 500 A.D. with the real King Arthur. When my friend heard that, she said, "Well, it's obvious, your title has to be 'Camelot & Vine.'"

It pays to have witty friends.

Neil Larkins said...

"The Last Time You Fall." Title of my dual memoir of my wife and I the first three weeks when we met. I'd asked her a question; she answered with this. Sorry, can't reveal what was said that lead up to it. Ruin the story! Great stuff here, Nathan. Thanks for asking YOUR question.

abc said...

I love coming up with titles. I actually have a list of titles for possible future books. Or not. I like to make lists. I also like to pretend that I would have been excellent in advertising. I don't know how they come to me, they just do. My current project started with the title. It describes the story while also being catchy. Who needs a title? I can help!

Laura Martone said...

My titles often have double meanings, but that doesn't mean they're always good. Luckily, my hubby is usually much better at coming up with titles than I am.

Regardless, though, I really loved this question, Nathan - and appreciated all the thoughtful answers. It's fascinating to see how many different things (poems, songs, places, etc.) can inspire a title... even if it will be changed by the powers-that-be. (Of course, self-published writers don't have to worry about that!)

Robin Connelly said...

My current title--I think I've gone through 8 at this point--is Land of Blood and Sunlight. It's a play on the phrase "Land of Milk and Honey." And is actually how one of my characters describes a very important location in my book. I think it may be too long and am always looking for a better title.

Heidi said...

Since I write science fiction and fantasy in the early stages I usually name my chapters after their location. Which usually lasts till I'm well into the third or fourth draft.

Bruce Bonafede said...

Choosing a title is always my favorite part of writing anything because for me it's the easiest part. I try to match the tone of the work - for instance if I'm writing humor I try to use something humorous - but just as important I try to find or create a phrase that, to me, expresses the soul of the work. My current WIP is a book laced with philosophical humor, so for the title I'm using a phrase from Pascal. Since he's such a funny guy.

Tammy said...

My WIP is called Spared Parts because sometimes it's not what you have, but rather what was left behind or if you will, what was spared.

Fi said...

My title is 'Haven Falling'. It reflects many things in my book. The main protagonist's surname is Haven and he goes through an attack, being framed for his uncle's murder and losing a good friend, before he defeats the villain and saves his new friends. The novel is the first of a trilogy and the ongoing story of the 3 is the attack on the world of the novel by other, more serious villains. If they succeed, the haven of that world will fall.

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Brendan said...

For a narrative nonfiction piece I'm working on about the maple syrup culture is titled "The Sugar House Rules" after "The Cider House Rules."

A short story I'm writing, titled "The Superhero List" is inspired by a "This American Life" story about a woman who made a list when she was a child on how to be a superhero.

I love titles. Fun question, Nathan!

C L Deards said...

What CourtLoveLeigh said.

My first novel had no title until the very end. In the end the title just came to me.

I didn't realize until the end of the story what loomed over everyone, what was the elephant in the room.

In my case the elephant was The Tome of Worlds.

Cyndi Perkins said...

First novel title, "Loop Dee Doo," is a play on the 6,000-mile America's Great Circle Loop, a boating journey around the Eastern U.S. and Canada. WIP, "Yoga For Smokers," inspired by a ciggy-puffing guru (unexpected muse). I always enjoyed writing headlines during my newspapering days; titles offer similar stimulation.

Susan Tuttle said...

My titles usually stem from either the theme of the book or something of significance in it, a symbol of some kind. "Proof of Identity" is a suspense novel based on fingerprint identification; "Dead Ringer" is about mistaken identity, and "Tattooed in Death" came about because the killer tattoos his victims—his "signature" you might say.

My series on how to write fiction and creative nonfiction got this: "Write It Right" because I love alliteration, and the play on write-right. The tag defines it: "Exercises to Unlock the Writer in Everyone."

But sometimes titles just don't come. Then I rely on my critique group for a brainstorming session, and that almost always works!

Carrie-Anne said...

My WIP, Journey Through a Dark Forest: Lyuba and Ivan in the Age of Anxiety, had its title drawn from the opening stanza of The Divine Comedy. Each of the four Parts of the book also have titles taken from the opening stanza: Midway Life's Journey, The Right Path Appears Not Anywhere, This Wood, So Harsh, Dismal, and Wild, and The Good It Is Their Hap to Find. I also frequently have chapter titles taken from song or poetry lyrics.

Jenna Ives said...

IMO, a good title is as important as the contents of the book itself. "Snow White And Her Seven Lovers" tells a reader exactly what to expect. "Programmed To Please" gives a reader a good idea that something mechanical (in this case, a female sex robot) is involved. Titles grab a reader as much as the book cover, which is also important!

Jenna Ives

Terin Tashi Miller said...

Mine was a familiarity with during and post-WWI poetry. I have frequently found inspiration for both titles and setting of mood (both mine,and, hopefully, readers) in poetry and poetic language and imagery, as in the bible.

I found a stanza from The Wasteland going around in my mind and it seemed to some up the sense of hopelessness and desolation of the world's first and worst, in terms of human slaughter and sacrifice for and because of romantic ideals and propaganda, world war.

As my WIP deals with characters who are veterans, witnesses, to that "world gone mad," and the story does some shifting between then and now in the post-9/11 world, I could not shake the stanza "We are the hollow men, the stuffed men, headpiece filled with straw..."

And have named my WIP, for which before I only had a vague notion of its subject matter and characters, "The Hollow Men."

Another great question, former Mr. Agent Man...:)

Marion said...

Child of the Ibis is the name of my protag., translated into English. An alternative translation would be Child of the Baboon, but that wouldn't sell too well!

Henri said...

I can't begin a WIP without atitle floating around my head. It helps me stay focused, even though I may choose a different handle by time the piece is finished.

Lynn Viehl said...

The name of my setting is doubling as part of the title for my current WIP, but I usually raid poetry for interesting words and phrases. Julie C., try doing a keyword search in the verse section of Bartleby.com; you might find some lines that inspire new title ideas.

D.T. Krippene said...

Great question, so many inventive answers. I'm with Julie C., by far the most difficult part of a books journey for me. Something useful eventually pops in when I near the end. But then, publishers will often change it anyway.

Anonymous said...

With publishers I brainstorm and I always let the publisher decide. With indie books I never stop thinking about titles because they're so hard to come up with alone. All I can say is they have to come to me while I'm writing/editing the book. I just have to "know" it's right.

J said...

This reminds me of something from John Steinbeck's "Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters." It was - not surprisingly - a journal, a series of letters he wrote to his publisher before he started his day's work on the novel. He knew for a long time that one day he'd write this novel. To him, it was his "great American novel." But now and then he'd mention a possible title, yet seemed to have his doubts about what to call it. He seemed to be struggling with the title and giving it plenty of thought. And then in one entry he mentioned something like: Oh, by the way, decided to call it East of Eden, almost in passing.

I think it happens that way quite a bit. You struggle and struggle to come up with the perfect title and are just beating your head against some wall. And then suddenly when your'e not really thinking about it, the perfect title pops into your head from nowhere.

Christina said...

Different spelling, but have you ever had a Wunderbar candy bar? They're made in Canada (where they are of course referred to as chocolate bars) and they are insanely delicious. Honestly.

Evan Geller said...

Title of my first novel not coincidentally the same as Tupac"s most famous/popular song. Makes for some interesting search results.

Traci Kenworth said...

I wanted to go after something classic in the scary genre.

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