Friday, September 15, 2006

What's in a Name?

It’s raining and I’m trying to title my novel.

Yes, okay, I’m only a hundred pages in, but I still want to give it a name. I want to call my book something as it bobs in my mind’s primordial ooze. It doesn’t matter that it’s not finished; for me, it’s real.

Of course everything I’ve come up with has been utterly shameful. Titles that sound dynamic, memorable, intriguing, outrageous at first mention. Five minutes later the luster's replaced with a fine patina of desperation.
Stay strong, damnit! Not too hokey, not too gimmicky, not too long…

First a flirtation with the idea of using the title as a blanket statement about the world as I perceive it around me. (Example: “The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things”—I love this title, though never read the book and am fairly disgusted with the whoring PR behind it, though most likely I’m simply jealous I can’t work a crowd in the same vein.)

Then I imagine something actionable, something simple, classic, and grand. (Example: “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, “To Kill a Mocking Bird”—these really give me a sweeping sense, roll off the tongue and implant me into a world where I'm enveloped by the belief that true literature has truly literate titles.)

Next is the possibility of a one-word, maybe-double entendre. (Example: “Art” –one of my favorite plays and oh so succinct. But the thought is squashed when I try to come up with one of my own—and think for one horrible moment that I’ll call the novel “Something” as in “What are you reading?” “Oh I’m reading ‘Something’. It’s really good. You should get ‘Something’.”)

The pattering of raindrops lulls me deeper into the bed, but I still cling to the chance that at an early morning hour, as I curse my obligations, divine inspiration will strike me in a by-George-I’ve-got-it way, and I’ll spring out in my pajamas, running through the halls yelling, “It has a naaaaame!! It’s aaaaalive!”

No such luck. The alarm shrieks in my ear and suddenly I’m padding my way to the shower, towel under my arm, and that empty, blank canvas that was my mind is suddenly full of mindless thoughts for the day at hand.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

"...and am fairly disgusted with the whoring PR behind it"

Refer to post below regarding Greenstone Media.

K said...

Anonymous--what have I done to offend? I just linked something that I was involved in regarding Greenstone.

I maintain I haven't participated in any proper PR-whoring yet--though I might if I was any good at it...

:)

Anonymous said...

From one anonymous to another--K doesn't blog-whore like most. What's your problem?

Sunday's Child said...

I think you came up with a great name for your blog (something I puzzled over for months) . . . so it stands to reason that inspiration will strike for the perfect book title soon!

good luck!

Cosi Fan Tutte said...

One hundred pages into it without a name-- you're far better than most. Don't sweat it to much. I'm not one for comeing up with a name up-front. When the thing is done, it will no doubt inform the title.

Blog-whore? Well I'm fairly new here to comment in an educated fashion. I'm not one for PR-whoring, but I've been surprised how much worse it seems when done by others than when I've been tempted to indulge. It's a personal blog afterall and it would be equally pretentious to come-off as though a meaningful experience was "not that special/seen better". Express yourself.

Laura said...

"Something" might be the most awesome name for a title ever. I looked it up on amazon, and it doesn't seem like anyone's taken it yet, so...

D.T. said...

I think, maybe, you should hold a contest for your readers. Afterall, wont they be reading the book? Why not let them help you choose your title? You never know what kind of ideas are a-brewin' unless you ask!

waterhot said...

Ah, the naming of books is a difficult matter, it's not just one of your everyday things...

I came up with a title I was really happy with for my first novel. But my first novel has never been and never will be published. So I stole the title for my blog instead.

My second novel has been much more problematic. Ever since I began working on it, it has carried the same it-does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin title - The Death of Raimund. That's what it's about. It also happens to be a nod - admittedly in its German form (Raimunds Tod) to Dantons Tod, by Georg B├╝chner, one of my favourite plays. My agent, on the other hand, hates the title. She wants it to be called The Something (not The Something as in your Something title, which I agree with Laura is awesome, but The XXX, where XXX is a noun, probably a job of some sort), because apparently The Somethings are very in as titles right now. She seems very insistent, so I'm having to come to terms, maybe fifteen years after coming up with the original title, that if my book ever sees the light of day, it may well be under a title I don't even like.

Incidentally, your Something idea made me think of the Pet Shop Boys album, Please. They wanted people to go into shops and say "I'd like the new Pet Shop Boys album, Please."

Oh, and I'm sorry for the horribly long comment. My excuse is I've been lurking here for a very long time. I won't do it again, I promise.

Cheetarah1980 said...

K,
I've so been there. What sounds good one minute is the equivalent of dried shit the next. The need for a title makes the work so much more real. When something has a name it begs to be completed. You're really good at titling blog entries. Why don't you think of the novel title in the same way.