The Lord of the Rings-Tolkien
The Pillars of the Earth- Ken Follett
Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand
Where the Sidewalk Ends- Shel Silverstein
The Long, Dark Teatime of the Soul- Douglas Adams
The Deep End of the Ocean- Jacquleyn Mitchard
Like Water for Chocolate- Laura Esquivel
The Mermaid Chair–Sue Monk Kidd
These titles are bold, potent words, evoking an emotional response. I mean, The Pillars of the Earth? What a grand sentence! Just reading these titles, several of which I haven't read, I feel something shift, and wonder, and turn to stare.
Touristy activities with professional photographers is what started all this.
I woke up at 4:oo a.m. We have guests, Bethany Hamilton‘s brother Noah and his beautiful wife Becky, and Mike took them to the top of Haleakala Crater to photograph the sunrise (yes we do these things on Maui rather often and Mike, Noah and Becky all do pro photography) so in the darkness and muffled voices, I wake up. Doors slam, cars fire up, the house is empty–but I can't get back to sleep.
I brew up an insecurity attack about my books as I lie in bed, maybe because I'm with people who are really DOING IT in their field. Things aren't really happening with the book that Irene is shopping, Blood Orchids. I got a prettily-phrased rejection from Penguin, I had a smackdown on the opening chapter of my newest book in my writer's group, my editor sent me her latest 12-page list of suggested revisions on Torch Ginger, and now I'm wondering if I have what it takes–not just to ever write a GREAT book, but even just an entertaining one which is all I'm trying to do right now.
I go turn on my computer and engage in some escape fantasies, like going to Thrillerfest in New York (as if that would help), and see Ken Follett as the main speaker, and a blurb about his opus, Pillars. That gets me thinking about what it is that makes a truly great book–and in this day and age of instant gratification (e-books! webzines! apps !) and the bulk of people with the attention span of a gnat, a great title is the perfect start.
What are some of your favorite titles? How did they impact your choice to buy the book?
(This discussion of titles doesn't address my insecurity attack, and I'm beginning to think most writers have them on a pretty regular basis so I'm hoping to just ride it out and keep going.)
Titles are my nightmare! I love OF HONEST FAME and always have. I just thought when I came upon it, “Now that is a title!” But casting about for something to call the next book has been nothing short of nasty. I thought I had a title. I liked it. I loved it. But it was, er, in German. However, my editor pointed out to me the uselessness of that for an English-speaking audience, and the English translation just sounds pathetic.
Titles that work: Our Mutual Friend; Bleak House; Gone with the Wind; War and Peace; Heavy Weather; The Nutmeg of Consolation (how can you not want to read that book to find out what the heck it’s about?)…
I think many contemporary authors have shot themselves in the foot (or higher) by following the trend for one word titles. It worked with Hawaii. But by going after the trend of Airport and suchlike, they’re denying themselves the delicious ambiguity and intrigue that a title such as Our Mutual Friend engenders.
MM, that is a GREAT story (your German title made me LOL!) And I’m looking up the Nutmeg of Consolation right now! Can it sidle up to the Salmon of Doubt (Douglas Adams)?
Water for Elephants
The Book Thief
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Winter of Our Discontent
None of these made me buy the book. The title of The Book Thief made me pick it up. But buying a book for me is all about the writing and premise. The blurb on the jacket, and the first couple paragraphs. Either you get me there, or I’m gone. Title makes very little difference.
You know, that’s true in the end–but don’t good titles stick in your mind, something you roll around? Witness how quickly you were able to rattle off some you remembered! The best books are a great title with great content. Thanks for commenting, Mark!
Time Management for Mercenaries Now there is a title. ;~}
I’ve been trying to sell Arrow of Time forever with no success. It’s YA adventure. Under Hair of Gold it was immediately picked up. Please explain why in 250 words or fewer.
I think it has an appealing sound to it that people can relate to, esp. YA? Actually I doubt it had anything to do with the title, was just the right fit for the publisher.
I. Hate. Title. Generating.
And blurbs, and synopses, and editing, and actual writing. I still like coming up with the stories. 😀 I’m feeling you on the self-doubt, though. Alls I can say is you’re not alone. And please let it pass!!
As far as titles are concerned, I like the one-word ones for certain genres, but ultimately it has to fit the story/genre/writing. There’s also a trend in historical romances that use pop culture references (i.e., When Harry Met Molly, I Kissed an Earl), which I like. For my constellation series, the working titles are altered Frank Sinatra titles (because I adore him)–Stars in the Night, Fly Me to the Stars, etc.). For the paranormal, I went one-word. But I still hate it.
I like your titles- A LOT!!
I find titles very difficult to come up with, but what I really hate is when I finally think of one that’s a perfect fit and I look it up on Amazon, it’s already being used. Aaargh!
I know. Been there, done that.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog was a catchy title, but I couldn’t get into it. Too French? Too something. But the title grabbed me at first.
First lines in books and films are what catch my interest. The first line in Out of Africa was “I had a farm in Africa” uttered by Isak Dinesan/Meryl Streep. I was hooked. I went on and read several of ID’s books.
I read the the first sentence in South of Broad by Pat Conroy and I was riveted-twice.
I agree that Ken Follett comes up with mega titles. Fall of Giants is just as BIG.
I almost mentioned Fall of Giants, but already felt like I was giving him too much of a plug! I also loved the new Conroy book, he’s one of my favorite authors.
Oh the Screwtape letters! How could I forget? Thanks for popping in, Simeon!
The Screwtape Letters.
The Book of Evidence
The Everlasting Man
A Confederacy of Dunces
Jut to name a few…