Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday: What’s in a Title?

Book titles have always intrigued me. I can’t help but wonder about the inspirations, the meanings, the thought processes behind each one. While I can appreciate simple ones like The Shining and Little Women, I’m especially drawn to those with double meanings, such as Carol Goodman’s The Lake of Dead Languages.

Nowadays, a good title can mean even more than it once did. In the 18th and 19th centuries, for instance, it was perfectly acceptable for novels to be named after the protagonist, such as The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (1722) and Jane Eyre (1847). Although this practice is still witnessed today – consider the much-lauded The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (2008) – it seems that most publishers are choosing much more compelling titles, especially one-word entities like the oft-mentioned Twilight (2006) – titles that entice readers to pick up a particular book and hopefully purchase it.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m even thinking about this today. After all, I’m not even finished the final revision of my novel yet. Well, I suppose I’ve just realized that it’s never too early to choose a title. The problem is... I thought that I had. For years now, I’ve been laboring under the assumption that Hollow Souls was the perfect title for my book – it’s even got a double meaning! But, as I expressed on my Ruby Hollow blog today, I’m seriously beginning to question it. It was my beta readers’ concerns about the title that initially got me thinking about other possibilities... and Donna Hole’s recent post that made me decide to do something about it.

So, as I asked on my other blog, I’m wondering what others think about this matter. Should I even be focusing on this right now? How critical is a title at this stage anyway? Won’t an agent or editor want to change it no matter what I call it now? Or could it help differentiate me (or my work) in the query slush pile? Does it matter that the title refers to my protagonist’s hollowness as well as the residents of Ruby Hollow? Is it worse that Hollow Souls might send the wrong message about my novel, which is what some beta readers have suggested? Would Ruby Hollow be better – or should I keep looking? Oh, what’s a befuddled wannabe novelist to do?


Becky said...

Sounds kind of like naming a child... a pretty serious decision... I'm not sure... You just in the end have to go with your gut and what you feel is right.

Becky said...

BTW I like this time difference thing. We're finally on somewhat similar schedules but only because I'm 2 hours earlier than you now LOL!

Laura Martone said...

It IS a pretty serious decision, Becky. But, unlike a child, my book can't change its own name in the future. I have to get it right the first time. Ugh.

At least I chose a good name for my kitty. Ruby Azazel fits her pretty well. She's cute AND ferocious... as evidenced by her current attack mode. "No, kitty! I said no biting!"

P.S. Yup. The time difference thing is definitely working in our favor now. ;-)

L. T. Host said...

Well-- first of all, a working title can be compelling, but chances are it will get changed in the editorial process.

However, having said that, all of my books have had titles come "naturally" to them within the first few pages, if that late. I don't thing it's ever really too early to think about titles.

Also: how did I not know you had another blog?? Whoopsie.

Laura Martone said...

Excellent point, L.T. My "working" title came to me a long time ago... actually, it's possible my husband thought of it. I can't rightly remember these days. (It's sad what happens to the brain in one's thirties, but I digress...)

As for my other blog, I don't do much with it, I'm afraid. Hopefully, that will change once I have some novel-related thing to discuss. But, good Lord, child, I certainly wouldn't have expected you to know about it. ;-)

Bane of Anubis said...

I'm w/ LT - my titles normally come pretty quickly and I'm usually happy with them, though I definitely went through a couple of iterations w/ my squirrel story a few years back (It switched between: THE LIMPOPO ADVENTURE: A CHARLEMAGNE TALE and THE BLUE-BLOODED KING -- probably one of my favorite stories even if it'll never see the light of day :)

Laura Martone said...

ROFLMAO! Oh, Bane, just based on the two titles, I want to read that story, too!

As for titles, I AM really happy with mine. But I think my readers felt that it had a more fantasy and/or religious connotation, which definitely does not fit the book. Guess I'll chew on it some more... Thanks, as always, for your input.

Deb@RGRamblings said...

The travel guides look great! Glad you put them up. Self-promotion is a good thing :)

I think you're right in that the title is subject to change on the whims of a publisher..

I like Hollow Souls but I have a confession to make, I was thinking about your book the other day as Ruby Hollow. Not sure where that came from.. I'll have to read it soon!

Martha W said...

Hi Laura! Whew, choosing a title can be crazy stuff. Like Bane and LT, mine came pretty quick (the few pages as well).

If you like Hollow Souls, then stick with it. It is as much a part of your writing style as anything else. Do what makes you happy for now. Do what keeps your focus on the book.

One thing you have to remember about CPs- while they are invaluable (mine included!), they are also offering up their opinion. In the end, it is all up to you and what you prefer.

Until you get an agent/editor.... but that's for another discussion, right? lol!

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Deb! I felt weird putting them up at first, but now I gaze at them with pride. I feel like a little kid - you know, pointing and shouting "I did that!"

Anyhoo, as for titles... I've decided to stick with it for now. I really like HOLLOW SOULS - I like its meaning, the way it sounds - but it's funny... I refer to my own novel as RUBY HOLLOW sometimes (as does the hubby), so I suppose I'll have to revisit this issue again down the road... or write a sequel!

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Martha! How's Michigan? Brr...

My title came pretty quickly, too - and it's sorta stuck in my head. I do like it a lot - I think it works for the book... 'cause, for one thing, RUBY HOLLOW only describes part of the story, whereas HOLLOW SOULS describes all of it.

And you're right - beta readers and critique partners are wonderful folks. I already agree with most of what they've suggested, but it is ultimately my book and, therefore, my decision. Until an agent or editor changes everything, of course. What a lucky problem to have! ;-)

Bane of Anubis said...

Laura, now that I think of it, I think I have a line about 'hollow souls' in TLCC -- I wonder if that was your influence acting upon my fragile subconscious.

Personally, I like Hollow Souls more, though I can see how some might interpret it as a reference to spirituality (more so than religion; in any case, once they pick up the backcover, they'll know that it's actually about gully dwarves cocooning people in tunnels (Aliens style) and then sucking their souls out, right?)

Laura Martone said...

Yep. You do! If I remember right, it's something like... "vampires are hollow souls." I noticed it while reading it through the first time - and I love that caves/tunnels are an important aspect of your story, too. I'd like to think that I have a positive influence over people's subconscious thoughts, but I'm not THAT deluded! Sheesh. :-)

Um, as for the title, um, while I'm glad you like it, I'm beginning to think it won't be the novel for you. Darn it! Why didn't I think to add gully dwarves to my story? And I call myself creative. Harumph.

Bane of Anubis said...

I think I have an obsession w/ tunnels and caves -- they play an intricate part in 5 of 6 novels I've written (so, HS might be perfect for me, though I might suggest inclusion of cave-ins and tunnel traps on occasion :)

Laura Martone said...

Oh, I'm totally obsessed with caves (and, apparently, exclamation points)! Ever since I visited Mammoth Cave a decade ago. That's funny that they've been featured so prominently in your own work. Wow! Six novels! Holy Bejesus!

Hmm... cave-ins and tunnel traps? For you, Bane, I just might!

Donna Hole said...


Cults can be considered "family and/or religious" connotations.

Maybe that's what they mean.


Laura Martone said...

Hi, Donna. Thanks for the additional input (that was quite a novel you wrote on my other blog - thanks)! Hmmm... I don't consider Ruby Hollow a cult, but I'm okay if readers start off feeling that way. Obviously, I hope to change their minds through the course of the story. Must work on that.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Your title is remarkable, Laura! And it is so much like naming a child - tough, tough, work. I really like the titles you've shared, and I agree with your observations.

How go the rewrites of your own work?

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Weronika! OMG, it's been forever. I've visited your blog a few times in the past couple months, but I'm always in such a bloody hurry. Must leave a comment next time.

Anyhoo, thanks so much for weighing in. Seeing as how you've read the novel already, I truly value your opinion re: my title. And I'm delighted that you like it.

Okay, that's it! I'm officially not worrying about it anymore. :-)

As for the rewrites, well, let's just say that's another story. At the moment, I'm trying to finish critiquing other folks' work, which reminds me... when will you be ready for me to beta-read you ms? Oh, and are you enjoying your internship and senior year?

Laura Martone said...

I meant "your" ms, of course. Oops.