Friday, September 18, 2009

Titles and Names

Another blog-reading inspired post...

See BookEnds,LLC and their latest post on titles.

I'm not in a position to accept or judge stuff based on titles, unlike those people at BookEnds, but it DOES make me wonder why people have so many problems with naming things - especially since they've put all that creative thinking, plotting, imaginating (yes, that's a word in my world), and other fresh worldbuilding work into their novels.

Why would coming up with a basic title be so complicated?

Being a member of a critting group, I've seen a lot of people put "Untitled" or something like that in the title space when they put their work out there in hopes of connecting with readers and critiquers. Or they take titles that are already out there and tweak them a little bit so they are slightly different*, thinking that's all they need.

And I'm like - Oh gosh. People should settle back and have more fun. This isn't high school where an evil English teacher camps out at the front desk, red pen judgement awaiting. You can be as flippant as you want - if you are flippant. If mysterious is your thing, then be mysterious.

Creator, be creative.

*Moon titles, for example.

I'm divided about whether the Moon title convention is a 'bad thing' - because the MOON part of the title immediately communicates an expectation to the reader. I think if you do something DIFFERENT with the Moon title, it can still definitely work.

But! If it is too blatantly similar to something else on the market (especially something mondo popular or well-known), it can be a bit more problematic.

So - White/Red/Orange/Green Moon will always remind me of Blue Moon. A book I'm still trying to force myself to read in total and failing miserably.**

By the same token... I think there is a point where you don't want to be too outlandish. A title entirely in Elvish is going to be bad varmin. I'm just saying.

The same thing is true for character names. If you are writing a urban/contemporary fiction book, go through the newspapers, facebook, obits, etc and look up real people names.

Something to remember is that there is nothing wrong with using common names like Martin, Johnson, Smith, Lee, Andrews, Jones, Alexander, Sneider for your character's last name. I know a LOT of people with those last names. In real life, last names aren't all that important - and they usually are names we recognize from somewhere else.

The only thing you want to be careful about is the heritage and background that goes with a lot of these names. If you give your character a Jewish last name, be prepared to show that part of your character's background. By the same token, if your character is Jewish, probably want to find a common last name to suit.

First names - pay attention to the names most people have. Even when people have outlandish first names, they generally get shortened or mutated until they are a bit more normal. Part of going through middle/high school. You either want to stick out, or you don't.

Take my dad, for example. His parents took a popular Armenian first name Harutunian and shortened it to Harutun to suit the American side of the family (grandad armenian, grandma american). Was slightly better, but my dad wanted to fit in at school, so he went by Harry all the time.

That said - obviously there is a line you draw at some point as far as how 'common' you want the names to be.

One thought I had while watching Twilight (I heart that hilarious movie) last night with friends were the names. I was sitting back and thinking how most people don't name their daughters Bella (unless they have one of those uber-Italian backgrounds). Also, most boys in turn of the century US would have named their sons Edward (yes) but shortened the name to Eddie.

For the flair that the author wanted to give her book and setting up iconic characters, the out of the ordinary names WORKED.

I can't think of the name 'Eddie' working. It would have just increased the overall creepiness of Edward. :)

**If you've seen the movie "You Got Mail", think about the way Tom Hanks' characters was walking around trying to get into Pride and Prejudice for Meg Ryan's character's sake. Only he was better than I am, because he ACTUALLY read the book. I still haven't gotten halfway through Blue Moon. It just isn't snagging me like the first Immortals book did.


  1. If you title your book "Three wolves howling at the moon" its gonna be an almost guaranteed success with snarky ass holes (like yours truly) ;)
    If you haven't the foggiest, look it up on amazon..

  2. That is seriously strange.



    ....... I want one of those tshirts.


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