Monday, August 31, 2015

How do Authors Get Their Titles?

Obviously I can’t speak for anyone else and usually my titles come out of the blue. But sometimes I have a title for a book before I even start writing it. This was the case for my first published book (not the first written), The Pig Farm, also the first book in my (Human) Zoo Trilogy. Not only were no pigs harmed in the writing of this book but no pigs appeared either unless one considers the human kind. But something happened when I lived on a real Caribbean island that gave me the idea and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I also had the titles in mind for the next two books in the trilogy: The Pool Lizards and The Groundhog Lounge. No lizards or groundhogs appeared in those books either but something or someone just happened to inspire those titles.

My first title choice for Amorous Ambush was Airport Ambush but that was a ridiculous choice for a romance novel. And the ambush in the novel was very amorous in my humble opinion.

While I was writing my first group of Twisted Tales (Margarita, Phoebe, City Girl-Country Girl, Nicolas), I hadn’t thought of any particular title for the whole collection. After I read through all four of them, I discovered something repetitious in each of them and, at first, I was dismayed. In each book there was a pivotal scene where the doorbell rang. And then it hit me—that should be the title of the book. Never mind that many authors have used that title but titles can’t be copyrighted. So, for Part One of Twisted Tales (another common title), I titled the little book The Doorbell Rang.

The easiest title was Death by Salsa because it referred to two real life friends who were arguing over who had the hottest salsa. I jokingly said, “I could write a book with the title Death by Salsa.” And I did.

A Caribbean Summer was a fantasy I had before I went to the Caribbean where I lived for four years. Nothing in the book resembled anything that happened to me in real life and I created the fictional island of Palmaltas to replace the island where I had lived.

I can’t remember when I came up with the title The Chameleon Chase. The story began in my mind during the 1980s and 1990s but it was the only title that could fit the story.

And so it goes. I may start with a title already in mind (such as The Pig Farm or Death by Salsa) or eventually discover something that holds the book together (The Doorbell Rang). Sometimes I write a story and still don’t know what the title should be after I have completed it. I wrestled with A Colorado Destiny for a long time before the title jumped out at me.

But titles are important and play a big part in how some readers choose what to read. Many people look at The Pig Farm, The Pool Lizards and The Groundhog Lounge and think they are for children. They aren’t. Yet, those are the only titles that fit the stories.


Patricia Gligor said...

Very interesting post, Pat. I enjoyed learning how (and when) you came up with the titles for your books. I agree; titles are very important!
In my Malone mystery series, I try to use titles with double meanings. For example, in the first book, Mixed Messages, my main character, Ann, receives several notes in the mail; some are love notes while others are threats. But that's not all. Her husband, David, is an alcoholic and he sends her all kinds of mixed messages; one day he's the loving man she married and the next day he's remote and/or verbally abusive.

Palmaltas said...

Thank you for your comment, Patricia. I'm glad you explained the double meanings of Mixed Messages. Sometimes I think we read books and miss the importance and meaning of the titles.

Marja said...

I love your titles, Pat. They're eye-catching and memorable. I usually try to pick something from my books for the title, but often times my husband came up with a good title. Old Murders Never Die was one of his best because it was about a ghost town and some very old murders.

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

Palmaltas said...

Thank you, Marja. Your titles are very catchy and Old Murders Never Die is not only an intriguing title but the book itself is an excellent mystery.