Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Writing Genre Fiction: Titles - Part 2

I heard a story once about how Orson Welles was excited about the look of the title Citizen Kane because it had both a Z and a K in it. I don't know if the story is apocryphal, but there's no denying that Citizen Kane is a great title, appealing to both the sense of sight and sound. Now I don't suggest that writers get bogged down worrying about such things. And yet, it's prudent to remember that the title you give your manuscript will (if the publisher doesn't change it) eventually appear on your book's cover. How big do you want that title to be? Do you want it to display well and still leave room for some cool cover art? If so, then you'll want to keep that title short. And if you can come up with a word or phrase that includes a few distinctive consonants, so much the better.

And don't forget the sound. I recall a reviewer once complaining about The Book of Baraboo by Barry B. Longyear. It wasn't that it was a bad book. (Indeed, as I recall it was, it was quite enjoyable.) It was just that the reviewer thought that "The Book of Baraboo by Barry B. Longyear" sounded funky. Then again, it's memorable.

The titles of my books for Fantasist Enterprises (Veins, Visions, and the forthcoming Vipers) were all selected to be short, resonant, and visually interesting. I thought that each might look good on a cover, and I'm pleased how the artists have begun using that initial V to create a uniform design, lending a bit of brand recognition to the books.

Your mileage may vary, but these are some of the things that I think of when brainstorming titles. There are no absolutes, no formulas for what makes one title better than the next, and you may have some very good reasons for going with a title that follows none of my suggestions. Sometimes a title just feels right to the author, as is the case with the title of my next book -- a title that at first might seem to disregard most everything I've covered these past two days. And yet, I think the title works.

Tomorrow, well talk about This Way to Egress.

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