Titles

Blog No. 105

I’ve been talking a lot about the book that Christian and I are writing. So far we have been calling it The Collection, but since the first draft is all done and we are in various stages of editing, I think it’s time to start thinking about a real name. I’m a little more eager than Christian is to get working on it. He has a good point in that we have a lot of work left to do before we need to worry about things like the title, layout, and cover. But I want to work on it now. Titles are usually the second thing I work on for a story (the first being the story idea). That way I can either have a great title to spur on my writing, or I have time to work on it while I write. Maybe it’s just part of the weird way that I work, but a good title makes me excited to get to the end. I want to make a brilliant story that matches the brilliant title. The story stays on my mind. I can also focus on that writing, because I’m not focusing on the stuff (that Christian rightly says) that has to be done at the end. 

I put a lot of importance on a title though. I’m not saying Christian doesn’t, but I live for a good title. My favourite authors just so happen to have had a knack with titles. Since they were the inspiration for my wanting to write, I think it’s reasonable that I want to emulate their ability to craft a snappy, exciting, and interesting title. Philip K Dick (and I hope you’re not tired of hearing about him yet, because I’m not about to stop) was especially gifted with titles. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, is an obvious one, but my personal favourite is Follow My Tears the Policeman Said. Al Purdy had the powerful: Reaching for the Beaufort Sea, and To Paris, Never Again. Titles like that have power and authority. They have real meaning, not just a word that hardly ties into the theme of the book.

A good title, for me, is one that captures an emotion. Christian’s: The Space between Houses, does that perfectly. It’s as much a concept as it is a title for a horror collection. The title gives the same feeling that reading the stories does. The dread of what’s lurking in those shadowy gaps between homes. It takes us back to our childhood, where anything could be nefarious and dangerous. Walking home at night, hearing noises in the dark. It’s great. That’s what a title should be. (By the way, the stories are good too. You should get a copy).

Having worked at a book store for the better part of eight years, I managed to glean a few things that I hope to use with the books we make with Adventure Worlds. Most bookstores have so many titles that the staff can’t know your specific book, unless it’s a major release by a major publisher with ads and extra shelf space and end-caps and displays. The best chance you have is to make your book special. Make the bookseller stop and look at your book before he or she puts it on the shelf. They’ll remember it. Have a great cover, use the book’s spine effectively (that’s all most people will see) and give it a title that will make people pick up your book. Getting your first book into people’s hands is the toughest part. Once they’ve read it, they will likely get your following books (unless it is especially bad). You have to give them a reason to pick up your book out of the thousands (or hundreds of thousands) and you have to give the sellers a reason to suggest your book. A great title is a big part of that.

There was poetry book by Tragically Hip’s front man, Gordon Downie, called Coke Machine Glow. I remember seeing the book on the shelf at work and flipping through it. I didn’t buy the book, but the title always stuck with me. It’s one that can have so many meanings to any given individual. Personally it reminds me of a vending machine that was in a park where I grew up. I thought it was so strange that this thing was sitting against the wall on the small Parks and Rec building. All day and night and through the changing seasons, the thing sat against a wall shone a red light onto the grass. The object fascinated me as a kid, I knew what it was of course, I just thought it was strangely out of place (almost eerie). Then I saw the title to the book and the feeling of seeing that vending machine in the park came flooding back.

That’s what I want to create with the title of the collection. I want to capture a feeling that relates to the stories, but also stands alone as a point of interest for possible readers. I know it’s a tall order, but that’s why I’m already working on it. Actually, I have given it some thought from the time we decided to even make the book, but now that the first draft is done, and the book is an actual thing, I am even more driven to find the perfect title. I’m going to wait to spring it on Christian though. He’s focusing on the actual work.

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