I've posted about titles a couple of times but it's a topic worth revisiting. Titles are important parts of books and stories, and it’s always easier for me to write when I have a good one in mind. I keep lists of possible titles, and when I think of a cool one it often triggers story ideas that match and I’ll start writing immediately. “Still Life With Skulls” was such a story. The ideas that carried that tale came with the title, and it was like doing a shot of Absolut straight. “Still Life” was my first story accepted for publication.
I also consider myself something of a connoisseur of titles. Harlan Ellison’s "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" is my favorite. Another great title is John Farris’s, "All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By." Or who can resist "Something Wicked This Way Comes?"
Where do titles come from? Some authors borrow them from The Bible, or from Shakespeare and other classic works of literature. Hemingway did this with "The Sun Also Rises" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Ray Bradbury borrowed "Something Wicked..." from Shakespeare, and "I Sing the Body Electric" from Walt Whitman. Those sources have been mined pretty thoroughly, but there are almost surely more titles waiting to be discovered this way, even in Shakespeare. For example, I've always wanted to title a tale, "Why Mourn We Not in Blood?"
A good source of titles for me seems to be music. I hardly ever pay close attention to lyrics, but sometimes a phrase will stay with me, or I’ll mishear a line that twists my thoughts into strange byways. (Mishearing is an important writing techinque, btw.) I didn’t realize until years after it was published that the title for Cold in the Light was quite possibly borrowed from a line in a song by W.A.S.P.
I’ve also come up with some titles that I really like but which haven't yet spawned good story ideas. One is, “The Girl with the Seashell Eyes.” Another is “Once Upon a Time on the Wine Dark Sea," although I've actually written a couple of paragraphs of disconnected prose inspired by that title.
How about you? Do you consider titles important? Do you agonize over them? What are your favorite titles?