Sunday, May 21, 2006

Where Titles Are Born

Titles are important parts of stories, and it’s always easier for me to write when I have a good one in mind. I keep lists of possible titles, but when I think of a really cool one it often triggers story ideas that match and I’ll start typing 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. (That story is currently free on the net by the way. Click Ellison). Another great title is John Farris’s, All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By.

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. Those sources have been mined pretty thoroughly, though. 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. I didn’t realize until years after it was published that the title for my novel, Cold in the Light, was quite possibly borrowed from 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 “The Cold Inside the Warm.” Wait a minute! That last one gives me a thought. See you bloggers later.

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