Thursday, September 28, 2006

Story Titles

Story titles are frequent topics of conversation with readers and writers of all kinds, though I do think science ficiton and fantasy and horror lend themselves to more interesting titles. And readers and writers (and editors) ask a lot from titles; we want them to to convey some essense of what the story is about, to intrigue the reader (hopefully enough that they want to read the story), and to do so in a way that verges on the poetic. That's not easy.

Here is a short, randomly arranged list of titles I have seen lately in the IGMS submission pile. These are titles that I liked, or was at least intrigued by.

The Shadowman's Heir
When I Kissed The Learned Astronomer
A Congregation of Casseroles
Skyscraper Dance
The Frankenstein Diaries
Bonpo of Bees
Joe Halo
Mermaids Don't Drown
Dark Vegas
Tides of Moon and Bone
The Most Stubborn of Tears

That last one ("The Most Stubborn of Tears") is an interesting case. I thought "Tears" meant those salty things that flow from your eyes when you're sad, but reading the story made it clear the author meant "Tears" to be what happens to your shirt when it get caught on a fence and you keep going anyway or what you do to a piece of paper to turn it from one piece into two. Just goes to show that you have to pick your words carefully and use them in a context that makes it clear what you mean. I ultimately rejected that story, not because of the title, but I will say that having expectations of one kind get turned into something completely different doesn't help an author's cause either.

As a writer, the title that always got the best response was from one of the first stories I ever wrote. It was called "The Trouble With Eating Clouds." I still like that one; if I'm ever fortunate enough to publish a collection of my own short stories, that will be the title of the book, too.

On the other end of the spectrum are bad titles. I'll get into that next time.

5 comments:

tchernabyelo said...

I often agonise over titles; they either tend to come immediately, and be exactly right, or they just refuse to gel and go through myriad permutations and changes and never ever quite find anything I'm truly happy with.

"The Trouble With Eating Clouds" is indeed exactly the kind of title that would make me look at a story.

Fran Friel said...

Great titles, Ed. All intriguing or beautiful or both. I love the process of finding just the right title for a story...it's a bit magical when it happens.

I hope all is well with you. You spoiled me with your friendship and charm at Horrorfind. You've left me missing you now.

Hugs from CT,
Fran

Edmund R. Schubert said...

Fran, You make me feel doubly regretful for not e-mailing you over the past month. I thought about it a dozen times but never made the time. I really enjoyed getting to know you and hope we cross paths again soon. How are thihgs going with your book? Sold out yet or can I still get hold of a copy?

Aliette said...

Titles are the bane of my life. Like Tchern's, either they come immediately or they don't ever. I have drafted my boyfriend into giving me title ideas, and he's way better at it than me :)

I don't think I ever managed anything as eye-catching as "The Trouble With Eating Clouds".

Fran Friel said...

Ed - See what I mean? So charming. And no regrets, my friend. I suspect we've hit that rare jewel of a friendship that simply resumes after long stretches of time as if no time had passed at all. Feels like I'd known you before anyway. In my little multidimensional world, it's completely likely. *wink*

As for MAMA'S BOY, the publisher has sold out, but I think Matt still has some copies at Shocklines. Chris told me that Matt wanted all the copies he had. Gee, it's so nice to be wanted. :D

Thanks for the zmail!

Hugs from the North,
Fran