Titles seek book

The Italian dramatist Pirandello wrote a play called Six Characters in Search of an Author, which is the best title ever. I’d make the bestseller charts if all a book needed was a title. I love titles. They come to me throughout the humdrum day and I think: Yes! Great! I forget many, but some stick. My problem is I haven’t written the stuff that comes next.

Trying to get through to the hairdresser reminds me I could channel Steig Larsson with The Girl with the Lockdown Hair. And another good phrase has rung through our house since March 2020. A glass or two of wine with olives and vegetable crisps saved the lockdown day with a semblance of structure. We knew we were drinking too much, so partner stopped referring to it specifically and substituted an invitation to The Things That Go With Wine (or on special occasions, The Things That Go With Fizz). These adapt easily. How about The Things That Go With Love or The Things That Go With Death? One Day I May Be Sorry for giving those away, but there’s no copyright on titles, so Be My Guest. Idioms make great titles.

Mrs Hellebore and Her Son Primrose sprung to mind on the first day of Spring. This will (or won’t) be humour – think The Diary of a Nobody and Lupin Pooter. Maybe Persephone will publish it when I’m a forgotten authoress. When? Who am I kidding?

Building without Dust came when I was mopping endless daily plaster residue from my keyboard during building work. I did once use it to head a review of Rachel Cusk’s work. Like Cusk, I love writing and reading about houses and homes, along with Kate Summerscale, Jane Christmas, Ann Patchett and hundreds of others. My eventual Building without Dust will be heavy on metaphor – tearing down the old to replace it with the new and then is the new any better? How long does the joy in it last? What’s the fallout from the process? It all sounds so grim I’d better just stick with the title.

Stealing Winston is my cosy crime idea. “Where are you moving to?” asked the removal man giving an estimate. “Near the Winston Churchill statue,” I said. He gave a great sigh of satisfaction. “AH! That’s my favourite statue in all Essex. Solid bronze, it is. Can’t think why no-one’s nicked it.” I stopped packing to scribble ideas about ne’er-do-wells saddled with storing and selling a whopper of a statue wot they’d pinched one night for a larf. Ideas ARE copyright so if I see this in the bestseller lists in years to come, watch out. 

Hooray for poetic titles. A beauty came up recently in an article about either the Anglo-Saxon burial ground at Sutton Hoo or the additional bits of Stonehenge they’ve found in Wales. Among the ancient remains were Traces of Ancient Sunlight. How lovely; sorry that’s the only trace of information I’ve retained.

Drinking in the Atrium/ Gin in the Atrium? The Counter Tenor in the Umpire’s Chair? Back to the Hammerklavier? What’s the genre? asks long-suffering agent. Well, it’s a bit niche…

The Infinity Pool was set in an alternative holiday settlement, whose management sold out in the minds of its eco guests by building a snazzy alternative to swimming among the local jellyfish. It also felt vaguely philosophical, giving my title a bit of extra heft. When we translated the title to French the philosophical side perhaps took too much precedence and the German translator added an explanatory sub-title. The Magic Carpet – which won’t be translated but would be easier – featured in one of the stories my child narrator drew inspiration from. Unfortunately feedback shows people think it’s a children’s book because of the title.

Thanks to Anete Lusina on Pexels.com for photo

In a recent thread in Book Connectors, my favourite Facebook group for bloggers, authors and readers, a writer complained her publishers always changed the titles she gives her books. If a commercial publisher took my books, they could call them what they like. They’d be entitled, for showing such faith in me. I just have to write the books first.

©Jessica Norrie 2021


21 thoughts on “Titles seek book

  1. Give yourself some credit, you obviously have a very creative mind. I still can’t imagine writing fiction, from title to finish. When I do write my very short, mostly nonfictional reports for my blog, the title often comes last. So, I concur with your sentiment that if an editor wanted to change my title, I’d happily agree.

    By the way, Pirandello’s play is fantastic. I read it in French a few years ago before Le Théatre de la Ville de Paris showed up in my hometown to perform it live on stage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very kind and you make a good point – writers are forever finding fault with themselves.

      As soon as a theatre opens I’ll go and see whatever’s on! That is, if any theatres survive here in the UK.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know if I’m good with titles or not, but at least there are never repeats of my titles on Amazon. I never even thought to check until quite recently and there is not one other book with any of my titles. I’m absurdly pleased about that. I want you to write another Infinity Pool. A very good book which remained in my mind for many months afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d like to write another Infinity Pool too as it was very successful! Alas, I’m bereft of ideas. But it is so sweet of you to say that. And well done not to have duplicated titles – my second novel is also a brand of carpet shampoo!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah. You see that may have been the problem with the cover, as it isn’t for children at all. It’s a book for adults with children in it, which now I come to think of it is unusual. And that’s surprising, since we were all children once. You may have given me a blog post idea – thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Stephen King’s definitely not for me either. As for my cover – I love it but it raises the question whether I should have trusted the professional designer who’s supposed to understand the market better than I do, or stuck with DIY as I did for The Infinity Pool.

        Liked by 1 person

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