My daughter is terrific at titles. Clearly a subeditor in the making, she can turn them out for fun and is in demand among her peers when it comes to their projects. A discursive essay on the merits and demerits of prison was snappily titled Jailhouse Flop; Red Card for Footballers' Fortunes tackled the thorny problems of £300,000 a week; and a third asked Do Exams Always Pass the Test?
It’s a talent I wish I had, because for me the title is the hardest part of writing. It has to give the reader a feeling for what they’re getting without giving too much away; it has to communicate the genre; and it has to make you want to read more. Somehow I can’t capture the feel of my stories in the titles and what I come up with is, at best, pedestrian.
I can’t be alone in this because there are plenty of random title generators out there. I tried one and it certainly came up with the goods. The Burning Stars. Roses in the the Gate. The Prince’s Wife. And (puzzlingly) Year of Window. Clearly these have issues in that they’re computer-generated and perhaps need a human eye. Though of course there are some real titles out there which might never have got through even the computer filter. (I’m thinking of Not Not While the Giro, which is a great title but a somewhat puzzling one.)
When I did NaNoWriMo last year I discovered a wonderful resource on their forums - a thread where people posted suggested titles for others to use. This has the advantage that real people thought of them, not computers. And while I didn’t use any for my own NaNo work (which is still on working title number two while I wait for inspiration) I did like the idea. I’ve started my own book of titles now. Here are just some of the ones I like: Magic Abroad; One Day You’ll Leave Me; Someone Else’s Song; The Koala Keepers’ Friday Night.
The problem here is familiar to many; it’s all about finding the perfect match. At Manchester United David Moyes is struggling to find the ideal partner for Wayne Rooney (on the pitch, that is). Somewhere on Saturday night television, producers are gamely attempting to find a happy couple in Take Me Out. Bachelors the world over are sighing over boxes of single socks wondering if they dare wear those two not-quite-the-same-blue socks as a pair. And at my computer I’m trying to match just one of those titles - and how I love those titles! - with the right plot.
So far I’m failing miserably, so badly that the current work in progress (which I’ve been wrestling with for months) is still lurking in a folder labelled ‘New Story’ and is currently provisionally titled ‘Version 2’. But I remain confident that one day the right plot will meet the right title and they’ll live happily ever after.