Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#IWSG:Titles and Names

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/p/iwsg-sign-up.html

 by Rebecca M. Douglass


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month there's an optional question members can answer in their IWSG post. This month's question is:
 What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

The awesome co-hosts for the June 6 posting of the IWSG are Beverly Stowe McClure, Tyrean Martinson, Tonja Drecker, and Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor!


I love this question! Mostly, I love it because it tells me I'm not the only one who struggles with these things. In my first book, most of the names came easily--Big Al, Tom the Ninja Librarian (well, his name was a given since he was written for a real librarian), the children in the school. The title of that first book was easy, too.

I thought that was how it would always be.

Boy, was I wrong (I'm good at being wrong).

To answer the question, titles are harder, because I can cheat with character names--when I'm stuck, especially for minor characters, I use a random name generator, hitting the "generate name" button over and over until I piece together something I like. My own inventions aren't always so good. An early reader pointed out that in the first draft of Death By Ice Cream I had an unusual number of characters with alliterative names. That got fixed. And I have trouble with names that suggest different ethnicities (without being cliches). Too bad I didn't realize until too late that "Brian" is a really bad name for an author who types faster than she should. Spell-checker won't tell me when I've changed the poor boy to "Brain"! That was left to a reader (thanks, Deirdre!). Still, there are ways to get help naming those characters who resist an easy naming.

But book titles... I have never been happy with the title on my middle-grade fantasy, Halitor the Hero (just sort of a statement of who the book is about. Surely I could do better). And I ended up holding a poll on my blog to pick the title Death By Ice Cream. I also check each title against the listings on Amazon, because I don't want to be one of a dozen books with the same title.*  


I waffled about the title for my Tick Tock story, too. Should I use the whole adage, and call it "The Tide Waits for No Man"? Or was there a better option entirely? As with the "Death By..." series, I ended up appealing to others for help, and chose to go with "The Tide Waits." I realized after that it's a much better title, since it both evokes the adage and also suggests something lying in wait... much like the evil that drives the killers in these mysteries!


*On the other hand, I've made at least one sale of The Ninja Librarian to someone looking for the more widely-publicized Ninja Librarians--with an ess. I even got a good review from that person, which is how I know!

So tell us about your characters or titles--what was the best or worst you did?

28 comments:

  1. I like your "Death by..." names. Good branding for a series. I better check my manuscript for any accidental "Brains" instead of "Brians" :-)

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    1. Yes--since having that pointed out, I now do a search for "Brain" before I even pass it on to my proof-reader. Some things no mortal can be expected to see!

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  2. I thought The Tide Waits was a really solid title.

    Brain instead of Brian - LOL!

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  3. I tend to go with alliterative character names and then have to change some. That's a good point about picking a name you can spell easily or have spellcheck pick up if you don't type it right the first time.

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  4. I checked online as well to see if any other book had my titles. So far, no other books.
    I've messed up my main character's name by typing Bryon instead of Byron.

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    1. Oh, yeah--that's another name it's easy to mess up.

      I want to note that MY Ninja Librarian (you should appreciate that!) came before the other. So they copied me :)

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  5. I think every writer struggles with one or the other. Especially if we write more than one book. The more books I write, the harder it is for me to come up with character names.

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    1. Yes! I think I used up all the inspired ones in the first book! I don't even know how I ended up with some of the ones in my later books.

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  6. Characters names are easier for me. Especially minor characters. I just pick a family member and use their name.

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    1. LOL! I've never quite dared to do that. Though I borrowed my father-in-law, name and profession and even some personality, in Return to Skunk Corners.

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  7. I'm totally good with both. Titles are a little trickier, but not terribly so...mostly because I make my husband come up with them. LOL! He's constantly coming up with titles and telling me, "You should write that book!" Yes, when I have a functional time stopper, sure dear.

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    1. My second two mysteries came title first. Then I just had to come up with a plot to fit!

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  8. Maybe it's just me, but I like Halitor the Hero!
    Titles are tough for me, too.

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    1. Glad you like the title! More alliteration. I can't help it. It must be all the time I spent studying Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Big on alliteration, those poets were.

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  9. I agree with you that name generators (and books of names) can help with character name struggles. Titles are so much more challenging.

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    1. Yes! I forgot that I have a baby name book I keep handy. I tried the phone book for surnames, but it wasn't easy to find the right name there.

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  10. Hi Rebecca - oh the dreaded machine changing things - such a pain. Titles of blog posts are bad enough ... the A-Z makes life easier in that direction ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Well, yes, I suppose it does help to at least have the first letter! I struggle with title for those posts that aren't reviews (at least for them, I know what to put!). Of course, flash fiction posts get the title of the story, but I have to come up with that (unless I'm using a title prompt. Maybe that's why I like those so much!).

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  11. I love you title! I've used a few chopped up phrases for titles for some of my WIPs - some work WAY better than others :)

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    1. I do love it when a title works. I also enjoy having a title first, even though it can be a little hard sometimes to be sure the story fits the title.

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  12. You’re right about The Tide Waits. It’s more mysterious without the well known adage. I changed up the well known A Stitch in Time for my anthology story too. I thought A Stitch in Crime was more interesting. And more punny as cozies are won’t.

    I’m going to have to try out that name generator!

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    1. I think "A Stitch in Crime" was perfect for your story--and a great title for the whole book! I also have a weakness for punny titles :)

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  13. I love coming up with character names. Sometimes I have to give a lot of thought to finding the right title. Meanwhile, I am halfway through the utterly delightful anthology, Tick Tock a Stitch in Crime. Great stories! Great writing. I'l be reviewing it once I finish.

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    1. Thanks for reading it, and so glad you are enjoying the stories! I thought they were great :)

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  14. One of my books, a literary horror, took YEARS to name (literally). It's told in two alternating POVs--a contemporary woman who moves to a Caribbean island, and the ghost of a slave, back when he was still alive. It was so difficult to come up with a title that didn't exclude one character's story, and that hinted at the book's literary leanings, rather than being straight-up horror.

    Finally, after asking other authors and editors, a title popped into my head: "The Last Bit of Light". It refers to the last light the escaped slaves saw before they bricked themselves into a plantation house for their last stand. If a publisher/editor changes it, I might cry.

    I love the title "Death by Ice Cream" and actually prefer "The Tide Waits for No Man."

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    1. "The Last bit of Light" is a wonderful title, and the more so as you describe the meaning. But years of struggle--wow! Of course, "Death By Ice Cream" went for years being called the merely descriptive "PTA Murder."

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Your comments are most appreciated!