Writing Wednesdays

What Shall I Call It?

Have you ever asked yourself this question about the title of your story? Sometimes coming up with the right one can be as painful as coming up with the story.

Recently, I was talking to a friend about my books… When aren’t I talking about my books? Anyway, she asked me a question that got me to thinking about where my titles come from and why.

I have friends who don’t title their manuscripts because they think their publishers will change them anyway. I don’t buy this—sure some will, but I think it depends on the title and how it’s entrenched in the book. I remember reading a blog article by Stephanie Myers, author of the Twlight series. Each one of her titles is a metaphor.  Twlight speaks to the beginning of Bella’s life as she falls in love with a vampire. New Moon reflects the darkness Bella feels when Edward leaves her. Eclipse is about Jacob overshadowing Edward and Bella having to chose. And finally, New Dawn.  Bella’s becoming a vampire and fully awaking as a fulfilled person. Yeah, hate to admit it, I’m a fan…

I’m very particular about my titles. And though, I often come up with them long before I write my first words of the story, they all have thematic or metaphoric meanings.

The book title my friend and I were discussing is Butterfly, book one of the Cowboys of Colton and will be published under Sara Walter Ellwood. She wondered why I’d title a contemporary Western romantic suspense such a name. It’s easy… It’s a metaphor.  The hero and heroine go through a metamorphous in the story. They turn their ugly selves into something beautiful—like a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

Book two of the Cowboys of Colton series is titled The Hardest Words to Say. Yes, it’s a mouthful, and the one title I didn’t come up with before I wrote the book. The hero and heroine had their lives go completely astray because they were afraid to say three very simple words to each other, and now that they have a second chance, they almost do it again.  Hence, to them they are the hardest words to say…

Right now I’m rewriting The Long Road Home. Another contemporary Western.  The plot is totally different in this version, but the theme hasn’t changed. Both my hero and heroine travel a long road back to each other (home).  I’ve been kicking around alternative titles for this story, which would allow me to resubmit it to publishers who have read the previous version and rejected it, but none have spoken to me.  So, I’ll probably keep the title I came up with long before I even named my hero and heroine.

The titles of the books in my paranormal series, The Hunter’s Daggers, are very metaphoric in meaning.  And never once has my editor suggested I change the titles. A Hunter’s Angel, A Hunter’s Blade and A Hunter’s Wings actually have multiple meanings. In A Hunter’s Angel, it’s obvious that the angel is probably the heroine, but it also means redemption, which is the one thing the hero could deny himself if he chooses to love the heroine. In A Hunter’s Blade, the blade symbolizes what the hero wants to be, but when it comes down to it, the blade isn’t at all what he thinks it is. It’s learning to cut a new life out of the unknown, which includes falling in love and finding out he was wrong about himself. The wings in A Hunter’s Wings to the banished angel heroine means getting back her way home to Heaven. But as she protects the hero from himself and from the demon she’s hunted for two-thousand years, wings take on something neither of them has ever felt—true love which could keep her grounded forever.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.  Do your titles have deeper meanings? Or do just hope your editor won’t title your book something stupid?

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13 thoughts on “What Shall I Call It?

  1. All my titles tie in some way or the other to the Hero and heroine’s journey to get together. Sometimes it refers to the destination – Calling Home.
    Sometimes, it’s the actual journey – Walking The Edge (an amnesiac heroine looking for her buried past) and Before The Morning (a spy who gets married but neither her husband nor her family suspect she’s a trained killer. What will happen when they come to know that?). Same goes for Once Upon A Stormy Night, because their fairytale romance starts on a stormy night.
    Sometimes, it ties to the past, before they can look toward the future – Glory Days (teenage lovers get back together 20 years later to win custody of their grandchild).

    And lol – I fight tooth and nail for my titles!

  2. I never really know what my title is going to be. I have working titles, so and so one, so and so two, etc until i have a title that I like enough, then I go in and rename my files. It’s not easy choosing a title but at least as an independent author I can have the title be anything I choose, not what some editor in New York thinks it should be. Another benefit of independent publishing. 🙂

  3. A lot of the time a title will pop into my head before I write the story. When I wrote Some Like it in Handcuffs I actually had the title first, and I created the story and characters around it. Each story is different. Sometimes my title has a deeper meaning and sometimes my title is fun. I guess it depends on the emotional level of the book for me 🙂

    Interesting post Sara.

  4. I really enjoyed hearing about how your titles came to be and the meaning behind them. Sometimes my titles are RIGHT THERE and then beg for a story: Chasin’ Mason, If Tombstones Could Talk. Other times they require tons of back and forth with my critique partner and editor: Trust In The Lawe, Lost In Italy, More Than A Kiss. And More Than A Kiss is still a working title, but it fits with the story because the hero and heroine are actors who first meet when they have to film a kissing scene.

  5. My titles all have a different meaning, and each one I’ve come up with before the book was written, however, I did have to change one word and once that word was changed, the titles changed, but the meaning behind each were the same.

  6. That’s very interesting about the Twilight series. I didn’t know that. Most of the time I come up with the title before the book is written. Sometimes not. I’ve never had a publisher change my title though.

  7. D'Ann Lindun says:

    I LOVE titles, and like you, am very attached to mine. A Cowboy to Keep, coming from Ruby Lioness Press, symbolizes a love that won’t die. Wild Horses, Crimson, means live free.

    For some odd reason, I cannot think of a title for Austin-Jamie to save my soul. I’ve thought and thought about it, and … nothing.

    I love your titles, Sara!

  8. Titles are very hard for me. Usually they don’t come to me until I’ve started writing and since I’m an hardcore panster, I may not even come up with a title until I’m close to finished with a first draft.

    I self-pub, so I never have to worry about changing titles.

  9. Sheri Fredricks says:

    I don’t usually have a title until I start writing the book. While I’m writing, I’ll jot down possibilities along the way. When the right one hits, I know it. Great post!

  10. I usually have my titles before I begin outlining. Even if it they should get changed when I sell, the titles have served their purpose and kept me focused on the theme and the characters’ growth arcs.

  11. I have a terrible time coming up with titles, but that said, I usually use character’s names, or something about their roles in the stories. The books I have out so far, are all set during and just after the American Civil War. The titles are, Erin’s Rebel, because the heroine, a time traveler, falls for a Confederate soldier, Confederate Rose, is the story of an Irish woman, who disguises herself as a man and fights for the Confederate army. Cassidy’s War is set just after the war, and the heroine, Cassidy, is fighting to be allowed to attend medical school and be recognized as an established physician. My upcoming story, also Civil War set, is Cole’s Promise and the story is about a promise the hero, Cole, made to the heroine.

    My titles have never been changed by my publisher and I always try to come up with a title as I’m plotting the story. Sometimes the original title changes as I write the story, though.

  12. I usually start a ms with a working title or I refer to it by the hero or heroine’s name – i.e. Logan’s story. Once I reach the halfway point I start to put serious thought into what the title should be. On the rare occasion, the working title has become the final title but it doesn’t happen often enough to even mention it (though I have).

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