Monday, November 17, 2008

Titles Can Suck My... Ahem

When it comes to titles, I totally suck.

Case in point: you are probably not aware that I'm a playwright. This is technically true although my play was produced only once at Eastern Michigan University, so don't you be picturing me on Broadway, unless you're picturing me in the audience heckling the Rockettes, which I would totally do. Anyway, I wrote a play about two high school girls who kidnap a Hollywood actor and stuff him in a laundry bag, and it's an idea that still makes me snarf. Almost as much as the one night in which one of the actors dropped a plate of food on the floor and was required moments later to eat it. The food, not the plate.

But then, I had to title the play. And I came up with "Why Nubile Young Women Make Fabulous Kidnappers." Which is too long to fit on flyers or tickets, and sparked the inevitable question that I kept hearing from people sitting around me: "What does nubile mean?"

AUGH!!! Get a dictionary, people! Noob-isle. Look it up. You probably should live on the noob-isle if you don't know the meaning of it.

Anywho. Since then, it's been my duty and desire to make my titles short, snappy, and free of fancy wordage. If my five-year-old doesn't know the word, it's out. Lucky for me, he's my son, and he's got a vocabulary that does his mommy proud. He wouldn't have to live on the noob-isle.

But even after that stirring revelation, I still have problems with @&($ing titles. The title for my first book was suggested by fabulous critique partner Ami because I couldn't come up with one. Current book has a temporary title that sucks rocks because I can't come up with one that I like. But then conversely, old friend Elise Murphy had a title contest for one of her past projects, and guess who won? Me. I cannot name my own books, but I can do it for other people. Because I am certifiably insane.

And then what do I do? I go out to dinner with best friend and complain to her that I ride the short bus for titles, and she suggests something that makes me snarf and could actually work... and NOW I'VE FORGOTTEN IT. Because I am a bad title-impaired person who is going to name her next book Titles Suck Donkey Balls.

Hopefully best friend will remember her suggestion, and it will be as good as I remember, and I shall use it and all will be well with the world again. But if not, I may have to cave and do a title contest. But if I do a title contest, I need a good prize, and all of my recent creativity went into developing ideas for the Celebration. (Didja vote yet? How annoying am I that I keep asking?)

So what would you want to win if I did a contest?


Ray Veen said...

You might be doing it wrong. I think you're supposed to think up 'cool title', then write the book.

Not helpful?

Try just assigning your books letters from the alphabet then. Worked for James Patterson.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I think that if one were to title the book they should be invited to the release party. I would say buy me free beers all night but I want you to make money.

My verification word is sucks. I think it is trying to tell me something.

Vikki said...

Okay, at first, I thought the word "title" in the heading of your post said something else. Add another "t"and an "i" and take out the "l". (almost spit coffee all over self).

But now I've put my glasses on and see what you actually wrote. I, too, suffer from title deficiency. Big time. I always make lists of all the main aspects of the book, trying to glean something from there, but I always seem to fall back on either a place in the book (town, restaurant, coffee shop, road, etc) or a particular character. I need to hire a title engineering consultants or something.

If you did a contest, I think the prize should be halloween costume ideas for the next five years and a set of batman eyebrows.

Keri Mikulski said...

Free books. :)

Mary Witzl said...

Start a title competition with free books and I'm in -- really! The place we're in now is terrifically book deprived.

Titles come to me in dreams, but so what? You are represented! It doesn't matter how good you are at thinking up titles if you can't get represented...

Mary Witzl said...

And I'm glad that Vivi isn't the only one around with a mind in the gutter...

K.C. Shaw said...

I'm the worst titler ever, myself. I have a WIP titled "4" because it's the fourth book in the series. Hopefully I'll retitle it before it's done, because assuming its three big brothers sell and the publisher wants to see the fourth book, I don't think the current title would inspire anyone to offer me a contract. Either that or it would start a short-lived fad for titling books with numbers.

You can have "1" for yours, if you like.

Unknown said...

Oh, but I love titles! It's everything after the titles that's hard work for me... :)

Fox Lee said...

Thai porn.

Elise Murphy said...

Drink the wine I sent for coming up with the winning title of my manuscript and I'm sure you'll arrive on a million and one bizarre and totally appropriate titles. OR, offer wine to everyone else and let them do the work!

Aaron Polson said...

The flawless title generator:

If you own CDs, pick one at random. Look at the title to track five. Bingo.

If you've gone digital, let iTunes pick your poison. Shuffle, baby!

Never fails (to amuse).

Cate Gardner said...

Sometimes the titles come, sometimes they don't. Don't stress about it, your publisher (who is waiting just around the corner - go on have a peek) will probably retitle it anyway.

Carrie Harris said...

BPV: I'm always doing it wrong, honey. This is nothing new.

Jamie: You're all invited to the release party anyway, silly. Not like I can afford to buy you all plane tickets, but if you can make it, you shall come. Whenever it is.

Vivi: You are a perv. I think we may be related. Batman eyebrows are definitely going into the prize bin, though.

Keri: Free books are always good. :)

Mary W: Titles come to you in dreams? I'm jealous. My dreams are always random bits of absurdity and not good for much.

KC: Aw, thanks. Is that your entry for the potential contest? Snarf.

Beth: See, I have so many book ideas that I can't write them all. So maybe I need to get together with an obsessive titler like you.

Natalie: That's your answer to every question I ask, isn't it? I'm so childish that I can't stop snickering.

Elise: I'd eat some of the chocolate with that wine, but it didn't last a week. :)

Aaron: Thanks. My title is now "Walk This Way." Which has nothing to do with anything in my book, but at least it's resolved.

Cate: Yeah, I know. But it gets so tedious sending bits to beta readers and having to say every time, no, that's not a real title. The real title will not suck.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Your post titles always interest me and make me laugh. That has to count for something, right?

Lina said...

You really should name it Titles Suck Donkey Balls. Because If I saw that book in a book shop I would just have to buy it! I wouldn't even need to read the back cover! (then again I have been known to go thru a library shelf by shelf and also been known to pick the book with the ugliest cover, just beacuse! ;-))
Oh release party! Really! As soon as you're released (form prison or a book, whatever comes first) and have one I'll definitly be there don't care what part of the world it's in :-)

Kelly Polark said...

Tweezers and a batman action figure.

bestfriend said...

Said best friend suffers from placenta brain, but I think I do remember....I will email you! Love ya!

Stephen Duncan said...

Dewd. I'm so there with the titles. It's the one place where me and the agent don't see eye to eye. He's putting together a focus group. A FOCUS GROUP. WTF?

This could get ridiculous.

Elizabeth said...

An Amazon gift card!
I'd play for sure!
What I lack in cleverness I make up in volume!
That's a lot of exclamation marks!
Why am I yelling?!!

Sherrie Petersen said...

Your best friend has placenta brain? Been there. Had that. In fact, I thought I made up the phrase placenta brain. But maybe that just goes to show how bad I had it!

Any contest with books for a prize has my name written all over it. I signed up for two contests today to win books. Give me books!

Carrie Harris said...

gottawritegirl: Yeah, it's one of my favorite phrases.

Glamis: Sad but true: I never thought of it that way.

Lina: It IS a good title, isn't it? And I look forward to seeing you!

Kelly: Okay, that was a much needed laugh. Thanks. :)

bestfriend: Placenta brain. That was a much needed laugh too. And thanks for the email. :)

cwac: You know, I used to run focus groups. You want me to run yours? I could come up with a GREAT title. (insert evil laugh here)

Elizabeth: That's a good one too. Me love the gift cards. And exclamation points, so it's a winner all around.

sherrie: She says she does, but she's naturally brilliant. As evidenced by the fact that even with placenta brain she has a better memory than I do.