Friday, July 4, 2014

What Shall I Name the Dog?

I’m trying to find a title for my latest novel and it’s like doing a word problem for Algebra. My initial title was Pagoda, a nickname one of the characters calls Michel, the protagonist. While it’s a catchy word, the underlying meaning and function of a Pagoda does not fit the book’s themes.

The novel takes place largely in summer, and Michael’s car is called the Blue Whale, but my current title, Summer of the Blue Whale sounds like a feel good beach book, which it’s not. I toyed with The Blue Whale of Summer as a nod to a line in a poem by Pablo Neruda about watermelons being “the green whale of summer,” but the reference is too obscure.

In one scene Michael gives his sister a copy of The Arabian Nights, a childhood favorite. Michael’s Tale? But the book is not just about Michael.

Kerouac already stile On the Road, so I can’t use that one. My novel isn't really a road story anyway, even though the car is a character, and one character takes a long journey.

I like From Here to Eternity. Not so much the book, but the title. The words roll off the tongue.
The Signature of All Things is another catchy title. It fits the book and has a pleasing cadence.

I like titles where you don't understand them until you have read far into the novel. The Catcher in the Rye is like that. The reader has to dig around and wait. Shadow of the Wind drives the tale on two levels: it centers around a book with the same title, and much of the tale takes place in shadows.

I don’t want my title to reveal too much, but it needs to be inseparable from with the story, almost like a tag line. Anyone who hears “yada yada yada” immediately conjures Seinfeld. When I hired Elizabeth to edit, she suggested A Whole Lot of Smirking Going On, since I had numerous incidents where Michael and Shelly smirk at one another. Another suggestion was Because Because Because as I had used the word because three times in one sentence.

Cindy S said she likes coming up with titles, such as, Tiger Lilies, Chicory and Queen Ann’s Lace. “I don’t know what it would be about, but I like the sequence of words.” I said it sounds like a good name for a cozy mystery about a gardener.

Cindy R is good at coming with titles, but she hasn't read my book, so she’s no help at all. (Note; it’s not that she refuses to read my book, she doesn't have time.)

Perhaps I will choose something simple. The Goldfinch ties this massive story together. It's a simple confluence of words, but once you read the book, no other title fits.

Friends have told me not to stress about the title because chances are it will get changed anyway, but I am trying to attract an agent, and a sucky title might put my query in the sucky query pile. It’s a Catch-22 (another rocking title.)

Happy writing and titling.


  1. My Ride's Here
    Miles to Go
    A Whale on Wheels

    1. Haha. Funny you should suggest Miles To Go. I have short story of that title in Triskadekan.