I love book titles. My all-time favorite, If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him..., by Sharyn McCrumb says it all. After reading the book, I knew the title was apt. McCrumb has a knack for titling. Another of her books, The PMS Outlaws, brings visions to mind making me smile. I appreciate the art of titling because a good title attracts readers and provides a taste of the content. But the best titles also give the reader a notion of the tone of the book.
McCrumb’s title, If I’d Killed Him When I Met Him..., suggests the following:
• Murder is probably involved
• The murderer may be the protagonist
• The male victim is in all probability a despicable character
• The protagonist has regrets
• The victim did something to deserve the protagonist’s ire
• There is a timing element in which the protagonist realized her error
• Her procrastination may have allowed the victim to do something terrible
• The protagonist has judged and sentenced the man
• The death sentence may have been carried out but,
• Murdering the man sooner would have been better.
The title suggests many notions to the reader before buying the book. The reader is intrigued to the point of wanting to buy it to find out what the man did to create such emotion. But not only does the title induce finding out about the man, it also gives us a taste of the protagonist’s attitude about the situation. That attitude is the tone of the book.
McCrumb allows her main character to justify murder, setting the reader up before the first page is turned. In the case of some people, murder may just be the perfect solution. It’s a naughty concept. We like it! (And maybe the thought has occurred to us too.)
Tone is a nebulous concept. It is the line between the lines that reveal the authors’ feelings and attitudes about their own characters. In the McCrumb example, the tone reveals the author feels that her main character is a good person who possesses good judgment with a bit of naiveté, but who also has enough guts to get the job done once she’s assessed the situation. (The reader makes the assumption the protagonist is a woman, but isn’t sure.) We like her. Her humor’s on the black side. She’s retrospective and regretful about what she hasn’t done, which may have prevented something worse, but would have taken action had she been quicker on the uptake. So much like ourselves…
So often authors want a short and glib title with great alliteration, something catchy that they think will attract the reader, which isn’t a bad objective, and sometimes those titles do the job. But giving the reader all that McCrumb’s title gives is much better. Think verbs describing what happens, think nouns in terms of content and think about the tone of your book, the intentions of the main character. It’s a hard task.
Have you gone round in circles over your title? What’s your favorite title?
I thought I had mine, but maybe…
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Carolyn Mulford on 5/25 and Liz Mugavero on 6/1. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at email@example.com.