What’s in a Name?
I’m sure I’ve talked about titles before, and I know I’ve talked about character names, but I have good reason, today, to return to my vomit, as it were.
Book titles are funny things. I have book titles jotted down in notebooks that I have never been able to find the stories for, and possibly never will, and I have struggled to come up with titles for stories that are fully-formed and finished.
Some stories have a title, and, in my mind at least, could never be called anything but whatever title I have bestowed upon them. For me, “Naming Names” is like that. Of course, that doesn’t presuppose that when the book finally appears on the shelves in bookshops it will do so with my chosen title. Lots of people will interface with me and with the novel between now and then, and, I suppose, the title is one of the things that will come under scrutiny and might be changed. Who knows? Somewhere along the line, a better title might even emerge, although, right now, I rather doubt it. On the other hand, the unspeakable might happen, and there might be a very good reason why I can’t use the title I’ve chosen: someone might get there ahead of me, or a popular TV show or music CD might appear on the market with the same name. This sort of thing isn’t unheard of, after all.
Yesterday, I wrote about Rebecca Alexander, my co-runner-up for the Mslexia prize, and her novel “Borrowed Time”, which I have just read, and which I loved. I also liked the title; in fact, I liked the title so much that I made rather a faux pas.
Way back in March, Reb wrote this blog about meeting and signing with her agent, and in it she explained exactly why she couldn’t continue on with her intended title. I muddled myself and honestly believed that she had changed the title to “Borrowed Time” not from it: Stupid thing to do, I know.
I cannot imagine writing a book, living with it, spending a year agonising over its course through a big and prestigious writing competition, being awarded the accolade of runner-up, being offered a meeting with an agent, schlepping hundreds of miles to London to meet the lovely woman, impressing her, and then being told that, aside from anything and everything else, the title of my book is unusable.
Us writers invest in these sorts of things. We make choices and we live and die by them, not just professionally, but often emotionally too.
So, with sincere apologies to Reb for being utterly rubbish, and with the rather pathetic hope that the same fate does not befall “Naming Names”, can I just say that the title of Rebecca Alexander’s novel, which I will expect all of my readers to pick up just as soon as it hits the shelves (date yet to be released), is, as things stand right now:
“THE SECRETS OF LIFE AND DEATH”