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ArCHeR
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Due to a discussion in the fragment forum, I got an idea for a bit of fun: Let's share our thoughts on some of the best titles we've come across, and how they affected our views on the actual work.

To make it easy, I'll start it off with something I'm sure we're all familiar with:

Ender's Game

Now, I happen to love this title, and I liked it before I even read the book. It was a while ago and some of my online friends had expressed that it was amongst their favorite books. I knew nothing about it but the title and decided to give it a look.

Now just from the title (and the people who were suggesting it) I expected it to be some sort of metaphor of some powerful supernatural entity trapping the protagonists in some sort of game. It would be some sort of metaphor for the mind or man's struggle with blah blah blah (A bit of explanation: the people suggesting it are the kind of people that would actually READ Ayn Rand).

Actually reading it was a bit of a different experience (of course descriptions and dust jackets prepared me for it NOT being what I expected but it was still quite a reveal for me). But the title still stuck in my mind as a really good one. It's a bit like The Gods Themselves where you expect something epic and it turns out to be something far from it, but then it turns out to be just as epic in a completely different way...

Ah, now I'm thinking about the Gods Themselves...

Your thoughts?


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MartinV
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I very much liked the title Ender's Game. Especially I liked the morph from Andrew into Ender. Back then I was looking for a word in English to translate something of my own - when I went to look it up in the dictionary all I got was the usual boring stuff (conqueror, annihilator, slayer...). But 'ender' sounded ingenious to me. I just hope that OSC didn't copyright it...

As far as titles for my stories go, I try to make them simple, not telling much to a person who hasn't read it but sounding interesting. One of them was (translated into English) 'Across the Great West Sea' which in my opinion can make a person guess.


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wetwilly
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I like titles that make me think, "now what in the hell is THAT talking about?"

Some example of books I've bought because the title sounded so intriguing to me:

"The Wasp Factory" by Iain Banks
"We" by Yevgeny Zamyatin
"Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz
"When We Were Orphans" by Kazuo Ishiguro
"Burglars Can't Be Choosers" by Lawrence Block


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arriki
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Oh, yes, Block's Burglar titles were delightful and set up the right expectations for the stories.

I love thinking about neat titles. The disappointing part is when the great title heralds a story that either doesn't fit or falls so woefully short of the title's promise.
Some of my favorites titles are --

Princes of the Air
Smilla's Sense of Snow
The Mamur Zapt and the Donkey Vous
Parallel Lies (with a picture of a set of train tracks on the cover)
Altered Carbon
Social Crimes
Step Ball Change
Moghul Buffet
Pushing Ice
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and the Fairy Chessmen (which turned out to be two stories, not one. Yet forty years later I still remember the title and wish it had been THAT story.)
The Sun Smasher (a favorite from the days when Ace D-novels were new)
Murder At the Place of Anubis
Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been (a story in the old AMAZING magazine)
Sapphire Wine

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited January 27, 2008).]


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Doctor
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His Dark Materials
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Pyre Dynasty
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The Man Who Ate The 747.
A Dolphin Named Bob.
Highway to Eternity.
Last Refuge of Scoundrels


These come from my shelf of books I love the titles but may or may not actually read.


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KayTi
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Life, the Universe, and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish (I was laid off from a job that I held for 10+ years and the one bright spot in all of that was the ability to use this Douglas Adams title as the subject line for a goodbye/thank you message.)

A Wrinkle in Time - L'Engle

Stranger in a Strange Land - Heinlein

The Hero and the Crown (meaningful because the interpretation of who the Hero was is open.) - McKinley

Edited to add my all-time favorite, can't believe I omitted it:

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress - Heinlein

I think the common thread for me with the above titles is their ability to evoke more than one meaning, and even after reading the book to still have that ability. This is something as a writer I am SORELY lacking in and wish I could crack the code of the awesome title.

[This message has been edited by KayTi (edited January 26, 2008).]


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ArCHeR
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I always liked the idea of taking song titles and making a story based solely on the title and not the contents of the song. I started doing this with the Beatle's "Tomorrow Never Knows". It's such a great title and has nothing to do with the song anyway so I started a futuristic war story from it...
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TaleSpinner
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The Dark Light-Years - Aldiss - Meaningful only after you finish the book, and I won't spoil it.
Non-Stop - Aldiss
Who Can Replace a Man? - Aldiss, again

Nightfall - Asimov
I, Robot - Asimov - It's exactly what it says on the tin.

Lady Slings the Booze - Spider Robinson - One of my all-time favourite titles.

The Man Who Sold the Moon - Heinlein
Time Enough for Love - Heinlien

Dreaming Metal - Melissa Scott

Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe - Adams

1984 - Orwell - But it was a better title when 1984 was in the distant future.

Farenheit 451 - Bradbury

The Shockwave Rider - Brunner

Altered Carbon - Morgan

The Boat of a Million Years - Anderson


Like KayTi, I like titles that have more than one meaning, or embody a dramatic proposition, or which summarise the story in a way that entices going in, and makes sense at the end.

Just 2c,
Pat


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arriki
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So, what strategies are there for titles?

Cute/clever ones like

False Profits
Cover Your Assets

that attract because the mere title is cute. These may not be directly positioning you for the story.

Big, one-word heavies like
Exodus

Ones that take on real meaning AFTER you've read the story.
Ender's Game

Lyrical ones? How do those attract you?

Is the purpose of book titles (titles mean less in short stories because there is a big over title or magazine name that does the heavy-duty work of enticing the reader to buy.

Once the title has got hold of the browser's imagination, then it's up to the blurb writers and the backcover text to push the browser on to peruser status? Then, finally, it is the writer's job on that first page to prove that he can be trusted to produce a good story?

So, the title just has to evoke interest/the reader's imagination.


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annepin
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Hm... I think a good title suggests a book's potential. "Ender's Game" is mysterious and somewhat dark, because of the name "Ender". So yes, a title should entice, but more than that too--it should encompass the spirit of a book, whether it be a lighthearted story, a deep, psychological book, and what you as a reader might get out of it--a poignant, lingering story, or a quick, entertaining read.
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skadder
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I always thought chess was the inspiration for Enders Game. Chess has the opening, the middle game and the end game. I thought he just took that phrase and worked it.
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annepin
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Oo, I just thought of an example to what I was talking about. I love GRRM's titles: A Game of Thrones; A Storm of Swords; A Feast for Crows...

The first one suggests a lot of political play, and delivers. The second suggests a war and a lot of bloodshed. The third is the aftermath of the war. I forget what the forth one's called.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Some topics on how to come up with titles:

http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/001041.html

http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/001093.html (this one has a post from Eric James Stone with a whole list of ways to create titles)

and an article on titles from B. W. Clough is here


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InarticulateBabbler
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I like titles that become part of the hook:

The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follet
A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin
The Eye of the World - Robert Jordan
The Bourne Identity or The Tristan Betrayal - Robert Ludlum
Eaters of the Dead - Michael Chrichton
Demogorgon - Brian Lumley
The Rules of Prey - John Sanford
Quest for Lost Heroes - David Gemmell
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
The Man Who Never Missed - Steve Perry
Mortalis - R. A. Salvatore
It - Stephen King
Wolf Brother - Michelle Paver
The House of Caine - Ken Eulo
Wild Seed Ocatavia Butler
The Name of the Wind: The Kingkiller Chronicles: Day One - Patrick Rothfuss

Now, coming up with them is a completely different matter....


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Rommel Fenrir Wolf II
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a book i found in the MWR that i think is realy good but quite short.

THE ZEN GUN by Barrington J. Bayley.

RFW2nd


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Igwiz
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I think my favorite title ever is Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible." I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it, but that pretty much sums up both the theme and the plot of the book.

I don't ever think I'll forget the image she paints of the missionary shouting, "Papa God Bangala!" After serving 2 years in West Africa with the Peace Corps, I had very similar thoughts...

[This message has been edited by Igwiz (edited January 28, 2008).]


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smncameron
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quote:

Life, the Universe, and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish (I was laid off from a job that I held for 10+ years and the one bright spot in all of that was the ability to use this Douglas Adams title as the subject line for a goodbye/thank you message.)

Good books, but not great titles since they're actually just lines from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.


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Robert Nowall
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I admire the titles of Cordwainer Smith. "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell," "Think Blue, Count Two," and "The Dead Lady of Clown Town" come to mind.

Yet I'm also told that these weren't the original titles, but were chosen by Frederik Pohl, the editor of the magazines they were first published in.


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KStar
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"Slaughterhouse Five" because it left me surprised.

"The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing" though I wasn't too in love with the book.

"My Brother Sam is Dead" is the runner-up.

My favorite would have to be "The Perks of Being a Wallflower".

Those are just some of them.

[This message has been edited by KStar (edited January 28, 2008).]


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lehollis
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Kathleen, thank you for posting those links.

To me, EricJamesStone's post does sum it up quite nicely (though a lot could be said in each category still.)

When it comes to titles taken from main characters, I think it helps when the title character has an unusual name, like Juno or Napoleon Dynamite. I've always liked such titles. Of course, a twist on this would be to use a common, bland name, like Bob or John.

I also tend to like verb-noun titles like Chasing Amy and Finding Forrester. They have a sense of action in them.

I always felt Ender's Game was a play on the chess term, too. I'm just now getting to the point in my chess game where I see the distinction in those stages, and I'm starting to see how they apply to writing. (Wasn't there a writer who said that to write well, learn to play chess?)

The best titles, for me, are like promises. I think they don't so much have to tell you something of the story as promise you something.

Some of my favorites:

Fahrenheit 451

10 Things I Hate About You

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

I, Robot

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature

1984

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (Not fiction, but a good title)

Eragon (just kidding!)

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Job: A Comedy of Justice

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Neuromancer

Day My Butt Went Psycho (based on a true story)

A Clockwork Orange

A Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Slaughterhouse-Five

Swastika Night

I haven't read them all, but I like the titles.


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ArCHeR
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*ahem*

A CONNECTICUT Yankee in King Arthur's Court


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lehollis
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My version is better. It has universal appeal

(Concerning that one, I think it was good for its time. Maybe not so much these days.)


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SaucyJim
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Snappy, catchy titles are essential, I think. As to where it comes from... well, that depends individually on the story and the author.

"World War Z" by Max Brooks
"A Game of Thrones" by George R. R. Martin
"Death Be Not Proud" by John Gunther (okay, not sci-fi)
"By Blood Betrayed" by Blain Lee Pardoe and Mel Odom
"Ghosts of Onyx" by Eric Nylund
"Contact Harvest" by Joseph Staten

And here are the two exceptions that make the rule. These titles strike me as clunky and unattractive, but they're damn good books:

"The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" by Robert Heinlein
"The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-moon Marigolds" by Paul Zindel (questionable sci-finess)


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TaleSpinner
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quote:

<quote>
Life, the Universe, and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish (I was laid off from a job that I held for 10+ years and the one bright spot in all of that was the ability to use this Douglas Adams title as the subject line for a goodbye/thank you message.)
<endquote>

Good books, but not great titles since they're actually just lines from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.


As I understand it "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy" was the title of the first book in the series of books also entitled "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

"Life, the Universe, and Everything" and "So Long, and Thanks for All The Fish", as well as my personal favourite, "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" all appear to be titles of books in the series, as well as lines therefrom.

I suspect it was, maybe still is, possible to buy the whole series in one volume called "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hitchhiker%27s_Guide_to_the_Galaxy_%28book%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life%2C_the_Universe_and_Everything
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_Long%2C_and_Thanks_For_All_the_Fish

Hopefully clarifyingly,
Pat

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 30, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 30, 2008).]


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Cheyne
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There are so many good titles out there, but these stuck out for me.
To You Scattered Bodies Go- Philip Jose Farmer
The Lady Slings the Booze- Spyder Robinson

Find any good long speech from a Shakespearean play and you have a treasure trove of titles. A random search in "The Tempest" for a title I needed for a story , turned up: "For These Crimes Unpunish'd Go" A decent title that fit my needs and my story.

[This message has been edited by Cheyne (edited January 30, 2008).]


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