So I was browsing Amazon and happened to notice that Paolini's third book in his "cycle" (makes me think of the anatomic sense of the word, at least since both are painful) and it is titled "Brisingr."
I happen to be very convinced that a first book will never sell with an awful title like that. Perhaps the worst title I've ever heard of. Of course, I guess, the market for this book is for established fans and readers, and not really for newcomers. So he could have named the book "My Fat Ass" and it would have sold roughly the same number of books. Perhaps a few more, actually. Unless they took the title to mean Paolini's bony ass, in which case it would have sold none at all.
So perhaps just "Ass" would have been a better title.
The reason for this post is to discuss the importance of titles, mostly in regard to existing/published works, hence the reason we're in this forum and not open discussions. I have noticed a trend where an original title might be very good, but subsequent titles in a series may get worse over time. [Though it should be noted that none of the following are good titles by any stretch of imagination: Eragon, Eldest, and most especially Brisingr--sounds like the sound my lawnmower makes]
But this is not always true, sometimes a publisher won't let an established asuthor with a guaranteed reader base use a crappy title. Exhibit A Ender's Shadow, which happens to be a fine title. Originally, if I remember correctly, was to be called "Urchin," which is not a horrible title, but not a very good one.
So what's the difference? Is it that Tor is a bit more concerned about the marketability of titles than Randomhouse, or whoever published Paolini, or is it that a bad title is expected to affect Paolini's fan base less than Card's?
You tell me. I'm not sure of a lot in this world, but I know what Vegas odds are. And I'll give anyone here 7 to 1 odds that Brisingr is going to suck.
I laughed at your suggestion of just "Ass." What I was thinking that the third and fourth book of most trilogies is poor unless the story was conceived as a whole and had to be broken into three or four parts for publication.
I haven't read Paolini's novels. My daughter did and liked them. She's well-read herself. So, I don't know about him. He is striking a chord with some people.
Titles are hard to come up with. It can't be too boring, to long, or to unpronoucable. But I don't care what Card titles his books, they're still going to kick "Ass".
My own titles leave much to be desired. I almost never even have a title. The best title I had was "Luke: I am your father: a Starwars Soap Opera", but it's far too long. I almost never title anything until I finish writing it.
Well, sometimes I come up with a dynamic title right off (usually when I'm inspired by a deliberately generated title, but that's another story), but most of the time, I have some prosaic boring thing just for indexing and filing purposes, while I wait for inspiration to strike.
A lot of writers have had odd pronounciation schemes in their novels---it took me five or six years to get used to the hard "c" in Tolkien's system--and since I haven't read Paolini's stuff (and am unlikely to), I don't know what he uses.
...Trying to remember any real languages that have three-syllable names for "fire."
Reading Eragon was one of the most inspring things in my writing career.
I can hear the laughter, but let me finish. Christopher Paolini was a 17-year-old when he had Eragon published, by his parents. While Shakespeare was once referred to as a 'crow making himself pretty with other people's feathers' meaning he borrowed, Chrisopher Paolini borrowed so badly that the film audience thinks he has rewritten Star Wars and the literary audience thinks he has rewritten... well everything.
I feel sorry for Paolini, because I promise you, if someone had published what I wrote when I was 17 (I wrote the first drafts of my first two novels between 16 and 20) I would have by now changed my name by depole and cried about the fact that my favourite creation was tarnished by being immortalised as that. And people can say 'but he has made heaps of money' but what's money when you no longer have pride.
Borrow a bit, fine, borrow a lot, ok, but at least do it well. I challenge anyone to read the scene where Eragon and his 'Gandalf/Dumbledore/Obi-Wan' mentor arrive in a city, use false names at the gates, only for Ergon to wake to find his 'wise' mentor has written him a message on the wall, signed with his real name and not groan out loud.
As to titles, some are good, some are bad. A bit like the discussion of Talon of the Silver Hawk, I wouldn't have bought it for the title, but I bought it for the author. I guess the trick is that first title. Another thing for the first manuscript to do, the poor thing might collapse under the strain...
Hmm you make a very good point. And, truly, I have nothing against Paolini, except perhaps that stinging feeling that some of his success is undeserved. That better writers are going less appreciated.
Nevertheless there is something inspiring to be learned here, and nothing to be gained by feeling bitter about another's success.
However, his books are still pretty poor, and his titles, especially his most recent, are simply awful.
I just consulted three online Old Norse dictionaries, and none of them had 'brisingr'; the usual word for fire appears to be 'brandr' or 'eldr'. The form does sound possible in the language, but surely an author should use names which can be pronounced in the language they're writing in?
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