We’ve all seen Julie and Julia, right?—with the genius Meryl Streep working that fabulous accent? Remember the scene where Julia Child is in her editor’s office, shifting words around on a corkboard to arrive at a title for her cookbook?
Well, aside from the 50s hair and clothing, that’s pretty close to what my life has looked like for the past few weeks. Shuffling a handful of words around; trying to arrive at just the right phrase.
Here’s the thing: my book needs a new title. The working title (WATER) was fine. Simple. Suggestive. But I can do better than fine, right? This book wants a title that will evoke the ragged emotions of my main characters. Something that will communicate the urgency of their struggle for survival. Their frail, but resilient hope in stark contrast to the desolate setting. ↣ ↣ ↣ ↣
I asked my agent. She suggested a few great strategies: make word lists, brainstorm with friends, pull key phrases out of the text. Sounds good, right? Easy, even?
Ha haaaaa ha.
I tried. Again and again, with varying degrees of success. And when just this one brain wasn’t coming up with anything brilliant, I threw it out there over appetizers:
“Help a girl out—let’s brainstorm some titles.” And, you know?—it worked. For a few minutes. We made a word list, shuffled them around and came up with a half-dozen decent options.
“Great!” I said. “This was so helpful. I’ll have to check, though, to make sure none of these are already best-sellers.”
“You mean, like HARRY POTTER’S THIRSTY?”
“Very funny. Go back to your hot & sour soup.” I could see that if I wanted any more REAL help, I was going to have to seek out the advice of my writer friends. You know, the ones with the background knowledge, the wisdom and experience to help me navigate this tricky territory?
Here are some of the *oh, so helpful* suggestions I received from that quarter:
“Hey Mel, how about THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE TOTAL LACK OF WATER?”
“Or, THE THIRSTY GAMES?”
“BRIDGE TO THE VERY DRY PLACE?”
In all seriousness, my friends have been very helpful at nudging me in the right direction, and telling me when my ideas are less than brilliant. And yes, helping me to laugh about it. But I’m the one that has to get it right.
The title of a book is so important because it’s the first thing a potential reader hears about the story. Those few words are nothing less than the novel’s ambassadors.
So I’d like to hear from you all: What are some of your favorite titles? Why do you think they work so well?
I’ll be sure to let you all know when I find just the right title for the novel formerly known as WATER. Until then, I’ll keep working. Because, as we all know, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.