[Quick Note: As I mentioned in one of the earlier Countdown posts, I’m currently on vacation/religious observance in Wisconsin. One consequence of that is that I haven’t had the free time to write these blog posts as efficiently as I would like, so this post is delayed by a day or two from when it should appear. I am going to attempt to double up in order to get back on schedule, and try and prevent any further time slips between now and November]
I suck at coming up with titles.
Clearly, that’s not the only thing I suck at, as anyone who’s been following this “Countdown to NaNoWriMo” series can tell you that my time management skills aren’t exactly stellar either. (The obvious fact that I’m writing this two hours after the day it’s ostensibly meant to appear on has ended might be a clue to any new readers I might have also…)
It’s true, though. Despite being a reasonably creative person, any time I try and come up with a title, I struggle. Looking at my past two attempts at NaNoWriMo, I hate my titles. My first NaNo, an alternative history tale about Nazis successfully infiltrating and potentially sabotaging the Manhattan Project (development of nuclear weapons) was given the awe-inspiring title of “Untitled” for the first fifteen days of November 2011. By day eighteen, it had expanded into the much more lofty “Untitled Alternate History NaNoWriMo draft” (I can just see that one rocketing up the bestseller list, can’t you?) Eventually, I kept ping-ponging between two titles “Trinity,” after the code name for the initial nuclear tests, and “Das Manhattan Projekt.” I felt the latter was too generic and suggested a lot of different associations before “World War II era nuclear development,” and the latter was just terribly, terribly cheesy.
By way of contrast, my 2012 NaNo title was the only thing about that thrice-accursed work that came easily. With it being a superhero/espionage conspiracy novel, I decided that “cloaked” was the perfect title, as it suggested both clandestine activities and superhero costuming (even if capes are usually thought of before cloaks), it didn’t hurt that my main ensemble had earned the media appellation “the Cloaks & Daggers” in-story.
Sadly, it seems that “Cloaked,” is very much an outlier for me in coming up with titles. If you look at the few short fiction extracts I’ve posted to this blog, you’ll see that one thing they all have in common are terribly awful titles. The least bad is probably my spin on the King Arthur mythos, entitled “The Bear of Albion,” this only works in my opinion because “Albion” is a reasonably well known name for ancient Britain and that many of the Celtic and Roman chieftains that are thought to be the basis of the mythological Arthur are described as “bear-like.” The trouble is, how many people realize that, and would understand that Arthur is the titular character? This is probably compounded by my decision to use Merlin as the first person perspective narrator for the story.
Another one of my excerpts, and a second alternate history idea that I’m kind of developing is based off of the statement by one of the men on the John F. Kennedy Secret Service detail that they came perilously close to shooting Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington, DC on the same night that Kennedy died in Dallas. I just thought “what would happen if he had fired that shot?” So, as the point of divergence, “One More Shot,” made sense as a title, but again it’s awfully generic and would have to be altered to give any clue what the tale was about.
And then there’s my third excerpt. Would you guess what a story entitled “Pegasus” is about? Would you have even pegged the genre as being anywhere near “military science fiction?” I put it to you, dear reader, that you would not. That makes it an absolutely terrible title, even if it had more thematic resonance when the story was focused more on an airborne assault.
That’s my woe with titling. Am I alone on this particular issue?