Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Titles and Names

800px-Eine_kleine_nachtmusik.svg I frequently have classical music playing in the background at home while the kids are eating or while I’m writing (no pesky lyrics to get me off-track.)

My daughter perked up when one piece started playing. “I know this one!” she said. Then she frowned at the title that showed on the television (I get music via satellite on Sirius.) “Whaaa? What’s the name of it?”

It wasn’t a very catchy name. Eine kleine Nachtmusik Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major, K. 525. By Mozart. And if you listen to it, you’ll recognize it right away—it’s background music in gobs of movies, commercials, cartoons, etc.

But good luck remembering that title, unless you’re a huge classical music fan. It’s just not something that’s going to stick in your head.

I’ve read a few books like this, too. The title is either way too long, has a difficult to pronounce place name or character name in it, or just doesn’t seem to fit the book. When it doesn’t fit the book, a connection doesn’t click in my brain. And then I look dumb when people ask me what book I’m reading and I can’t remember the title!

Character names can be just as bad. I’ve pointed out some character name difficulties before—characters whose names start with the same letter, etc. (I just have a horrid memory and stumble when reading if I can’t differentiate easily between characters.) But obscure or difficult to pronounce names are also hard for readers.

I read Those Who Save Us late last year. One of the main characters in the book was the Obersturmfuhrer. Bleh. So every time I read that name, my mind just said, O-blahblah. Which was fine, until I went to my book club meeting and couldn’t remember the guy’s name at all…and couldn’t very well call him O-blahblah.

My first two books had punning titles of Southern sayings. They’re catchy enough…but people mess up those titles all the time, y’all. I’m just lucky that when you Google Pretty is as Pretty DOES, that my title will come up, even though it’s DIES. So I can’t necessarily recommend that approach.

My first Memphis BBQ book will be Delicious and Suspicious. It’s short and rhyming, which hopefully will keep it catchy.

I’ve currently got two books I need to name. How do you come up with titles for stories and novels? Any good tips to share?