Naming Stuff: Titles (plus news)

This is my fifth and final post in my Naming Stuff series and examines my approach to creating titles. If you struggle with this, then read on. You might find something here that helps. For this post’s second half, I’ll share changes to titles in my story world.

The entire Naming Stuff series:

  1. Characters
  2. Glossary
  3. Creatures and Peoples
  4. Places
  5. Titles

I don’t know if my titles pop!, but I’m comfortable with them. I’ve no magical ability. Typically, it takes me awhile to find the right title and often I don’t get titles correct the first time.

The end of this post will share proof of that.

In fact, of the seven Kovenlore Chronicles novels, I’ve changed the titles of two.

My Approach

First of all, titles should flow from me, as my story does. It should also reflect character and plot (book or series). For my examples, I’ll draw from my Kovenlore Chronicles stories.

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. Picture: CA Hawthorne

Riparia Tarnabeth Dellbane. From the Kovenlore Chronicles. Picture: CA Hawthorne

I want a title to convey as much meaning as possible. In short, a witty phrase drawn from the novel that appears ambiguous and has both a denotational and connotational meaning is a winner.

And, yes, that’s not easy and seldom happens right away. Often, I use a working title that I later abandon since most often I achieve success during one of my editing passes.

Over time I’ve become better at noting potential candidates in my text. For instance, those moments while editing when I pause to pat myself on the back for a great line.

My gold standard is Trust in the Forgotten, which is Book1 in Riparia’s series. Given it was the first book there was a little extra pressure to find just the right title.

Trying not to spoil the novel, I’ll break down why it works.

First of all, yes, it’s part of a line spoken. It comes in the third chapter when Riparia meets with Paran, a rebel Keeper leader…

He leaned closer yet, his voice a whisper, his hands sliding apart on the table top displaying invisible cards. “Imagine, Riparia, technology, the progress people are forgetting.”

Her heart lifted and her breaths quickened. “But, they’ve no trust in the forgotten. It’s been too long. Magic has been outlawed since long before either of us were born. Trolley tracks are just something to trip over now.” She pointed at the closest inoperable gas fixture.

Okay, but what about all the other criteria?

On the surface, without seeing the title in context, it appears a contradiction. It appears in a sentence and has a denotational meaning. The connotational meaning applies to Riparia and her past. As a result, she’s one of the least trusting people around.

The second book, A River in Each Hand, has the further distinction that its title is derived from a particular scene in the first novel. That applies to all Riparia’s novels. The line is also spoken in Book2.

As the series went on I loosened my criteria a bit, especially with Aramon Daughters, though it meats my criteria more than you might believe.

Changes

When I began this series, I saved Titles for last because I planned to change the name of Zephtasha’s novel. It was inaccurate, too literal, and a minor spoiler.

The Ontyre Story Universe. Chart: CA Hawthorne ©October 2022

The Ontyre Story Universe. Chart: CA Hawthorne ©October 2022

That was a month ago.

When considering her novel’s ties to Talma’s, I wondered why they weren’t a series? They’re linked mysteries, after all. Meanwhile, Case of the Deadly Stroll conveys it’s a mystery, has a noir flavor, and meets my other criteria.

Just like that, things kinda spiraled.

I aligned Zephtasha’s title with Talma’s using my criteria. I then decided to do the same with her holiday novella. What about, I wondered, the Carrdia/Pannulus crossover novel? It is, after all, a noir mystery and linked to Zephtasha’s novel and Stealing Light (now there’s some heavy lifting!).

Just like that, I had a series, each beginning with Case of the…

  1. Mistaken Arrival
  2. Cryptic Design
  3. Deadly Stroll
  4. Cruel Provision

So, there’s my Naming Stuff series, plus a little bonus. It’s my hope it’ll serve as a good starting place for someone.

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About Christina Anne Hawthorne

Alive and well in the Rocky Mountains. I'm a fantasy writer who also dabbles in poetry, short stories, and map making. My Ontyre tales are an alternative fantasy experience, the stories rich in mystery, adventure, and romance. Alternative fantasy? Not quite steampunk. Not quite gothic. In truth, the real magic is in those who discover what's within.
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