Titles – a really important part of a book, right?
It’s what makes a pitch stand out. It’s the first thing that catches a reader’s eye and usually accompanies a cover that captures the very essence of it completely.
But how hard is it to find the right one?
Some authors write the book and name it at The End. Others write the book and the title naturally evolves.
Me, I like to work with a title before I start. It doesn’t necessarily end up being the right title, but I do have to have it.
The title to my first novel, TAUNTING THE DEAD, came about when I was chatting the idea for the book through with a colleague where I used to work. As I told her about the plot, she said, ‘that sounds a bit like he’s taunting the dead.’ I quickly wrote it down and well, the rest as they say is history. It went on to sell over 200,000 copies and is one of my most successful books to date.
Back in 2012, when I started to self-publish, titles were quite unique. Now as they are used as keywords in search engines, they often blend into one and the same. Also, publishers and authors tend to use titles that have been successful before too. There’s nothing wrong in this, but it goes to show how times have changed.
The four books in THE ESTATE SERIES all started off with different titles. The order of the books changed too. SOMEWHERE TO HIDE was originally the second book in the series, followed by BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR.
BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR actually started off called THE ESTATE, before changing to Urban Angel. Josie Mellor, one of the main characters is a housing officer with a big heart so I though the name was apt, but it was at a time when vampire, werewolf and angel stories were popular, so I had to choose something more fitting. Behind Closed Doors was quite popular so I changed it slightly to BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR.
SOMEWHERE TO HIDE started life as The Caretaker because the main character in that book, Cath Mason, runs a halfway house for young females in trouble.
Nowhere to Hide would have been a great title but had already been taken so from that, I thought of SOMEWHERE TO HIDE, which was better because Cath was offering them refuge.
As FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL is a book about, well, fighting and bloodshed, I chose the title Only Women Bleed. But as I wanted the books to be read by a female and a male audience, I didn’t think this was right either. It took me a long time to find a suitable title for this one but in the end, I was listening to a Katy Perry album (gosh, that takes me back) and I came up with it from a line in a song. The tagline for the book, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes me stronger’ came from Kelly Clarkson’s single too.
The same happened when I wanted a title for book four, WRITTEN IN THE SCARS. I was listening to Pink and Nate's song, Just Give Me A Reason, and a line in it was “written in the scars of my heart.” From that one single thought, in a matter of days, I had several characters and storylines.
And when I wanted a name for the series, I went all the way back to the original title of the first book and called it THE ESTATE.
WATCHING OVER YOU, my dark erotic, psychological thriller started out as So You Think You Know Me, then became Circling the Drain before I came up with the final one.
And then the next few book titles were decided by my previous publisher, Bookouture. The same with my new one out soon, HUSH HUSH - that had been pitched as The Dead Secrets, TICK TOCK as The Dead Games.
As with titles, I can't start a novel unless my characters have the right names.
I need to think of them as 'people' as soon as possible - well, I am going to live with them inside my head for the next few months. And because I've written nineteen books now, I'm struggling to find ones I haven't used before, as well as ones that are suitable for the characters too.
Names evoke different reactions to me as a writer. For instance, Dan, Alex and Sam bring to mind nice fellas - Freddy, Billy and Vinnie quite the opposite. Victoria, Emily and Alice bring to mind women's fiction - Maggie, Annie and Mary crime.
There are also classes of names too - and to a certain extent, age restraints. Certain names were around at particular times - others suit any age and era. And shortening names too - they can make a difference to a character.
I can't use a name of a person I know too well either. It doesn't seem right and often I think of that person instead of the character! Strange, I know. And then have to pick surnames to go with the first names. They have to fit too.
If you think about it too much, I suppose all these make for a stereotype. I do, however, often change a character's name after I’ve written the first draft too. When I don't feel I have developed him or her in the way I had planned, I'll switch as it fools my brain.
Have you ever read a book and disliked the character's name so much that you can’t continue?