What’s in a Title? A Lot

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The title of a novel isn’t as important as the content of the novel itself, but I want to love my title. I want others to love it. I want the title to draw in potential readers, pique their interest, motivate them to take a look at the book. I want the title to make a promise.

That’s a heavy load to carry for just a few words. Some of the greatest titles ever were a single word: BELOVED. ATONEMENT. FRANKENSTEIN. JAWS. CARRIE. STASH.

It was last November that I came up with the working title of my most recent novel: THE SUITOR.

Two words–but referring to one character, entity, or concept. THE GODFATHER. THE HOURS.

The novel centers on a sudden relationship that develops between a recent college graduate recovering from a traumatic event and an ambitious and charming schemer, and her father’s attempts to prevent their marriage.

I like the title THE SUITOR. The story is propelled by Anna (college grad) and Kyle (the suitor) quickly falling for each other over one summer, but there is also a central conflict between Kyle and Art (Anna’s father). Without Kyle, no conflict, no story. I found the word suitor intriguing, almost sinister, in a contemporary setting.

I’ve finished the novel. It’s with my agent, who will pitch it to publishers. But she wants me to consider alternative titles. She says it sounds a little old-fashioned, like a gentlemanly caller. The novel is anything but old-fashioned.

So I’m giving the the title some thought. Here are three other potential titles I’m considering:

SOME KIND OF GAME. This title references a fantasy game that Kyle invented for him and Anna to play: opening a restaurant together, someday getting married. There’s also a point in the novel where Art is threatening Kyle and says something to the effect of “You think this is some kind of game we’re playing?”

A COUPLE OF BUMPS. One of Anna’s conflicts is she gets sucked into the partying world as a way to deal with other issues, and on a number of occasions, many occasions, she does a few “bumps” of cocaine with Kyle and her friends. Also, at one point Art is worried about his daughter and thinks “Some things hadn’t gone her way. She’s had some bad luck and hit a couple of bumps and Kyle was a danger to her.”

THE RUSH. Another two-word title and a late entry, suggested by one of my readers because of “the speed of their relationship, restaurant rushes, the rush of the drugs and alcohol depended on to numb the rush of trauma, as well as the rush of the need to see what comes next [in the story]. This title makes a promise to the reader.

I think I’m eliminating A COUPLE OF BUMPS. Many readers may not know the cocaine reference of bumps and the title doesn’t seem large enough for the novel. That leaves THE RUSH or SOME KIND OF GAME. I’m leaning toward THE RUSH. But I just thought of a variation that I like: THIS GAME WE PLAY. Suddenly I want that. In any case, if a publisher buys the book–always a big if–they’ll change the title if they want to.

By David Klein

David Klein

Published novelist, creative writer, avid reader, discriminating screen watcher.

Novels

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