I make lists of possible titles as I go along. The crime ones came easily enough. Bloodless Shadow (my first crime novel) was from a book of poems, The Rooster Mask, by a friend Henry Hart and he had it from Homer or Virgil. At any rate one of those scenes when the classical hero goes down to the underworld and the bloodless shadows (the dead) cluster around him.
Poetry is a particularly good source for titles because of the way poets crack open language. They jam words together in arresting and muscular ways and that’s what you want from a title. Something that grabs the attention, unsettles , fizzes.
The title of my most recent book Far Away is the least dramatic of my titles but it persisted and in the end I was satisfied with it.
On occasion regrettably you can come across the perfect title for your book after it’s published. This happened to me the other day when I was reading Under Siege: Literary Life in London 1939-45 by Robert Hewison. I came across this quote from Uys Krige, a South African war correspondent, captured in Africa like my father and a POW in Italy. Here’s his description of what being a POW was like:
“This is a dead world, a lost world and these are lost men, lost each in his own separate limbo, banished from his memories, exiled even from himself. Here even dreams are dead.”
From this short passage I found four titles: Dead World, Lost Men, Banished From Memory and Even Dreams are Dead.
Even Dreams are Dead is the one I like best. That is the title that got away!
Uys where were you when I needed you?
If you’re a writer how do you find the titles of your books or short stories? Does it come easily?
If you’re a reader tell me some of your favourite or least favourite titles.