Saturday, March 03, 2007

What's in a Title or Name? - Writing a Novel

Ok...I know last time I promised seat of your pants writing ("panster") vs. outlining writing. But I skipped a step in my process, which is: titles and character names.

Once that spark and inferno of ideas take hold, I create a title. One that hopefully will stick with the book and not be changed by the publisher (yeah, we writers all like to hope, but sometimes its inevitable, which you'll see below). I think that I'm pretty good at coming up with a catchy title quickly. It's a good thing, too! I just can't seem to start a novel without one! It doesn't feel real to me or right to the work calling it "Book 4"!

So I start analyzing my bare bones plot, the theme, the characters, the genre and words are usually flying around in my head. Several potential title eventually surface. Usually, one of the first ones is the winner, but I keep at the exercise and if that one title I pick keeps ahead of the pack in my head, then I know it's the one.

Then I'll do an Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble search on the name to make sure it hasn't been used (much!) or there weren't any close sounding derivatives. If it passes muster, then it's a keeper. At the time the title "Dream Chasers" evolved (for "Chasing Shadows"), it passed through my stages of research. However, the title changed at the request of my pending publisher, because they had a too similar title already published. (Sorry, I still can't say much about the sale of Chasing Shadows, as I'm still in the contracting stage, and we all know it's not a sale until the contracts are signed!)

My next novel's title came easy, Heart of Darkness. It just fit the novel and that's how I refer to the work. However, I'm aware of Joseph Conrad's classic novel of the same name. So whether the title will remain is up in the air. For now, it stays!

During the title search stage, I'm also thinking up character names. Usually, the heroine & hero's FIRST names come instantly to me and the name always fits that character. Weird, but that's the way of the world. But I do have to spend time searching for a suitable last name and names for the villain and other characters. But I won't start writing without at least the heroine & hero's full names. The secondary character names evolve as my writing progresses.

Here are a couple of links I use for name & origin searches:
First Names: http://www.behindthename.com
Surnames: http://surnames.behindthename.com

Stay tuned! Next up: no promises, but "setting" may be a good topic! Can't start a book without knowing where and when it takes place!

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