Friday, October 21, 2016

The Title Can Help Sell the Book

Topic: How important is a title? What attracts you to a certain title, and how do you determine what to title your book?
Ah, titles! What a problem they can be.  For a writer, there’s always a “working title,” something to file the document under.  It may be the final title or not.  My three WIP titles, two short stories and one novel are:“The Powwow,”   “The Meth House,”  and Lizzie Bender Ledoux.  I’ll definitely keep the short story titles. I only began “Lizzie” a few weeks ago, so all bets are off as to whether that title will have staying power.

I am a firm believer that short titles are best, easier to remember and with a dramatic punch:  The Great Gatsby, War and Peace, Jane Eyre, 1984, On the Road ,Atonement, Mrs. Dalloway.  Well, you get the idea. My three published books all have short titles, and oddly enough, the working title became the published title: 
The Shadow Warriors, World of Mirrors and Festival Madness.  The title should describe the book, and maybe be mentioned in an important passage of the book.  
Festival Madness

 Then there are wonderful titles of medium length, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Sun Also Rises, Catcher In the Rye, Gone with the Wind, and A Confederacy of Dunces.  All suggest a mood and even a mystery. Wonderful titles! 

What about longish titles? I am thinking of A Visit From The Goon Squad, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Longer yes, but compelling. Long, long titles are obviously verboten. 
How would the publisher put them on the book cover? 

Short stories can get by with longer titles, but I still like to keep mine short, like “Bad Trip,” and “The Insurrection.”  “The Rich Are Different” is my longest short story title.  

A great title like Gone Girl can help sell a book. By the way, titles cannot be copyrighted. When The Shadow Warriors was already published, and I’d done a lot of PR, I discovered that the name was a popular computer game. I never checked Amazon or Googled it. Maybe Google wasn’t even around then, but I made a serious mistake.

Here are some great writers who have interesting and varied opinions on the topic of titles.  Give them a read.

Marci Baun
A.J. Maguire
Victoria Chatham
Skye Taylor
Helena Fairfax
Heather Haven
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Margaret Fieland
Rachael Kosinski
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.comPeace,

Friday, July 22, 2016

What Makes a Novel Memorable?

There are books we remember and books we forget. Sometimes we may forget most of the book but remember a character or a setting we found particularly appealing. Every writer hopes her novel or short story will be memorable. What, then, makes a reader always remember a book?
 Great characters. Atticus? Scout? They live in our memory long after the story has faded. Madam Bovary? Han Solo? Hannibal Lecter?  Memorable characters don’t always have to be good, but they have to capture our imagination. Every writer would like to know how to create characters so memorable they can’t be forgotten. I am thinking of Lolita and Humbert Humbert.  The reader won’t forget those two. It helps if a character is somehow unique. Think of Natasha and Pierre in War and Peace. Pierre is not your everyday hero.  War and Peace
I hope I have set you to thinking.

What else makes a book memorable? An intriguing setting will do that, be it Middle Earth or Tony Hillerman’s New Mexico. Empty spaces in the barren desert, but oh, how he makes us remember them. We remember Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, too. Do you remember each story? Maybe not so much, but you recall the characters and the setting.  Tony Hillerman

My friend and fellow writer Ray Daniel has a mystery series set in Boston. Ray is a native and he knows the area well and his descriptions are spot on. Be brings you to Boston. His character, Tucker is also memorable because he’s a little odd. He’s a techy, but sometimes he’s not very smart and he is likely to break into tears in the course of a book. The combination of Tucker and Boston are pretty much irresistible. Ray Daniel

 Which brings me to Voice. Tucker has a memorable voice, and we do remember voices in books. Think of Scarlet O’Hara. She had it in spades. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone does, too. If someone ripped the cover off these books, you could still recognize the voices. The thing about voice is, it’s hard to teach.  You either have it or you don’t.

The last thing that makes a novel memorable is, of course, the story, and many writing teachers will tell you a good story trumps everything, but I disagree. Naturally there has to be a story, and we hope it will be good, but the best plot won’t be memorable with cardboard characters, generic settings and a blah voice. 

Writers work hard to bring you their best efforts. What books do you particularly remember? One of my favorites is the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. Each book is narrated by a different character, all unique.  The city, Alexandria, comes alive. You can see it, feel it, small it, and immerse yourself into it. The stories have intrigue and politics and love affairs with quite a few surprises, but it is the characters and the setting and the characters’ voices that last in memory.

 The Alexandria Quartet

Here are some great bloggers with good ideas about what makes a memorable novel.