Friday, January 15, 2010


I'm the first to admit that character names and titles are not my strong suit. More often than not, someone else comes up with them for me. BREAK was not my original title--that was all Anica Rissi and her fabulous army over at Simon Pulse. I chose the name Jonah myself (Fun fact--a ton of my manuscripts have a male main character whose name starts with J, though not a lot that will ever be published) but the lovely Suzanne Young thought of Jesse. I was all "QUICK WHAT NAME GOES WELL WITH JONAH" and she gave me Jesse. Pretty sweet.

It also totally breaks that rule you always hear, that you shouldn't have two main characters whose name starts with the same letter. If they'd been Jonah and Jonas, that would have been a problem, but Jonah and Jesse look different enough for it not to be a problem.

(They also sound different. Do you hear words in your head when you're reading, or is that just me? I think this keeps me from being able to read very quickly, because I have to hear each individual word before I can move into the next one. Holy mother of digressions.)

ANYWAY. Do you ever get help on character names or titles? You hear a lot about how publishers will change your titles, and they do, frequently, but not all the time. INVINCIBLE SUMMER, as far as I know, is going to be the thing's name, and that title I actually did come up with all on my lonesome. (Not entirely--it's from a Camus quote, "In the middle of winter, I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer." It's about the only line Camus ever wrote that ISN'T quoted in the novel.)

So though publishers do change titles, it's by no means a guarantee that your book won't hit shelves with the same title you gave it in its word document. So how much thought do you give to your titles? What about to your character names? Do you get help?

(Kitten pictures tomorrow)


MBee said...

Sometimes I ask people for names and sometimes I write my friends in. The WIP has two minor characters named after friends, at their suggestion.
For my previous fantasy MS (still in progress), I researched almost all of the names so they all have a meaning which relates to the character's physical appearance or their personality. They mean things like "saver of the people" (the MC) or dark haired, etc. I like that if people look closer into the names they can learn more about the story/characters.
As far as titles go, I'm pretty awful at them myself. The only one I really like is for the fantasy WIP. It's dubbed: Embers to Ashes, a Destined Journey. I'm ok to lose or change the tag line, but I'd probably fight for the other part :)

(Yay kitties!)

Keren David said...

Oh, love this topic. I also blogged about it. YA writer Cat Clarke and I just agreed we were going to name a character for eachother. She suggested Natalie for my MC's sister and it is just perfect. I've already written five jokes about the name. Waiting to name one for her.
Both my book titles have come after I've been trying to explain to someone what the book is essentially about. In both cases I uttered the words 'It's really all about ...' and the perfect title fell into my head. Weird.

Suzanne Young said...

The Naughty List was not my original title (as you know). I don't think I'll say what the original was.haha But I did pick the phrase: The Naughty List: Is your boyfriend on it?

We'll see how the next title goes. haha

Horserider said...

Most of the time I come up with my own titles. Except for Destiny. Most of my character names come off baby name sites, rarely do I have a name that just pops into my head.

inkspatters said...

I do this thing where I come up with titles and character names I hate (The most ridiculous was Shadow, or something I think) and tell myself it's a placeholder, and then I'll find a real name later. But then the names stick and I'm stuck with a bunch of ridiculosity in my stories. Yeah.

The title for one of my books was actually suggested to me by an agent who took time to give me feedback and tell me my current title was lacking. So yeah, guess I can't take credit for that one. And it's the good title. Damn.

On a totally unrelated note (well, somewhat related), I LOVE Invincible Summer as a title :D

hannah said...

Thank you! I like it too. That title actually came with the idea for the book. That's usually a good sign, in my experience, that the title's a good one. When you don't have to work for it.

Linda said...

I usually think of names pretty easily. I just think about the character and brainstorm until a good name comes to me. If I'm having trouble, I'll ask my family for suggestions or look through baby naming sites. As for titles, either a perfect title just comes to me (not always right away but by the end of writing the first draft) or I just slap on a working title. So far, I've only had one book where I couldn't find a good title.

Nadine said...

Character names come pretty easy for me but titles do not so I usually have a simple name until I can think of a title. My current WIP was titled by a group of friends sitting around and discussing possible titles.

Awriter said...

Both Character names and titles come pretty easy to me. For characters, if I have a really strong character in my mind even before I start writing about them I have usually named them. But for minor characters (and in one, it was thirty-seven) I needed friends help and the help of baby name sites. Sometimes I'll just surf the baby name sites and if I like a name I'll write it down somewhere and along the lines it will end up in one of my WIPs. Titles I usually get within the first two chapters, or if its really fast sometimes right during the first paragraph. I don't know why, but names and titles are easy for me, whether they stay that way all the way through the WIP that however is a whole other story.