Naming a book

And what a bloody process it is.

The title of the book is, obviously, one of the most important parts of the writing process itself. If you have a stupid name, despite how good the book may be, people are going to judge it and be less likely to pick it up or buy it.

Being that I work in a bookstore, I encounter some pretty heinous book titles quite often. Namely, romance and mystery titles. They’re often punny or just straight up ridiculous.

Ideally, you would name your book something enticing that relates well with the plot or characters. For example, my favourite book, Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, is called Outlander because the main character, Claire Randall, is nicknamed Sassenach by her confidante Jamie Fraser; Sassenach is a Scots Gaelic word meaning, you guessed it, outlander (at worst; at best, it means Englishman, which Claire also is). Another favourite book of mine is the Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Not only is the title poetic and rather catching, but it ties directly with the plot: the main character, Daniel Sempere, reads a book entitled the Shadow of the Wind, and that kickstarts the entire plot.

My three main muses, Changeling, Of the Arbour et al, and Purity, were all named the same way, without my conscious realization of it. I didn’t notice until recently, but they’re all named after titles of the main characters, or what they are.

In OtArb et al, there are no family names, so people distinguish themselves by adding after their given name the name of the place they were born. Example: Maia is called Maia of Lamplight, because she was born in Lamplight. Carol is called Carol of the City, because she was born in the City of Kings. Children of the Arbour, such as Sage, Briar, and Ash, are called exactly that: Sage of the Arbour, Briar of the Arbour, and Ash of the Arbour. This changes for some characters; Siras is called Siras of the Arena, not Siras of Lessa, because she was bought as a slave by a desert tribe who used her as a gladiator in an arena. Sage technically has multiple titles because of his reason as well; he is Sage of the Arbour and Arena. The third book in the series, Of the Kingdoms, follows this theme a little less, because the Kingdoms in question – the Kingdoms of Skye – don’t have any sort of family name, clan name, or title. It’s the only differing one of the bunch.

In Purity, the main character’s name is Caitlyn, which has a common meaning of purity. In the first chapter, Fane points it out to her, saying that name meanings help define who we are, even if we don’t realize it, and that they are less important in this modern world. He gives her the unwanted nickname of Purity, and voila, a title is born.

In Changeling, the main character Aisling is just that – a changeling, even though she isn’t aware of it. In the sequel, Abomination, it follows a character called Riane, who is the daughter of a human and an elf. Mixed blood mulattos like this are called abominations in the world of Changeling.

How do you choose a name for something? Books, poems, songs – it’s all similar, and a title can make or break them.

2 thoughts on “Naming a book

  1. There’s this awful girl on Songstuff whose song titles are always completely irrelevant and it drives me mad. And they’re always so longwinded! Who has time to say, “Oh yeah, I was just listening to Grandma Baked Cookies But I’m Not Allowed To Have Any Cause I Didn’t Clean My Room”? (In this girl’s case, that song was probably about mowing the lawn, Hanukkah, or any matter of non-cookie related topics.)

    My titles usually come from the chorus, ’cause…that’s how everyone else does it.

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