I’m always fascinated with how authors come up with the title for their stories or books. Did they have a bathroom eureka moment and pulled up their britches and go flying to their keyboards to get it down? Or do they patiently write the whole book and then sit back with a glass of wine and ponder what they call the beast?
Name it or write it…what do you do first?
How I Named My First Book
I often come up with titles first and then write a story based on it. With my first book, I had the story concept and was working on the outline. As I was developing it I kept thinking of the overall theme of the book. It was when I saw how the story was moving forward I realized that the title had to include one man’s law that would prevail against the wrongdoing of others. And he had to have the physical skills to enforce his law…thus, “Colson’s Law”.
But this was the exception; in fact, when I began work on my second novel it started off with the title because I kept referring to the main character’s twin six-guns in my first book. So I played around with the wording and within seconds had the title for the second book, “Six-Gun Twins”. I then developed a whole story around twins who both use twin six-guns. That then led to the tagline: “Two Men – Four Guns”. Working like this inspires and excites me because I see the whole story wrapped up in a few words.
How Writers Create
Many writers get a line or a title and their imagination takes them on a whirlwind tour of scenes, characters, and conflict. They have the ability to “see” the story in their mind and may actually have it written before they have more than the title down.
CAUTION: don’t ever attempt this without having paper, pen, and time to write everything down or else you run the risk of losing these nuggets of plot. And for some reason they may be gone forever, lost into the abyss of inspiration.
Other writers work best by setting up a time to write, including tapping into their muse and getting their stories mapped out as they work. This way they can see the plot and characters developing as they create their outline.
I subscribe to a combination (and I’m sure most do). We can’t always control when the ideas may hit us and may, in fact, have deliberately put things on the back burner to let the subconscious mind do some work on its own. This is especially useful if we’re stuck at a particular scene or problem.
But we then must take the time to put some order to the chaos of our creativity. Whether you use a notebook, index cards, or even speak into a phone recorder you must now structure your story. But that’s for another post.
So Is It The Chicken Or The Egg?
Title ⇒ Story OR Story ⇒ Title? What inspires you to create your next book? What comes first? I’m a fan of the one-liners that become a title and then become the story.
The other thing to consider, and it may seem like you’re selling yourself out, is if someone like a publisher says that they like your book but want to re-name it. Eikes! How stuck are you then on your title? To be published or to stick by your writer vision that keeps you in control of your book…and title. What would you do?