Monday, July 19, 2010

Title Trouble

I've been working feverishly on my thesis for my MFA all summer. I don't have a title for it yet. It hasn't been a problem so far. One of the online critique groups I belong to consists of other Hollins MFA students trying to finish their theses as well. I have just been calling my thesis by my main character's first name, Isla. Actually, I've called it "Isla Untitled". No big deal. It's a work in progress.

However, I'm filling out the paperwork to actually register my thesis. I have to give it a title!

I'm one of those people who typically develops titles last. I have to write my story in order to pull out a good line for the title. I once worked with a fellow teacher who told all of her students that when they started writing their rough draft they had to give their paper a title and write their name. I freaked out when I heard this! I told her, "Don't you know that real writers don't always do this?" For most kids (and writers like me), this would just force me to put a label instead of a title. You know like "My Summer Vacation" is really a label, not a title.

To me, a title is one of those essential tools of pulling the reader in. Just like a cover, it can determine whether someone even picks up your book and opens up to the first page.

There are some really interesting titles out there in the world. They make me want to pick up the book because I think the title is brilliant. Here are just a few I've noticed recently:

The Word Snoop
So Few of Me
After Ever After
The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman
Draw the Dark

I haven't read any of these books, yet I'm drawn to their titles. I particularly love a title that you don't really "get it" until you've gotten pretty far into the book.

So what am I going to do about this paperwork conundrum? Well, I am going to keep writing and see what kind of title I can come up with. I'm hoping it can be a "working title" that can always be changed.

3 comments:

Amy Tate said...

Can you work the tsunami in there somewhere? Especially if it's a working title. I'm with you - I never give it a title until I finished writing. I don't even title my blog posts until I finish.

Andi said...

I totally agree! I have a sheet that I use with my students after they have written their piece. There are several questions that you answer to try to find a great title. I would be glad to share it with you.

M.F. Atkins said...

I would love to know the questions, Andi. Thanks!