I am now well in to Book 4 of my Much Winchmoor Mysteries. It’s going pretty well and I’m having so much fun catching up with all the old characters and mixing them up with a few new ones.
I have the murder method, the murderer, the victim and, of course, an entire shoal of red herrings to, hopefully, mislead my readers. I have the ongoing romance between my main character, Kat, and her long suffering boyfriend, Will plus an added complication in the shape of a tall, good looking Irishman with a voice that could melt the polar ice caps.
I’ve also got some new animals to add to the ones that have already appeared in the previous three books. These are Prescott, the feisty little Jack Russell whose bark is worse than his bite, Rosie the laid back labrador and Prescott’s best friend a gorgeous Irish wolfhound called Finbar. Then, there is the pub cat called Pitbull and, new to the gang, the vicar’s cockerpoo called Archie.
But what I haven’t got is a title. And it’s driving me mad. At the moment, the book is called MW4, which I don’t think my publisher will go for as it won’t look very good on the cover.
I’ve never had trouble with titles before. In fact, sometimes the title has been the inspiration for the book or story. (Wouldn’t you just love to have come up with “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, one of my favourite titles ever. I’m not sure why, maybe because it takes me to the original quotation, from John Donne’s poem which includes the lines “never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.” Chilling!)
Much of my writing career has been spent writing for magazines where it doesn’t pay to be precious about titles because they will inevitably be changed… and not always for the better. I once wrote a story about a little boy who was embarrassed by his mother’s big swirly cape that caused havoc wherever she went (based on a real life event that my son claims to have been traumatised by). I called it “Here Comes Batman” but the magazine changed to “Oi! Boy Wonder.” Hmm.
My latest serial that has recently finished in My Weekly was inspired, as are many of my stories, by a dog. This one was called Monk who’s a Search and Rescue Dog and the story opens with Monk, alone on a mountain, searching for his owner who’s gone missing.
I loved that opening. So I’ve set it out below, just because I can!
Monk. Opening scene.
The dog stood at the point where the rough stone track forked into two. He sniffed the chill November air. He smelt sheep further up the left hand track. He smelt a sandwich wrapper to the right and his empty stomach grumbled at the thought of food. He smelt rain, thick and heavy, as it swept down the valley and up the fell sides towards him.
But he did not smell what he was searching for. He did not smell the familiar scent of the man. The man who’d trained him, all those years ago, to search the mountains for people who’d got lost. And now, he, the man, was lost. And the dog was searching for him.
And even though he was now an old dog, his legs not as strong as they used to be back when he could run up and down these mountains all day without tiring, yet his nose and his brain were as sharp as ever.
So he’d keep looking, like he’d been trained to do, until he found the man.
He knew no other way.
Does that make you want to read on? I hope so.
I wanted the title of the story to be ‘Monk’. It’s an unusual name for a dog and I felt it set the tone of the story. Needless to say, it was changed and became Castlewick Crag which was ok. It’s an editor’s privilege and they probably know what appeals to their readers better than I do. But I still preferred Monk and if I ever expand the story to a full length novel which I may well do as I loved the characters, particularly Monk, so much I shall revert to my original title of Monk. Something to look out for.
The first short story I ever had published had a brilliant title, even though I say it myself and this one wasn’t changed. Wouldn’t you want to read a story called “Angels on Oil Drums”? That story always retains a very special place in my heart.
But, back to my current work in progress. MW4 and its lack of a suitable title. I’ve spent far too long fiddling around with various ideas, none of which appeal. When it comes to choosing a title, it’s very much a question of “I’ll know it when I see it.”
My problem is I haven’t seen it yet.
And this is where I am reaching out for help. On my Facebook author page, I have set up a post asking for suggestions for a title based on the opening (very short) chapter.
This is it. (Or at least, the present version of it. It will probably change but the gist of it will remain)
MW4. Opening scene
The top of the tower of the church of St Oswald in the small Somerset village of Much Winchmoor was the perfect spot for a bird’s eye view of the village, spread out like a relief map some one hundred feet below. To one side, the village nestles in the curve of the Mendip Hills while the other side is a view across low lying willow-fringed pastureland towards Glastonbury Tor and beyond.
According to the poster on the church noticeboard, it was the perfect spot, too, from which to launch 35 teddy bears in a week’s time. The proud owners (or, as was more likely, their parents) had each paid £3 to watch their precious bears abseil down off the tower, thereby boosting the fund for the restoration of the children’s play area by £105.
It would be, the poster promised, a fun day out for all the family with refreshments and bric a brac stalls in the church grounds.
Realisation came in a flash. Because it was also, without doubt, the perfect spot to commit a murder.
After all, abseiling is only the second fastest way down a church tower.
Ok, so that’s the gist of it. No prize for guessing what the murder method is going to be. But there may well be a prize for coming up with a title that gives me that ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ moment. My publisher likes my titles to contain three words, if possible. (He’s thinking cover design here).
So, if you’d hop over to my author page and add a suggestion or two that would be wonderful.
9 thoughts on “The Trouble with Titles (or ‘I’ll Know It When I See It’)”
Really frustrating for you, Paula. I find my brain seizes (any excuse will do really) when I don’t have my preferred title in my head while writing. anne
Indeed Anne. There have been some great suggestions so far so I’m feeling hopeful.
Hello Paula! I enjoyed reading those two excerpts!
What about ‘A Bear-Faced Murder’ or ‘Abseiling into Oblivion’ or…. or summat like that?
Both brilliant, Penny. Thank you so much.
Just off the top of my head:
Ready, Teddy, Gone.
All Fall Down.
A Towering Fall.
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Some great ones there Pat! Thank you x
I’m sure you’ll find the right title. My suggestion is Murder On High.
I love it Jean. It seems to be a very popular one