So, I’m wrapping up a new chapbook this week. The collection of ten stories, about half of them flash fiction or very short stories, deal with characters isolated from lovers or from themselves; some of them seek companionship in violence or in dead bodies, others lock themselves away until forced out into the light of day. There are stories about characters who can fly, characters who want to eat people, characters who manifest human beings from thin air, and characters who want to bring Santa Claus back to life even if it means killing a man. Some of the stories are fairly uplifting; most of them choose to explore our more desperate selves.
Nine of the ten stories are as polished as they can get, and the last needs only a bit of tweaking. I have the order down, I have the document compiled, and I already know where I want to send it.
All I need now is a title.
And titles, for me, are the hardest part.
I put the call out on Facebook a few days ago, but the titles I suggested then got more or less nixed, including by my friend and writing partner Ryan Werner and by author Debra Monroe. Still, at least one of my initial suggestions had a few supporters, and in the comments, some friends suggested a few new ideas. Also, Debra Monroe told me to go back to a classic technique and dig up strong strand-alone lines from the stories that could become titles.
So, below is a long, long list of possible titles. It includes my original ideas, some of the new suggestions, a few titles from the stories in the collection, and a slew of lines from the text as per Debra Monroe’s advice.
Please vote for the title you like best! Can’t decide on just one? No worries — you can vote as many times as you want. Not seeing a title you like? Suggest a better one, either in the blank on the poll or in the comments!
9 thoughts on “[Insert title here]”
Better to pick a stand-out phrase from one of the stories. The examples above all seem a little meretricious to me. IMHO.
Fair enough! Though, this list includes the best of the stand-out phrases from the stories. And by best, I mean the lines most representative of the overall feel of the book. Any alternative suggestions?
I totally agree. A standout line from the best of your stories is where I’d go searching.
That’s what I did for my debut collection. Even built the cover art around that title & story.
‘At Every Window a Set of Eyes’ would catch my eye (sorry). It makes you think something irresistible is going on. It’s also a sinister image which few can resist.
Thanks! I like a lot of these and could justify them in various ways, but I definitely like this one because of the different ways in which it could apply to the stories. In some stories, of course, it could suggest the kind of sinister observation you’re seeing, but in others it might also suggest that the characters won’t get away with what they’re doing because they’ve been seen, and in at least one or two others it might also suggest that the characters aren’t as alone as they might feel. There’s at least one story for which applying this title might be a stretch, but I think it could work…. Hmm…..
Thanks for the vote, and even bigger thanks for that comment!
I voted for “Something Else Entirely”; it struck me as a title that caught me because it could so easily appeal to so many people, and be molded into whatever the ‘Something Else’ meant to them, after they gleaned it out of what they read into your stories. It would fit every one (individual and story) on a personal level, in their own mind, without having to be specific. However, “Our More Desperate Selves” seemed like a close second, if only for being closely linked to the plane that the stories seem to be sitting on together, from your descriptions. Interested to see the eventual winner!
Thanks for the feedback!
Putting together two conversations I was having on Facebook yesterday, I think a title’s first job is to make a reader want to pick it up without knowing what it’s about, and there’s really no one better to ask about that than readers. The title’s second — and, I think, equally important — job is to not betray the reader, so it needs to speak to the story (or stories) after the fact as strongly as it speaks for them beforehand. Otherwise we’re just tricking people into picking up our stuff.
So, like you, I’m REALLY curious as to how this poll will turn out (and I’m going to let it run at least all week — and you can vote more than once if you change your mind or if you see your favorite slipping down the ranks!), but in the background, I’m also thinking about how these titles might speak to the whole chapbook AFTER a reading, too. And feedback like yours helps me with that conversation in my head!
I don’t care for any of those listed. All Along the Watchtower struck me, but that’s Bob’s song so no. Right off the top: Short Isolated Lives. A cull from you explanatory graph.
Good luck. Sounds like something I’d read.
I kind of like “Short Isolated Lives”! A bit more direct than I usually use, but maybe that’s a good thing…. Thanks for the suggestion, Lucinda! 🙂