October 2017: What’s in a title?

pile of books
Image by Julie Jordan Scott at https://www.flickr.com/photos/juliejordanscott/4248190717/

Tonight we did a writing exercise inspired by titles.

We looked at the list of Manbooker Prize winning stories and their titles. Each person chose the title that appealed to them the most and wrote for 5 minutes, inspired by that title.

Here’s what we found.

One of us wrote a piece for Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question because she was curious about the concept between looking for answers versus asking more questions. She also wanted to play with the link between ‘think’ and ‘Fink’.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood was another’s choice. She was drawn to the incongruity of the title, as she wondered who would hire a blind assassin. Therefore it set her up for a challenge that the story needed to solve (and ended up being that the assassin wasn’t literally blind).

One person chose Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes because she wanted to write about the idea that a sense is not definite, but it’s there. She wrote a story about a couple in a relationship who shouldn’t be together, but neither wanted to be the one to end the relationship.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel was another’s story title. She wanted to play on the connection of Pi to maths, and develop a character who’s life was viewed through a mathematical lens.

And another person chose The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, because the title reminded her of a family story, and she developed the story around that.

It was a great exercise to look at all the Manbooker winning titles and think about what makes a good title. We discussed the importance of a good title, because it’s the first thing that draws a reader to a story. It appeals to our curiosity, our ability to connect it to our own lives, or the play on the meaning of a certain word.

The title supports the story, but sometimes a title’s true meaning won’t be clear until after we’ve finished the story.

Pondering a title can ignite our creativity. Usually we write our title last, after our stories are already set in stone. This exercise turned that process on its head, as we wrote the story around the title for a change.

What is your favourite story title? Have you ever considered writing a title before writing a book?