Friday, November 07, 2008

Drinking orange juice makes you intelligent

Talking idly about books at book club the other night (shocking, I know!) I suddenly realised that the rules for naming fiction books were really quite simple.

1) Take a poetically evocative noun. Anything will do. 'Fire', 'blood', 'stone', 'night', 'heart', 'Guns', 'Sword', 'Knife', 'Ice', 'Dawn', 'Death', 'Life', 'Jewel', 'Roses', and so on.

2) Take another one. Go on, don't be shy.

3) Combine the two nouns together in some vaguely meaningful way.

Results (and none of these, as far as I'm aware, are real titles, apart from the first one):

Fire in the blood
Roses of the dawn
Stone death
Sword of ice

And so on. You can be as creative as you want in putting the two nouns together, it doesn't really matter if you make up a new word. ('Nightwatch' or 'Dreamscape', for instance - two words used for Stephen King books). And the actual meaning of the title doesn't really matter - it's point is to give vague significance to what follows in the book, and to sound profound without actually being that way.

Generally speaking, one of the words that is used should be closely related to a verb or adjective, but this is certainly not true in all, or even a majority, of cases. Some examples: 'Riders in the Chariot', 'The Sword in the Stone', 'The Bloody Chamber'. It's a good way of combining a fact with a descriptive or active idea while not diverting too far from the purpose of the title, to imply what's coming and to entice the reader.

Then again, you really have to wonder where some writers get their titles from. A book of short stories by Brian Aldiss on my bookshelf is entitled 'A Tupolev Too Far'. Riiiiiiight....

(The significance of the title to this very post? Only because Maria of Orange Juice Snobbery suggested that I write about book titles in a recent post. She clearly knows my own mind better than I do. Drinking orange juice DOES make you more intelligent, ladies and gentlemen...!)


forlorn said...

Your theory is, of course, eminently convincing, but what of the finer points of prepositions? How does an "of" or a "from" position a work as opposed to an "in" or an "on? Is it more daring to begin or end a title with a preposition or should one bury it in the middle?

I drink a lot of milk, which may have made me less sensitive to the implications orange juice drinkers would perceive straight away.

Tim said...

Surely it's inevitable that somebody will go ahead and title their novel The Verb of Noun.

TimT said...

Ha! You would think so Tim, wouldn't you!

I should imagine Forlorn that the 'ins' and 'ons' and 'ofs' and 'froms' and so on are almost entirely superfluous, put in or left out in order to make one title distinct from the other. True, they do make a difference to the meaning of the title, but when the title is so utterly divorced from the content of the book, as happens in so many of the cases - well, then, whether a preposition is left in the title would seem to be largely cosmetic.

Caz said...

With book titles like that you should be writing for Mills & Boon.

Bwca said...

Silk and Dreams.

my local Christian retailer has these great stickers of The Sword And The Flame.

and Caz? there is a local blog by Bills and Moon.

Caz said...

Now if only Tim can combine a best selling Mills & Boon with a Christian retail theme.

A smell a WINNER!

TimT said...

Excuse me while I rush out to get a pen and a publisher to propose to...

TimT said...

Propose to in a completely chaste, virginal way, of course.

Caz said...

Take a quill.

Less phallic.

TimT said...

True, but where there's a quill there's a quay.

On the other hand, 'pen is here' jokes are a constant danger.

Decisions, decisions...

Email: timhtrain - at -

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