To mangle The Sound of Music: Rainbows and roses and whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favourite things…
I had a couple of stories published this week and seeing their titles side by side made me think about the importance of finding just the right title for any piece of writing. On first glance at these, it looks like I’ve steered blindly into regions of sentimentality. What has more of the ring of cliché than images of rainbows and roses?
Do we judge a book by its cover and a story by its title? ‘Rainbows End’ in The Regal Fox and ‘A Rose By Another Name’ in Pendulum Papers may sound like they’ll be sentimental, but this is a misrepresentation. (I hope!)
There’s all sorts of advice out there about finding the best possible title for a poem or story, something that adds another layer of meaning or can cast a lens over the whole that demands a reinterpretation of the text. Definitely one that puts your best foot forward to an editor – the loveliest window dressing to attract this first reader.
Looking back, I have not always taken the advice.
Some stories start as titles and evolve from that point. Easy. But some stories are fully written before I have to cast around for a title that fits. In these latter cases the search can be agonising, and the results uninspiring. A few past examples to illustrate:
‘I Wish’ (Island, 2000), ‘The Daughter’ (dotlit, 2002), ‘Day Nine’ (Silverfish, Malaysia, 2005), ‘Halfway’ (Social Alternatives, 2010). Bland, bland, bland signifying nothing. What was I thinking?
Meanwhile my trusted notebook bristles with titles that need a story and will probably never find one. ‘Up the Creek Without a Hassle,’ ‘The Things You See When You Don’t Have a Gun,’ ‘Frottage’… If only the world could be ordered and everything paired neatly.
The third story to go on-line recently, though it is dated 2016, also looks like I have been searching around for a title – and that I went back to my notebook for my stash of titles, got lazy and simply described what I was doing. ‘From the Archive’ is in LiNQ.
Luckily the editors at The Regal Fox and Pendulum Papers and LiNQ read on past my titles. A perpetual vote of thanks has to go to all the dedicated editors at literary journals and magazines and zines and anthologies and websites for curating intriguing collections of work.
The rainbow rose image is thanks to Lucy Roberts and her daughter who went out and bought this rose and then took the gorgeous photograph.