Friday, January 21, 2022

About Titles

 Frankie here. Sorry to have missed my last Friday post. 2022 started before I got around to setting up the calendar that I intended to do to keep myself on schedule. 

Now I'm trying to finish the craft essay I was invited to write about setting in crime fiction. Classes begin on Monday, so I want to get it out the door today.

I do want to comment on the title discussion. I find it almost impossible to focus on what I'm writing  until I have a title. Some titles come easier than others. The title of my first Lizzie Stuart book is Death's Favorite Child. That came from associating a line about death in a poem with Lizzie's sleuthing and the presence of a child in the book. It took me all of the five years of drafts and revisions to come up with that title. In contrast, as I began to outline the sixth book in the series after a long hiatus, I knew exactly what that title should be -- A Rainy Night in Gallagher. The story begins on a rainy night. And the title is a reference to "A Rainy Night in Georgia" (one of my favorite songs and the TV series theme song for In the Heat of the Night).

The title of my 1939 historical thriller came after months of trying different titles. I was inspired by another TV show. On an old episode of The Andy Griffith Show, little Ronnie Howard (now director Ron Howard) asked his father for a penny to put outside during a storm. A friend claimed that a penny struck by lightning would multiple. Since one of the exhibits at the 1939 New York World's Fair was about electricity and the World of Tomorrow, I suddenly thought A Penny Struck by Lightning. That was it. The contrast between past and future. 

But I'm still struggling to find a title for my nonfiction book about dress, appearance, and impression management in crime and justice. The book is for a general audience rather than academic. I want a title that will be intriguing enough to delight both an editor and the marketing department in a publishing house and to stop bookstore browsers in their tracks (not too ambitious, right?). My agent says a one or two word title would work well in the current market. I can use a subtitle to provide more information about the contents. I've been looking for a word that describes clothing in disarray -- frayed, shabby, stained, bedraggled, hemmed? A reference to Justice's robes and to four hundred plus years of American crime and justice history from colonial era to present. I've considered "Clothing Justice" or "Naked Justice."  I thought of "Strip Search" and "Dressed to Kill" (already used). I'm still looking for a title that captures the biases, stereotypes, and conflicts in the criminal justice system involving victims, offenders, police officers, courts, and prisons. The title should also suggest that the book draws on popular culture and mass media. 

I really need a title that I can stick up on the wall in front of my computer as I revise my introduction and the sample chapters of my proposal, then write the final chapters. Any suggestions appreciated.

Back to work on my essay. Have a great  weekend.

1 comment:

Anna said...

Shabby Justice? How much can you do with a one- or two-word title, anyway? Packing all the essential bits of info unto a subtitle will be like overstuffing a suitcase. (FWIW, I'm having the same problem with my book, which is not even a mystery but narrative nonfiction: brief title, subtitle so long it's disappearing over the horizon.)