Titling and Naming
Sometimes books are born with a great title. Not mine. My first book’s first title: Opening Doors. A terrible title for a ghost story. Not scary. Bland. Generic. Opening Doors eventually evolved into Enter If You Dare. Same idea but much scarier. Open the door to the haunted cell in the old abandoned insane asylum. Then enter, if you dare. When the title of the book appears in the story, the reader should perk up and think, Something significant is happening here. I’d better perk up and pay attention. Also, the title is often closely related to the theme.
Unless you’re already a popular author, your title needs to be part of your marketing strategy. You can’t afford to be self indulgent or pay homage to some esoteric and impressive bit of knowledge that you’re proud to possess. For quite awhile, my book bore the title Wild Wood, taken from Kenneth Graham’s novel The Wind in the Willows, one of my favorites. But, it’s not very scary or attention grabbing. So I changed the title but kept it as a name within the novel. I expressed my love for Badger, Mr. Toad and Mole by naming the haunted asylum Wild Wood Psychiatric Hospital. There, anyone who’s a Kenneth Graham fan will be pleased and I didn’t sacrifice the chance to frighten people with my title.
“It’s your last chance to make a good first impression.” My husband always says this to our kids. They ignore him and roll their eyes. Authors who are titling a book should not. The sequel to my first novel is called Her Evil Ways. The story is about the vengeful spirit of a woman who had led an evil life. When she rises from the grave, she wreaks more evil upon the innocent citizens of Eastfield (named after my hometown, Easton).
As for naming characters within the book, it can get confusing when the word count piles up and the story gets more complicated. I try to make associations, like naming the pediatrician in my first book after my kids’ pediatrician. I also throw in the names of my friends, families and students, book characters, authors, artists, poets. No one’s safe. The love interest in my first book was called Christian Silver until Fifty Shades of Grey came out. Then I changed his name to Wyatt Silver. There are some associations I want to avoid even if they’re accidental.