Readers may have noticed that I’ve been participating in the Marketing For Romance Writers (MFRW) 52-Week blog challenge. The idea is that all the participating authors post on a single topic, and we get to see the wide variation in approaches to the topic. It is a bit fun, and I plan to continue, but I admit to being curious what our readers think about this blog hop.
This week’s writing prompt, “How I Choose a Book Title,” however, flustered me. Choose? You mean like plan? For her Golden Redepennings series, my friend Jude Knight digs deep into her characters and pulls her titles from literary quotes that cut to their heart. I have no such remarkable process.
Planning a book involves several challenges. In addition to getting acquainted with my characters, identifying their internal and external conflicts, and cobbling together at least a lose semblance of a plot, it is irritating to remember I also need a title. Still, how are readers supposed to be drawn to the book except by its title, its cover (of which the title is a prominent element) and its blurb? The title deserves planning, but I’m darned if I can come up with a method or process.
Dangerous Secrets was “the Rome story” for a few years until I sold Dangerous Works and had to get serious about my writing. Dangerous Weakness had its title right away because I was determined that Glenaire, the character who never lost control or had a hair out of place would lose it completely in his books. I wanted him barefoot, in rags, and begging for help. He who never showed weakness showed nothing but in his own book.
A new series meant another dilemma. The Dangerous Series named itself after the fact. It just sort of happened. The next one had to be planned out.
Me: I’d like to write about the children of the Dangerous Series.
Editor: What will their lives be like?
Me: Well, they they will visit or live in or deal with the issues of various places in the British Empire. Home and family will draw them back.
Editor: Heavy on setting and history as always, Caroline?
Me: Um. Yes. They will be citizens of the entire empire.
Children. Empire. Children of Empire…raised with all the privilege of the English aristocracy, forged on the edges of the British Empire. So far so good, but what to call the books? I had to write the first one and think about it. Once I realized how much sorrow poor Meggy would endure and how few options she had in a world in which an abused wife belongs to her husband (even when a hero wants to rescue her), I decided to name it The Renegade Wife. The next two fell into place easily, The Reluctant Wife (and Clare is very reluctant), and The Unexpected Wife.
I’m already thinking about the next three or four empire stories. I want to keep the pattern The Blank Blank, but maybe make the noun an occupation. The Weary Clerk won’t cut it, but The Wandering Botanist or The Peculiar Archaeologist might. The Traveling Tutor? The Irritable Diplomat? The Revolutionary Viscount? The Progressive Peer? Puttering Scientist? Clumsy Scholar? Improper Curate? Needs work. Luckily I have another year to plan. I may come up with an entirely different pattern. Maybe they can all end in Journey. The Wayward Journey, The Unwanted Journey…