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  • Hollis Jo McCollum

What's in a title?

To answer my own question, an awful lot.

Putting a title to your work can be more difficult than writing the entire novel. Why is this so hard? Well, you need to find something that properly conveys about 500 pages worth of your heart, and still is catchy enough for someone to stop and think "Yea, okay. I'll give this a go." It can be a heart wrenching balance.

I'm a big fan of human psychology, so when I was trying to think of something that would be a good title for my novel I thought about what would make someone want to pick up my book knowing nothing about the story or my personal journey. At first, I thought about making it funny. Titles like "My Mom Likes My Book" or "Please Read Me" came to mind, but not everyone feels as compelled by the ridiculous as I do. Personally, I can't resist it.

When I got to really thinking seriously about it, I thought about the universal human tendency to subconsciously gravitate toward the familiar. I don't care how rebellious and/or original you are, all humans feel most comfortable with familiar things and are much more likely to pay attention to something that strikes a memory chord. Like farting, we all do it. Word association is a good place to start, so I started thinking of famous book titles, movie titles and even common phrases that I could possibly twist into my own. Then, the old 1930s movie title came to me "To Catch a Thief" and it was perfect.

If you read my previous blog post (I strongly endorse it), you would know that the world of Raashan that I created is in quite a lot of trouble and in need of a great deal of saving. So, I chose to title my book "To Save a World." Not bad, eh? My publisher thought it was good too. I was thrilled when they told me that they not only liked they title, and had no intention of changing it. If you are part of the literary world, you will know how rare it is for a first time author to get their way on this matter. I'm still excited about it.

So, what is in a title? The answer varying author to author, but for me, it is something that brings the story together with the familiar. The ultimate goal of the title is to grab someone's attention as your book sits on the shelf in the book store, so it is best to think of what someone else would pay attention to, and then find a way to tie that into what the story is about in a succinct fashion.

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