Friday, August 11, 2006

Titles for books

I've always had difficulties to come up with good titles. I've written hundreds or even thousands of movie reviews, short articles, long academic articles, short stories, and some novels. All the time I may have been thinking about the title longer than I've spent writing the said item.

I'm having the same difficulty with a private eye novel I've written. I'm editing it and I'll be sending it out pretty soon to a crime novel contest and also to various publishers. It's not your typical private eye novel and there's really no crime to be solved (even though my hero does take a case). When I wrote the book last Fall, it didn't have any kind of a title. The file just went by as "Private Eye Novel". When I last sent it to a contest (and got only a thank-you letter), I christened it The Last Call. There is a phone call in the last page, which may or may not be the hero's last one, and the title sure is appropriate. But it's pretty sentimental and clichéd, too. And the book is not sentimental in the least. I'd like to change the title, but don't know what to call it.

With articles and other shorter non-fiction stuff, you can always paraphrase other media, such as movies and TV shows, and reuse the titles with only a little change. This gets pretty tiresome soon - I, for one, have seen enough titles made up from The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Or, for that matter, The Raiders of Lost Ark. (It's actually "Searchers" in Finland and you can guess it's been wildly overused.) No more of that, please!

And while it can work in newspapers or other periodicals, it sure won't work with novels. Who'd read a brutal private eye novel called The Unbearable Heaviness of Sleuthing, or some such? It would sound like it's a collection of witty columns.

One other point: The generic noir titles don't translate very well into Finnish. So, while I could call my novel something like Lonesome Killing, it just wouldn't do in here. I also couldn't really use the word "blue", because the word "sininen" doesn't carry the same overtones in Finnish. Hmm.. let me think, though... There's a scene with a guy jerking off in the first pages and it figures throughout the book, partially influencing everything that happens afterwards. What about The Blue Jerk-Off? (In Finnish: Sininen runkku?) Would you read that? Or even The Big Blue Jerk-Off?


jukkahoo said...

Or, for that matter, The Raiders of Lost Ark. (It's actually "Searchers" in Finland and you can guess it's been wildly overused.) No more of that, please!

I might be inclined to translate Kadonneen aarteen metsästäjät more like The Hunters of the Lost Treasure than Searchers of Wossaname. Kadonneen aarteen etsijät, indeed.

Word up:

Aw, cukrjrrg... I guess this is a character from The Big Blue Jerk-Off?

Juri said...

That's the sound he makes... (Actually, his jerking-off is interrupted rather violently.)

Yes, it's "hunters" more than "searchers". Thanks for the correction!

Oops, I'm Juri, not Isku. It's just the Isku magazine's blog. Which you can of course check. There will be a story for the hunt of Ixiqpepn, the famous Paraguyan snake-god.