January 19, 2014

The title of the story

Dear M,

A single phrase can trigger a story - have you ever experienced that? You hear a forgotten proverb or a peculiar phrase used by a person and - a whole chain of events is set into motion. The entire story hinges on that phrase which you then recognise as the title of the story. No other title can be more apt.

But there are times when you do not know what the title could be: we always start with a working title, something we know isn't final, but we need it to get going. We cannot name it novel#1, of course. Not when you are constructing an entire world in earnest. So we start with something as mundane as Life's Like That or something.

And as we write, or when we look back after we write, or at some other point in time we have a revelation - and the title walks out of the darkness and into the light. Do you know what you should do when it happens? Take a pen, reach for a paper and jot it down. It is very important. The title does not make its appearance all the time. If you lose it, you may not find it. Another title may emerge in due course, but nothing will be as perfect as the one that had stepped out from the story when the time was right.

I lost a title that way, and learned a lesson.


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