Monday, July 20, 2009

Titling a Novel

Most of the time I have no trouble titling my books. Something in the manuscript jumps out at me. But the last two times have been different. My original title for Exposure was In the Shadows. My editor and marketing director conference-called me one day, saying they had an idea for the title: Exposure. Wow. It was perfect, due to its various meanings within the story. I jumped on it. And then went back into the manuscript and worked the actual word exposure into the story for even greater meaning.

This current manuscript (another adult stand-alone suspense) has proved the most difficult in titling. Below are the emails between me, editor (ED) and marketing director (MD) that were sent over a couple of months. In the end we found our title. And what a duh moment!

From ED: We were talking about the title for your next book and seemed to focus on the idea of truth hidden below the surface, etc. I was looking up quotes about truth and came up with the following proverb: Truth Fears No Trial. The team really liked this for a title. It’s a little longer than some of your titles, but [the cover artist] felt he could do a lot with it. Your thoughts?

My response: Thanks for everybody’s thoughts on this. It’s a great help to work through this together. Here’s the Bible verse for the book: “Would it turn out well if [God] examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive men?” -- Job 13:9.

So Truth Fears No Trial carries sort of the right idea, only the flip side of it. The book isn’t really about putting truth on trial and seeing that it stands up. It’s about cutting through layers of deception to find the concealed truth. I also do think the title’s too long and weighted. It doesn’t have that punch that Seatbelt Suspense titles should have. Sounds kinda more like a legal suspense.

I think a better approach is to google proverbs about deception or deceive rather than truth. I’ve looked at quite a few and haven’t come up with anything that hits me yet. I still like the title Duplicity. Carries that connotation of deception masquerading as truth. Nice and punchy. But as you and I discussed it’s a pretty common word, and there was just a movie by that name. How is that title hitting you now? Did the team like it, or do you all want to discard it altogether?

ED: I completely forgot Duplicity. Other ideas [just to get you thinking]:

Circle of Deceit
Buried Deceit
Dark Deceit
Disguised Deceit
Masked Deceit
Shadow of Deceit
Shrouded in Deceit
Unknown Deceit
Veiled Deceit
Conceiled Deceit

Spark any ideas?

My response: Your “Deceit” titles are the right track for spurring my thinking. I think the best is Circle of Deceit. That fits and has a nice rhythm. The rest hit me as redundant, as deceit is typically concealed, veiled, masked, buried, etc.

What if we mixed words that aren’t usually mixed for a stark, hard-hitting title? Baxter Jackson is that perfect choirboy/church type who’s not what he appears to be. The first lines in the book are:

Some evil shouts from rooftops, some scuttles in the dark. The worst evil tips its face toward light with shining innocence.

What if we did something like Shining Deceit? Or some other word that means shining?

Shining Deceit is one of those titles that makes me go hmmmm. Not sure it’s perfect at first, but it could grow on me. What do you think? Too out there? It would have better rhythm if the first word had only one syllable.

Bright Deceit. Better rhythm, but I don’t like the word bright as well.

Or do I? Hmmm.

All this said, I still think Duplicity works very well. But I like this exercise of trying to think outside the box and maybe come up with a title no one else has used.

From me to ED a month later: I’m leaning toward Bright Deceit for the title of my wip. It grew on me. Interesting juxtaposition of words. The idea grew from the list of suggestions you sent me, using the word deceit. What do you think?


ED: I’ve been thinking about Bright Deceit, but it hasn’t grown on me. The two words are more than a juxtaposition, they don’t relate to each other at all. It doesn’t bring anything to mind when I hear them, just chaos.

I’m still leaning on Circle of Deceit. Each character is perpetrating a deceit for their own purposes and what one person does influences the next person in the circle. Everything is related until only truth can break the circle.


I didn't like the title all that well. But I could live with it. My response: Okay. I can go with Circle of Deceit. It amazons pretty well. There are quite a few paperbacks with Circle(s) of Deceit titles, but nobody big or that recent. The most recent is 2006. Page is here:

Thanks for your help!


From ED to MD: Check out my dialog with Brandilyn. She didn’t like our original idea, so we brainstormed other ideas using the word deceit. She wanted Bright Deceit but that didn’t work for me. We landed on Circle of Deceit. What do you think?

MD to ED: I am wondering if we can come up with something a little more “daunting” than that. Can I think on this a little bit and get back to you?

ED to MD: Yep.

MD to ED: Okay… I don’t know if these are “it” but how about:

Poisoned by Deceit
Fabric of Deceit
Pattern of Deceit
Interwoven Deceit
Broken Deceit
Seeing Deceit
Deceit unveiled
Deceit Revealed
Unveiling Deceit
Unmasking Deceit
Deceit Unmasked


ED forwarded MD's email to me. My response: Hmm. I don’t like any of these better than Circle of Deceit. However I do understand [MD's] point about “daunting.”

I also wish we could find a single syllable for the first word. That would provide a better rhythm.

How about “maze,” would that work? Maze of Deceit.

That’s not bad.


ED forwarded my email to MD. MD's response: Why can't it just be Deceit?

Well, duh!

My response: Haha. Isn’t it funny how sometimes the elusive answer is right in front of your nose?

Deceit. Like it. Waytago!

Here’s the amazon page. Looks like we’re fine. There are a couple of titles by this name, but nothing too new, by the time this book releases.

Thanks to both of you for your help with this. Great team work!


Deceit is due August 1. It will release in May 2010.


Don't forget to vote for Photo Friday's best caption. Winner announced tomorrow.


D. Robert Pease said...

What an awesome glimpse into the process. Thanks Brandilyn.

Hannah said...

Thanks for the glimpse! Didn't know that so much brainstorming went into making titles. I just thought y'all were geniuses with finding the exact word to fit on the cover. :) Now I know better.

And Deceit is a great title. Can't wait to see how it works into the theme of the book next year.