Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What's It Called?

Titles are hard. Whenever I write anything, I'm always left staring at the top of my first page, wondering what brief phrase could possibly encapsulate the story and grab a reader's attention. Most of the time I just write something and hope it'll work itself out later.

So I think How Books Got Their Titles is a wicked cool blog. Gary looks at the stories behind the titles--lots of fun trivia here.

"But Annie," you say, "what kind of story can there be behind Anna Karenina or To Kill a Mockingbird?"

Fortunately, Gary has some rules:

1) The title should not be explicable simply by reading the book;
2) The titles should be titles of books or plays rather than of poems or short stories;
3) No quotations as titles.

That should filter out the fairly obvious. We get fun stories such as the conversation behind Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again:

"At a dinner with a friend, the Communist activist Ella Winter, he told her of the experience, and she commented, ‘But don’t you know you can’t go home again?’ Wolfe asked her: ‘Can I have that? I mean for a title...I’m writing a piece...and I’d like to call it that. It says exactly what I mean.’"

Bring that up at your next party and impress your friends*!

*Or maybe just me.