Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Why my story titles are a combination of muse-dust and random songlyrics

Titles. I've been told everything from that the story title is incredibly important to that I might as well just name it 'untitled' because the publisher will pick the title anyway. Not that I thought about it much until relatively recently, of course. Until some time in late 2010, I'd only ever named stories after the main female character. It was kind of a tradition - in far too many files to count, there was only one story that actually had a title.

That one story was (and still is) called Dark Star. I don't even remember why I named it that, but until the event of someone telling me it needs a better title for publication, it will remain Dark Star. After ten years of using that name, I'd only confuse myself if I changed it now.

(Muse: We now pause a moment while the author of this post has a quick freak-out over the fact that she started Dark Star TEN YEARS AGO!)

Anyway, the point of this post wasn't to talk about the past. The point of it is to talk about how I come up with titles now, which is much more interesting but leaves me worryingly more open to failing to name the main female character before the first save. That's where my old 'name the story after the girl' technique came from.

In 2010, a friend challenged me to break through my apathy about vampire fiction by writing a vampire story of my own. It just ended up being called 'vampire story' for most of its life, but it was the story that by some strange sequence of events led me to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I prepared myself pretty well for my first plunge into the world of high-speed novel writing, building up a 3-page outline and a bunch of character profiles... and a title. Now comes the fun bit: explaining how I came by the title.

At 0:00 on the 1st of October 2010 I was sitting in front of my computer, headphones plugged in and playlist cleared. My plan was to set MediaMonkey to random, hit play and then wait for the first song to start playing after midnight. Almost too late, I realised that I had to manually add the first song to the list, but that's another story. Anyway, the first (unplanned) song to play after midnight was 'dark frozen world'  from the album The Frozen Tears of Angels by Rhapsody of Fire. The title of my 2010 NaNo thus became The Frozen Tear.

From then on, I named all my projects using a random song from my music collection. Each story also ended up with a 'theme song' that could be used to draw inspiration and get me in the mood for writing. As an avowed 'pantser', collecting this song is often one of the few bits of pre-story planning I do. For example, Dispersion ended up at 120k just on the basis of a vague idea that I wanted to write something with a Viking-esque main character and two songs: 'another battle' by Allen-Lande and 'kind-hearted light' by Masterplan. The title came from the lyrics of the second song:

Let's burn the bridges down
and cast dispersion to the winds

So, to conclude... I title my stories at around the same time I decide to write them. Prior to naming, the story is just called by the month I'm going to start writing it e.g. "my May project". I get the title by picking a random song from my music collection, looking up the lyrics on the internet and then brainstorming over the lyrics for a while, comparing what's in them to the vague ideas I already have bouncing around in my head. I have no idea how it works, so I'll just assume it's something to do with magic or muse-dust.

Note to self: ask the muse what's in this magic dust...

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