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  • Writer's pictureSharleen Scott

A book by any other name...

What’s in a name? A rose by any other name may still be a rose, but if we’re talking book titles, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Books titles are important. They are so vital that endless recommendations are made on how to choose the best possible title for the best possible outcome. There are books, blog posts, articles, and myriad discussions on writers’ forums, all explored by writers in the quest of the best book title.

I’ve researched all of the above and learned a lot. Such as, choosing a title can be a crap shoot. What invokes interest in one author’s readers may be a yawn for another’s. All things must be considered: genre, story, characters, reader expectation, and the all-important emotional tug. Should the title be literal or figurative? Should it have one word or four?

I began with an analytical process. I sat down with my thesaurus and made lists of words. Pages of lists. When I couldn’t find more, I culled the unlikely suspects, the boring words. Then I hit on it. Not the title for the first book but the title for the second book. In book two, the hero is a bull rider who is nearly killed when he is…wait for it…“Caught in the Spin” of the bull he’s riding. Basically, he’s thrown and his hand is hung up in the rope and he’s stuck between the horns and the hooves of an exceptionally angry bull that would like nothing more than to kill its rider. Not a good place for our hero but a great book title.

So book two was under wraps and I needed to find a title for book one to begin the “Caught” theme. Back to the thesaurus list. I studied and culled, studied and culled. Then I hit on it. Book two is set on the Oregon Coast so an ocean theme was worth some contemplation. Then I considered the story. Harlie Cates, the heroine, is a former teen runaway who bounced around between homeless shelters, friends’ homes, and the streets until supposed good fortune shined on her. Emphasis on “supposed” here. Needless to say, Harlie is a product of this experience and when the opportunity arises, she wants to help. She can’t stop herself. A cry for help? Harlie is there looking for a solution. What happens when the people Harlie is helping end up on opposing sides and she’s the only one who can solve the problem? What happens if, in solving the problem, an innocent person is sent to prison? Harlie finds herself “Caught in…” What?

At this point, I started looking at meteorology terms. Seriously. I figured there had to be some interesting terms to describe storms and all that wild stuff that happens on the ocean. I searched and found “Cross Seas.” What is a cross sea? Two opposing wave patterns crashing into each other—a dangerous place.

That’s how the title Caught in Cross Seas emerged the winner. It describes Harlie Cates’ predicament in the story and is a way of saying “between a rock and hard place” without using the dreaded cliché.

Just for fun, I ran my titles through an online title scorer where submitted titles are compared to best-selling ones from the last fifty years. The results? Both my titles have a 79.6 percent chance of success. I can live with that.

re-posted from June 2014

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