Books Begging to be Opened
by Cheryl Thomas
Who knows what might spark an idea for the perfect book title? Inspiration might come from a favorite beverage like whiskey sour, a lethal plant like nightshade, or a room in the house like the attic. All kidding aside there are books with these titles in circulation today!
Mix a little poison and some fashionable trim and you have the title of the very successful play, Arsenic and Old Lace. Books, plays, bands, et al, with titles like these just beg to be read, seen, and heard! Why? Because there’s a question in the title! It’s just like the carrots we throw into our prose to keep the reader wondering, and as a result, reading to the end.
Readers often ask how the title of the book series Arrowstar came to be. While trying to think of a name for the main character’s way-out-West antique shop, images of bows and arrows, guns, dusty streets, horses, barbed wire, and outlaws came to mind. Searching for a catchy title that would spark the imagination, but also sound a bit familiar to the ear, brought to mind the clever name of the rock band Aerosmith.
While trying to conjure this title, I discovered novelist Sinclair Lewis had written a book in the 1920s called Arrowsmith, about a medical doctor with that surname, but I didn’t find another novel with the title Arrowstar, only an insurance agency. I then became curious about how Aerosmith got its name. On Wikipedia, I read that Joey Kramer, Aerosmith’s drummer, came up with the band’s name after listening to an album titled Aerial Ballet.
Aerosmith has nothing to do with Arrowstar’s story except for the beginning syllable spelled aero sounding like the word arrow. Incorporating arrow into the title seemed perfect, given the book’s Western setting. A lance being a kind of arrow, and Star Lance being the book’s main character, led to the inclusion of the given name Star and thus, Arrowstar. The title also inspired a sign shaped like an arrow for Star to hang outside her shop. Subsequently that arrow sign became the brand for the books in the series, and it appears on each of the covers.
Just as important as a novel’s first paragraphs in snagging a reader’s attention are books that look like they’re begging to be opened. Perhaps hanging a title on an unfinished book isn’t such a wise idea. As a writer, why not dive right into those first paragraphs using the title Novel #2 or something like WIP, for Work in Progress? That way you’ll get to know your book baby before you give it a name.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.