Creating a relevant and succinct novel title is not easy. To help with this, I spent a wonderful week in Anam Cara in the Bearra Peninsula in West Cork. Anam Cara is a writers and artists retreat in a splendid location run by Sue, and I go once or twice a year to concentrate on writing.
The weather this February was appalling thanks to Storm Denis and several lesser cousins. The wind howled. The rain beat against the windows. Dark clouds hung heavy over the house. But the power lines didn’t fall and I worked on my novel, polishing prose and tweaking dialogue.
During the rare breaks in the rain, I walked the along country lanes and bashed ideas around in my head. I even ran along this one:
And during one of these walks, I came to the end (I hope) of a long evolutionary process, and decided on a new novel title.
The first title was “The Broken Glass on Portobello Road”, however, my editor, Brian Langan, rightly told me the novel title was too literary for a crime novel. The broken glass phrase was intended as a metaphor for Alice and was built from her fragile nature (glass) as a result of the trauma (broken) she suffered in the past. The broken glass motif is still used in several places in the novel. Portobello Road refers to the setting of the novel.
I then titled the novel “The Stalker”. But I felt this put too much emphasis on the antagonist, Lewis Cole. While Cole does have his own character arc, his arc is not as important as Alice’s, who is the protagonist and our hero. We root for Alice in her battle with Cole.
Next came “Stalking Alice”. This introduced both the nature of the conflict and the protagonist into the title. However, while Cole’s behaviour could be described as stalking, his primary motivation is misguided revenge, even if he does become obsessed with his goal along the way. As such, I felt the novel title wasn’t quite right.
I considered “The Suspect”, but there is another contemporary novel with the same title, so that went out. “Suspicion Falls” and “When Suspicion Falls” were contenders, but I thought the main term was hackneyed and over used.
I believe a novel title should refer to one or more of the following –
It could be argued that in the sequence above, the order moves from a more literary emphasis to genre emphasis. My original novel title “The Broken Glass on Portobello Road” is essentially theme plus location.
“Stalking Alice” is hero plus conflict. It works, but as I wrote above, carries too much emphasis on the antagonist.
“The Suspect” is hero plus plot, or at least the inciting incident of the plot. To be truly relevant the whole plot, “The Suspect” potentially implies court room drama and a plot to prove innocence, which isn’t the essence of the novel.
And then I thought of “Lasting Scars”. Now, this is essentially the theme, and I struggled with that at first. However, the word “scar” has strong genre connotations and during the course of the battle between Alice and Cole, there is a real risk of Alice suffering physical scars as well as mental scars, so “Lasting Scars” reflects the conflict between hero and villain. It also suggests the problem for the hero of the story. In Alice’s case, this hints at her story need (to address her subconscious flaw) as well as her want (the story goal of preventing Cole from attacking her).
It took a while to decide on a final novel title, but I hope “Lasting Scars” proves to be a great title.
Read more about Lasting Scars here