Saturday, October 22, 2016

How Important Are Titles?

Because titles and cover images are what readers see first, they are the agents that attract readers. I think the two work together instantaneously on a reader’s perception, so I imagine most authors spend time considering a title. This can be a futile effort, for a publisher might change it to fit a particular line or sub-genre in which they want to publish the story. This shows titles are tied to sales. Still, it gives the author some control for attracting an audience.

Titles (along with the cover image) give the reader an indication of the genre, mood and theme, era, and possible story line of the novel. They certainly attract my attention when I am selecting books. I have fairly specific genres I read, and while they vary greatly, the titles are what make me stop and read the blurbs.

My book titles tend to be very short, three words or less. I’m satisfied with them. For me, longer titles tend to indicate quirky story lines aimed at children, chic lit, or humor.

Titles for my stories often come during the writing process as an indication of the main character or the plot’s purpose, popping into my mind. The longer they stay there, the stronger they become—I think that might be good but not necessarily well thought out. I expect other authors do the same.

The Balance website says in an article, “Can a Book Title be Copyrighted?” that titles cannot be copyrighted. According to the August 2016 article’s author, Jean Murray, “The U. S. Copyright Office does not typically allow someone to copyright a book title because titles are not considered intellectual property, but are only 'short slogans,' which are not eligible to be copyrighted.” The writing itself is copyrighted from the moment you write the words. Greater protection comes with filing it with the copyright office. However, I wouldn’t think anyone could get away with using any Harry Potter title other than J. K. Rowling. Some titles are too well known to be used again, and some like Harry Potter, can be copyrighted or even trademarked due to the fact they are tied to other products such as movies and toys.

Then there are the generic type tiles my books hold. Nope, can’t be protected, and I cannot be held liable for infringing on another writer’s identical title. The interesting thing I discovered was I could trademark my name. Do I really want that
© after my name? Right now it kind of makes me uncomfortable.

Writing this post has given me some pause because perhaps I should pay more attention to the title and spend more time thinking about the proposed title after the initial concept. I’m not sure I would, for once my mind is tied to a title, I tend to be obstinate.

Check these sites to see what other authors have to say on this topic:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Discord of My Writing

Getting into a story is sometimes difficult for me because I always have an idea, but sometimes I only have a vague idea of where I’m taking it…and the whole cast of characters and setting is another issue. I also like to have messages other than the obvious one in the action of the plot line. Each story seems to have its own path, but I feel some of my obsessions slow and even stop my writing.

My story lines come at odd moments, but often when I am walking my mile of country road. I’ve heard other authors say their stories come in dreams, but mine tend to be reflections on situations and issues that circulate in my mind and that I contemplate while walking. They often transform into a character’s situation and then into a world which might be somewhere in the present, past, or future. This has led to a list of stories with a title, some lines of information, and the names of one or two characters…a long list. They sit in a file until I can come to terms with what the characters want to say and do. Some ideas
I research and work them into the facets of whatever topic that interests me, and put them in the file.

I currently have three in progress. Unfortunately, life obligations and pleasures slow my headway in writing these stories. While I wrote one book from inspirational idea to story’s conclusion in six weeks, that was an oddity. That story just happened, but was based in an already created world and established characters. So my current story's headway varies between animated and complete stasis because of my mind's demand for minute detail.

Some of this minutia borders on obsessive, at least by my definition. I have to know my characters. The names come easily, but after reading an epic fantasy with five characters whose names started with A and threw me into mental fit, I profile my characters in alphabetical order: one female first name per alphabet letter, one male name by same order, and preferably only one first name per letter. I know I have some series stories with far more characters than a single alphabet listing allows, so there are multiple names starting with the same letter; still, each of those names is chosen for its different and distinctive sound. The process sounds strange even to me, but it also works for me.

It doesn’t end there, I profile the main characters’ personalities, both primary and secondary, and their motivations and purpose in the story, so I know how they will act and react.

My other obsession is the world my characters live in. I am constantly starting and stopping my writing over historical details, or in the case of future worlds what might be scientifically feasible

For instance, one of my current works in progress is Call to Duty, starting in December 1941. The main character is Trudy. Her husband, after hearing about Pearl Harbor, enlists in the army. Before he enlisted, he was the sheriff of a backwoods Northern Michigan county. Trudy works as dispatcher in the sheriff's office. She, due mostly to lack of eligible males in the area, will, eventually, become sheriff in all but name. Do you know how little information there is on the home front during WWII? I also need information on the sheriff's position. I’ve found information but search for more. Just for starters: What appliances and phone service were available? What roads were paved, which weren’t? Which roads existed at the time, which roads didn’t exist yet? How would the state police act toward a female head deputy? What were the prevailing crimes? How did the war change the resident’s behaviors and attitudes? The list goes on. I’ve even requested the community college librarian where I work to help me find a copy of W. R. Kidd’s Police Interrogation written in 1940, which seems to have changed police procedures.

All this doesn’t even cover the starts and stops caused by thoughts of what happens next, what would be more intriguing, and how the characters will dig themselves out of whatever chasm I dig for them. 

So there are some of my eccentricities in writing. All I can say is writing is hard work.

For more insight into how authors work, and how their stories develop visit these blogs:

Skye Taylor
A.J. Maguire 
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Rachael Kosinski
Anne Stenhouse 
Connie Vines
Helena Fairfax
Margaret Fieland

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Phoenix, a Past, Present and Future Theory

Who doesn’t love a Phoenix, the mythical Greek bird that ends it life in flames only to be reborn in an immortal cycle? It is still a powerful symbol of rebirth and even had a small but important part in the Harry Potter series.

Where did the Phoenix come from? The Greeks and Romans certainly can claim the version of the bird as we know it. Supposedly the Phoenix didn’t lay eggs; there was only one, which lived as much as a thousand years. It burst into flames dying as a pile of ashes only to regenerate into a new young Phoenix. The ancients only knew two sources of heat and light, the sun and fire, so the Phoenix was thought to represent the sun. Why is a bird used to represent the sun? At the time, what could get closer to the sun than a bird, which occasionally with distance even seems to disappear in the sky?

In ancient Egyptian mythology there was a solar bird, the Bennu. The Russians had a firebird, and still more Eastern cultures had other mythic sun birds. No one knows how they are related. Perhaps with trade and the disbursement of knowledge, these myths influenced each other. It doesn’t matter. More than rebirth the phoenix came to represent the sun; and time as it is related to the sun, therefore to the death-birth cycle; virginity; and perpetual hope for continuation, including for countries. Parts of this legend were transmuted into the Christian faith, paradise, and everlasting life. As with the sun, the phoenix became a symbol for powerful rulers.

What I find interesting is the ancients had a being representing the transmutation of matter (living bird) to energy (fire) and back to matter. In quantum physics, matter and energy are considered particles that can be either. In fact, the person observing an experiment determines whether the particles are measured as being matter, or as energy, since the particles can be either.

This might account for why the phoenix is still so popular: An old mythic legend that somehow also abstractly represents now and future theory.