The 7 Deadly Sins of Naming Your Novel

The Porn Lite novel Fifty Shade of Grey unleashed a flood of books parodying the title. My favourite  was  about  men’s  sheds  called,  naturally,  Fifty Sheds of Grey.  Even in those genres considered more worthy – neither Fifty Shades nor Sheds of Grey will appear on the school curriculum – novel titles often follow a trend.

So here are 7 of the most recent and annoying novel title trends along with a few titles to avoid:

1. Curious and Cute

The  Curious  and  Cute  Title  genre  problably  started  way  back  with The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. So ethereal. So ‘don’t know really what it means, do you?’. Now we are over run with incidents, cute or curious or both.

The Curious Tail of the Dog in the Night

The Lost Time Incidentals

The City of Elevators

The Fault in Our Stairs

The Ministry of Utmost Incompetence

2. Incongreuous

This genre takes two nouns that have nothing to do with each other and slams them together to  garner  interest, I guess.  Grapes of Wrath  by  William  Faulkner  is  an  early contender. Eventhough the term ‘grapes of wrath’ comes from a line in The Battle Hymn of the Republic it still makes no sense even as a metaphor. Grapes just don’t conjure wrath-like images. Angels, God, emperors or armies might do the trick. But not grapes or gooseberries or cumquats.

The Gladioli and the Squid

Of Mice and Menopause

Milk and Sticky Stuff that Isn’t Honey

3. Three Small Awkward Words

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult  and more recently Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty all fall into, what is now, a definite title genre. Other names to avoid include:

Small Big Headaches

Damn Long Forks

Joy Lick Boots

4. Things especially Lost Things

We started losing things way back when, according to Milton, we carelessly lost the big one in Paradise Lost. Reading  Marcel  Proust’s In Search of Lost Time lost  a  great deal of time for readers of the seven volumes. Since then we have lost cities (eg. The Lost City of Z by David Gran), lost innocence all over the place (There are many such titles) and lost lots and lots of children. (eg. The Story of the Lost Child  by  Elena  Ferrante).  But  mostly, it seems, we just lose things. eg. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan or things are structurally unreliable. eg. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

The Irrelevance of Small Things

Where the Wild Things Get Their Haircuts

When bad things happen to people who don’t expect bad things to happen

5. Wives and Daughters

When  Amy  Tan  was  out  of  joy  and  luck, she turned to daughters in The Bonesetter’s Daughter. If the bonesetter stuffed up, then The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates knew her dad had work to do. But it is the wives of  Senators,  Shoemakers,  Soldiers, Saddlemakers,  Railwaymen,  Prisoners,  Poets  and  Lighthouse  Keepers,  who  are  long suffering. Obviously,  women  still  cannot  live i nteresting  lives  of  their own and  are made interesting by their husbands form of employment. Really? Here are some titles to avoid:

The Axegrinder’s Daughter

The Clairvoyant’s Wife (He knew. Why did he marry her?)

The Ex-Husbands New Wife (See bad things happen above)

The Daughter who would not listen to the Preacher’s Wife

6. The Man 

From The Old Man and the Sea  by Ernest Hemingway to  A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt to the  Man with the Golden Gun  by Ian Fleming there have been plenty of reasons  why  a  man should tie up his man-bun, go to his man cave and settle down for a good read of his ‘man’ book. Anytime now we might see the following on the book shelves:

The Man with the Annal Itch

A Man Called Inkblot

The Man with the Golden Gut

A  Man for All Seasonings (It will be a cookbook)

7. The Girl 

The Lost Girl  by  D. H. Lawrence  gave  literary weight to the book with ‘girl’ in the title. The Girl in the Title! That could be a literary book title today, but ‘the girl in the’ title genre has been done to death. eg.Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The  girl  on  the  train wasn’t even a girl. She  was  an  over  thirty,  misrable,  dysfunctional alcoholic. The book should have been titled ‘Girl on a Train Goes into Rehab’. Nevertheless I bellieve the following titles are still available:

The Girl with the Turkey Tattoo

Girl with the Green Moustache

The Girl with the Glowing Eyes (Really, it was just blue screen reflection)

Other Titles Currently Available:

All That I Could Hum

The Crack in the Big Thing

The Light Below the Other Big Thing

D is for D’Oh!

The Spy who came in for Mother’s Day

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for Someone Who Gave a Sh**

The Budgies of War

On Her Majesty’s Silver Service

Billionairres are for Bonking

The End of the Thing that I Should Never Have Started

A bird? A plane? An Ozzie Mozzie Zapper!

My first book was published in 1983 so – add old timers accent – ‘I been ’round this here old place a long time’. The following event is one of the oddest experiences I had in the world of publishing. That is, if you don’t count, being ‘heckled’ by Barbar The Elephant at the Sydeny Writers’ Festival.

superboy     2You may think I’m merely a mild mannered reporter. But, dear reader, I have fought a ‘superhero’ battle. It all began years ago when I wrote a book for kids titled ‘How to save the world before breakfast’. Subtitle ‘A magazine for young superheroes’. To cut a long story super-short, D.C. Comics kindly explained to my little Aussie publisher that they owned the word ‘super heroes’ and we could, to cut through the legal jargon, bugger off.

I immediately imagined the D.C Comics legal team was comprised of escapees from Krypton who, having discovered a loophole in the this-planet-will-explode contract,  had escaped early in rockets and re-established themselves on the planet Legalon producing a race of Super Lawyers who were taking over our Solar System by suing the pants off every creature in the Universe.

Suffice to say, a barrister-type friend who, in his legal regalia in a high-wind did look quite Batmanish, pointed out that D. C. Comics were right. They owned the words ‘super heroes’. It was not a copyright matter. It’s a trademark!!!! So my publisher pulped the first book cover and I changed the subtitle to ‘The hilarious first addition of the Superkids Magazine’. And so the book, which gave advice on ‘How to select the right cape for you’ and ‘How to keep your hair neat in a cyclone’, was eventually published.

Read Full article published Herald Sun 14 JUL 2004 also The Advertiser (SA): A bird. A plane. An Ozzie mozzie zapper