I'm going to touch on something a little close to home this week.
For some of us writers, titles are a bane to our existence. We have this super cool idea, want to make it into a story (and even start writing the first few chapters), but what on earth are we going to call this story? It can be a really tough choice to make sometimes.
For one, we want to avoid a title that's already been used, or is widely known (I don't think anyone can get away with titling their book Twilight anytime soon ...). Secondly, if there is a unique match, what does it say about the story? I know some who don't stress the title-making part. They may simply slap something on the cover because the story needs one, which is fine ... and that can totally work.
For me, title-making runs a little deeper. It stems from something I learned in my aspiring animation days: "Your title should embody the story - someone should be able to look at the title and know exactly what the story is about before the (book, movie, show) starts."
Wise words from a great mentor, although I'd like to add to that. You may not have to know exactly what the story's about before it starts, but it should be crystal clear why it's called that by the time it's over.
Earlier this week, we had the Top Ten Movie Countdown Blogfest. I decided to do an all-animation list. While reading through the fest, I noticed a mention of Brave, that people had "given the film grief," and that they did not understand why. I can explain that, more for what happened behind the scenes (Pixar did, after all, fire Brenda Chapman from the production ... who created the story ... and was Pixar's first female director, and, in my opinion, was given the Oscar as a means of damage control), but I'm only going to talk about it's bold title.
It looks nice, but for me, this doesn't work. Why's that, you ask?
I'll go over a few other Pixar titles and explain why they do work.
(Before I go on, let me quickly clarify that I did enjoy Brave's story and it's message - we really are in serious need of stories like this).
Toy Story ... it's a story about toys. It works!
Monsters, Inc. ... a cooperation run by monsters. It works!
Finding Nemo ... a father searches for his son, Nemo. It works!
The Incredibles ... a superhero famliy (Mr. Incredible marries Elastigirl, becomes Mrs. Incredible, and the kids are Incredibles). It works!
Cars ... it's a story about ... cars. Simple enough, and it works!
Ratatouille ... it's a French word, and the film takes place in Paris. Ratatouille is a dish - the film is about cooking. The protagonist is ... a rat, hence Ratatouille. A TRIPLE meaning ... it totally works!
Brave ... it's about a mother and daughter relationship.
Wait, what does "brave" have anything to do with that?
For me, in short, nothing at all.
In fact, if you watch the film again, pay attention to when the word "brave" is used. Four times. The first instance when the father spoke of the falls in the beginning, "They say only the Ancient Kings were brave enough to drink the fire," then, during a flashback, "Brave little girl," then during Merida's speech to the men, "Yours was an alliance forged in bravery and friendship and it lives to this day," and again, at the end, "Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it." Kinda feels like a thrown-in sentiment rather than the theme of the story. Let's be honest. Was Brave about bravery?
I don't think so. The film is about a mother/daughter relationship.
But did you know that Brave wasn't always called that?
THIS the original title, and might I say, it's a much more fitting title. The Bear is the mother and the Bow is the daughter. The story is about the relationship between a mother and daughter, and it works! Why the title change, I have no idea, but it would not surprise me if it had a part in the "creative differences" that eventually sacked Brenda.
I could go on about Hollywood politics and what some friends of mine in the industry have said about what happened over Brave (more livid than I was), but that's not why I'm here. This is only an example. I would also like to say that I am especially proud of Brenda for how she handled the situation. She's an excellent example of how to be when a situation goes beyond our control. Much applause, Brenda.
Now wait just a second, Dave! Didn't Disney also change "Rapunzel" to "Tangled?" Weren't you at all upset about that title change?
Let's shift back to books. The same principle applies. If we struggle to come up with a title, then let me ask you this: "Do you know what your story is about?" Maybe we have an idea, but we haven't sat down and thought it through yet. If I like an idea enough, I'll stew over it, find the story's "center" and name it accordingly, and hope that the title isn't already taken. If it has been used, I would take the idea and look at it from another angle until something else works.
This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. A title is like the ultimate short synopsis, a short word or line that represents the entire story, the embodiment to the message you wish to present. Like notes on a music sheet or words on the page, there are endless possibilities for titles, but if we know what our story is about, and the story is unique, coming up with a title may be that much easier.
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That concludes my posts for March. I know the April A to Z Challenge is upon us, and I wish you all luck to those who are participating. If I didn't have so many goals to take care of on my end, I would join, so here's looking to next year. Thanks again for another great month!
Be sure to visit back on the 27th, when I will interview our 3rd Knight of the Cosmic Table. You won't want to miss this "fiery" exchange!
What are your thoughts on titles? Which ones have really worked for you? Which ones haven't? What is your title-making process?
I'm David, and THIS is what I call, "es-car-go!"