Ghost writers in the sky
I’m starting on an updated historical novel about Joseph and Mary with the working title: “We need to talk about Jesus“.
I’ve just finished a short story about witchcraft set in a 17th century Scottish village at carnival time with the title: “Fowlis Fair” ( Fowlis is a village in Macbeth country)
My last novel – a complicated narrative about a feckless young teacher who was marooned on Ibiza with a plane-load of mostly upper-class schoolchildren and who let the school (and himself) down but came out quite well in the end – was called: “Lucky Lord Jim of the Flies“.
And so on.
But you can spend ages trying to find a title for your writing, whatever it is. Or for your painting. I don’t like it when a photograph of a sunset over the sea has as its title “SUNSET OVER THE SEA.” On the other hand, if Picasso hadn’t called his painting “Guernica” what would critics have made of it? And someone pointed out that ‘untitled’ is a title. Is “Catcher in the Rye” a good title? ” Moby Dick”? “Pride and Prejudice”? How about one-word titles like “Departures”, “Distances”? The book I’m reading now is called ” A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In”. I think good titles tend to be a touch ironic, or metaphorical, or even poetic in some way. I’m not even sure they are all that important but you can spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to think up a ‘good’ one.
I’d be interested in your views on titles ( or opening sentences for that matter – there’s another time-waster. Or is it? I get the distinct feeling after having read the opening sentence(s) that I’m going to enjoy this (or not).
Jane Austen hits the right note and tone from the very beginning: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife…..”
And similarily J.D. Salinger did pretty well in his opening to ‘Catcher in the Rye’:
” If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
The same applies to the opening shot(s) of a film. After the first few seconds I know whether I can settle back and be transported for the next hour or so or keep glancing at my watch and listening to the rustling of the chocolate eaters.
C’est le premier pas qui coûte