In the first blog of the series, we saw the dominant form for the novel title prior to the Twentieth Century was the eponym - or the name of the main character of the story. In the last blog this series, we saw how the dominant form for the novel title in the Twentieth Century became the Reference; poetic or biblical. Perhaps they've given you inspiration for writing your own novel title as a statement of your literary purpose to guide writing our novel from the start?
Now we are going to look at the rise of other forms, one a cunningly disguised variant of the Reference, and the other the late Twentieth Century 'supermodel' of titles.
Here's a recap on how the widely acclaimed best novels of the Twentieth Century are titled - in clusters.
The Subversive Reference.
Robert Penn Warren's novel All the King's Men was published in 1946, and as we saw in the last blog, the title is derived from a low-brow source - Humpty Dumpty.
"In my younger and more vulnerable years," (to borrow from the opening line of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald) I would write a novel, many times over many drafts, discarding huge amounts of material, then set about the business of the novel title.
My 'blue' period of retro-fitting a novel title has been one of twenty years, so you could say it's become a habit. Possibly a bad habit. I wonder how other novelists work? As you will know from an earlier blog, Scott Fitzgerald struggled with the title of his most famous work and it came after the novel was complete.
Having become aware, thanks to exposure to The Novelry, that most writers can write, but most (like me) struggle with story, I've sharpened my practice and put story first and foremost, and I teach that way too. We begin with what readers want; story. The idea for a story needs to be good, not great, but good enough. The rest is in the treatment and the logic that unfolds what happens next.