Friday, May 4, 2007


By Her Ladyship, Lonnie Cruse

How important are titles to you? They’re extremely important to me. Key, in fact. I’ve always wanted to be a duchess or maybe a Dame, meaning like Dame Agatha Christie, certainly not like one of Phillip Marlowe’s dames. Well, let me get back to you on that one, Bogart was awfully cute in that role. Hmmmm?

But, seriously, that’s not what this post is about, titles of royalty. And was that a sigh of relief I just heard? This post is about titles for your writing, your works in progress. How important are they to you? As I said, they are key to me. I simply can not start a novel, short story, newsletter article, blog post, or even my grocery list without a title at the top of the first page to hang it on. It’s like putting a dress on a hanger and hanging it on the closet door so I can stand back and admire it, see if it needs any mending, wrinkles smoothed, whatever. And often the title gives me the inspiration for the story. This one did.

But titles aren’t always easy to come by. Sometimes you come up with a killer idea only to discover somebody else already swiped it before you even thought of it. Bummer. Though novel titles aren’t copyrighted, so you can use the same title as someone else, risking the chance of yours getting lost in the shuffle if the other person is more well known.

When I began writing the Metropolis Mystery Series, the original idea was to use the name of the surrounding towns in Massac County, Illinois, the county where my sheriff would have jurisdiction. My friends and family were more than happy to help out with titles, and next thing I knew people were flinging ideas at me with great verve. “How about JAILED IN JOPPA, or PUNCHED IN PADUCAH?”

It got so I was afraid to go out in public or answer the phone. Then I found a publisher who liked the Metropolis idea, he and insisted we keep the name of the city where the stories are set (and where I live) in each and every succeeding title. Of course that meant I needed another “M” word in each title to play off of the word Metropolis. Sigh, so now people are shouting “M” words at me wherever I go, meaning I still can’t answer the phone or go out in public.

My current WIP is titled MUTINY IN METROPOLIS, thanks to my neighbor up the road, Patrick Mitchell. But I do have titles now, people, thank you very much! Titles R Us. You need a title, you call me. And, by the way, nobody’s using Drowned In Dongola so far as I know, and I no longer need it, in case you’re interested.

So, how important are titles to you when you write a piece? A hanger too keep your work all neat and smooth and out where you can see it? Or do you wait to get a title after you’ve written the work? And if so, how in the world do you manage without one? Doesn’t your story drop to the floor in a heap, suddenly requiring ironing, or at the very least, a good steam job? Just curious. And, do you take your titles from song lyrics, stories, television? The Story Title Store? C’mon, folks, give! Thank you.

Well, I believe we’re done here. You may now respectfully leave my presence, and no, it isn’t necessary to bow as you back toward the door, but I’d love it if you’d call me “Your Majesty” again. Sigh. Perhaps you’d be more comfy with “Queen Mum?”

And where is my tea cup, pray tell? I believe I need some Apple Cinnamon to loosen my tongue from my cheek.

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