After writing about the journey story for a few weeks, I’m returning to titles.
Titles that establish a season of time are worth consideration. I enjoy them in part because of how important the season is in my thinking about stories.
Here’s something I’ve said often in class. If you are writing about a particular part of a character’s life, you are implicitly saying that this part of that character’s life is story-worthy. This time of that character’s life is important – it’s a season of time filled with significance. Things will happen in that character’s life that are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible.
Let me repeat that. For a season of time to be worthy of story, things will happen that are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible.
It’s a commonplace in workshops to ask “What’s at stake” in a story. If things happen that are unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible, you won’t have to worry that not enough is at stake.
So a title that expresses the season of time in which events will happen might be a good choice. The title can let the reader know the beginning and end of the story, and also give some hint about the subject matter, the characters, the tone, or other aspects of the story.
Here are some examples:
“The Year of Getting to Know Us”
“A Romantic Weekend”
“A Day in the Open”
“That Championship Season”
The season invoked could be a season in the normal sense of the word – autumn, or winter. It could be a single day or a weekend, it could be a season for hunting or a sports season. But something in the title should hint at why that span of time might be special.
Here’s one title that seems to go against type:
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
In this novel, about a prisoner in the Soviet gulag, the reader follows Ivan through a day of grinding and mindless labor and all the demeaning routines of a prison camp. And at first it seems like a day that is typical of a prisoner’s life. The twist at the end is that this day is really a pretty good day, and at the end of it Ivan is reflecting back on just how nice it was. It’s a devastating ending, because readers realize that he could only consider this day nice if every other day were even more grinding and brutal.
I said the title seemed to go against type because it implies that the day will be routine. But in fact, the day is indeed special, if only in comparison with all the other days in prison.
The season is nearly always important in shaping a story. It might be the key to finding your title.