Titles of Novels I’ll Probably Never Write

8 Jun

I used to strong-arm my undergraduate students into thinking more about titles – not because I’m one for strong-arming, but because sometimes titles are a last minute concern, whereas I believe they’re essential to the writing process. It was important for expository writing students to focus their essays through thinking of apt titles, and it was important for fiction students to think about how a title can add sharpness and/or layers of meaning to a story. Donald Murray, a big teaching-of-writing guy, used to generate about 150 titles per piece. He allowed himself to be clumsy and awkward in order to find what was precise and just right. Whenever I told my students this, they would grip their notebooks in apprehension until I’d say, “we’re not going to generate 150 titles today, but we are going to generate 20.” They’d sigh with relief, then get antsy by the tenth prompt. Some were eager to share new titles at the end and others said, with arms crossed over their chests or with a twinkle in their eye, “My original title is still better.” In any case, keeping a list of titles to potentially write to, even if I never write the piece, is something I enjoy doing and find quite useful. That said, lately I’ve been collecting imaginary titles for novels that, in all likelihood, I won’t write. (I’m keeping titles of actual works-in-progress close to my chest for now.) Here are the imaginary titles:

The Sex Lives of Traffic Engineers

Young Jewish Men Arguing in Diners

The Sweat Pickle

The Fishmonger’s Uncle’s Tax Accountant

Hard Drinking Elsewhere

The Ghost of Obligation

The Ineffectual Perfectionist

People Alone in Cars Reading E-mail

Now you try!

4 Responses to “Titles of Novels I’ll Probably Never Write”

  1. Spijder June 8, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Especially counting ‘Hard Drinking Elsewhere’, some of these would make excellent band names. If you don’t use them as titles there is always the possibility that they could see life as mention of non-existent bands in one of your other-titled stories. Even the mention of non-existent stories in the story of another title. I am going to surf on now before I start thinking about stories mentioning non-existent stories that mention non-existent stories that–

    • Anca Szilagyi June 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm #

      Ha! Thanks, Spijder. We can definitely fall down a rabbit hole this way. Will keep the list handy for all imaginary purposes. Here’s a treasure trove of imaginary books: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fictional_books

    • cafeapebega June 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

      St. Louis, or How I Quit Quitting

      Eating Memphis

      The Daemons of Newark Airport

      Passion at Zuccotti Park: a 99% impossible love story

      The Age of Indifference

      • Anca Szilagyi June 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

        Nice! Eating Memphis particularly resonates with me. I’m picturing it literally, a portrait of a city-eating behemoth.

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