Titles- where do they come from?

Ask any writer and they will each give you a different answer to where they get the title for a story, book, or article. Most will even say they come up with the title differently for each story, book, or article.

So how does that tell you where titles come from…it doesn’t. From talking to other writers and reading the struggles they go through to find titles, I can tell you there is no set way a writer comes up with the words that are on the front of their book or draws a reader to their story or article.

If the writer is published with a traditional publisher, they have no say over the title. The publishing company decides what title will go on the book based on past book sales. Not sales by that author but by all the authors in their house and what titles readers were drawn to.

A self-published author can give their book a title and it will stay with the book. We don’t have the algorithms that the traditional publishing houses have. But we can google the title, see if there are any others like it. Then we can see if the words in the titles are used in top selling books. And so on. If you are a writer who tries to piggyback off the top selling books.

For me, the title either comes as I am “stewing and brewing” the story –this is where I’ve come up with a premise, or the means of murder, or a unique idea I plan to incorporate into the story. If that doesn’t bring about a catchy title that matches other titles in the series, then I start writing. Adn at a point while I’m putting the story down in words, a few will string together and a lightbulb comes on and I realize that is the title of the book. This has happened to me, mostly with the first book of a series. Then after that the rest of the series has to have similar titles.

As for my Shandra Higheagle mystery series, the titles all come from either the way someone was killed or how they came to be killed.

With the Gabriel Hawke series, since he is a Fish and Wildlife officer (game warden) I wanted to have animals in the titles of the books and on the covers.

The Spotted Pony Casino mystery series, I chose to use gambling terms for the titles of the books. I found a dozen terms that I liked and have been slowly incorporating which ever title I pick into the murder mystery that I write. This has actually been the easiest way to come up with a title. I have the list and just have to decide which term works with the premise I come up with for the book.

Currently, I have started book 10 in the Gabriel Hawke series. When I first came up with the idea for the story and formulated the premise of the murder, I had called the book Fleeing Swan. But after researching the area and getting a great photo of a bear while traversing the wilderness where one of the characters will be hiding, I decided I wanted that photo on the cover and have changed the title to Bear Stalker. While the character who I was referring to as swan in the original title swims away from a threat, I decided to give her the Cayuse name of Small Bear (kskɨ́s yáka). Since she is being stalked by the killer- I came up with the title Bear Stalker. And now that I have my title and my story, my fingers are flying across the keyboard telling Small Bear’s story.

I haven’t decided what the next title will be in the Spotted Pony Casino series. I have an inkling of what the story will be about, at least the secondary plot since I left it hanging in the last book, but I want the title to reflect the main plot of murder in the book and not the secondary plot that will be left hanging in the next few books. I don’t want that little time bomb to go off just yet. 😉 But until I get a clear picture of what the next book will be about, I’m not sure what the title will be other than one from my list of gambling terms. 😉

Does a title of a book draw you to discover more about the book or is it the cover image that draws you to the book? Especially if it is an author you have never read before.

To Prologue or Not to Prologue

I’m currently working on the next (#10) Gabriel Hawke Novel. It will be set up in the style of book #2. I have a person who saw a murder in the wilderness and my character Hawke will find them. Just like book #2, I’ll be starting it with a prologue where the character witnesses the killing and then runs in fear for their life.

To me it makes sense to start the book, with a prologue, showing the person watching the act happen and then fleeing, so that will need to be in their point of view. Then as the story progresses, there will be things Hawke (my main character) won’t know or see, but the reader needs to know through the fleeing person’s point of view so I will have the two points of view in the book.

Most of my Gabriel Hawke books are in my main character’s point of view unless there are scenes that the reader needs to see what my character can’t see. That’s when I use a second point of view.

This book, I’m still working on the title, has been brewing and stewing in my head for nearly 6 months. It came to me as I was writing book #9 that released the end of June. That’s how my brain works. While I am working on a current book in a series, my mind is already moving to the next book. It may be the villain creeping around in my brain, or a setting, or a premise. But as I typed the words to the work in progress, the other story is working in the background.

Back to prologues. There has been a book or two I’ve read where the prologue was flat or didn’t feel like it had anything to do with the story that followed. But there have also been books where the prologue drew me into the story, and I couldn’t wait to read more.

As with all writing, it is the execution of the timing, the words, the characters that makes a reader continue or stop. That and a good, as in a mystery book, whodunit. Something to keep the reader turning the pages and reading well past the time they should turn out the lights and sleep.

Unless you can pull them in at the beginning, with a good prologue, first sentence, first paragraph, first page, first chapter, you could possibly lose the reader. And that’s why I ponder the question: To prologue or not to prologue.

What do those of you reading this post think?

Here is info about my newest release: Owl’s Silent Strike

Book 9 in the Gabriel Hawke Novels

Unexpected snowstorm…

Unfortunate accident…

And a body…

What started out as a favor and a leisurely trip into the mountains, soon turns State Trooper Gabriel Hawke’s life upside down. The snowstorm they were trying to beat comes early, a horse accident breaks Dani Singer’s leg, and Hawke finds a body in the barn at Charlie’s Lodge.

Hawke sets Dani’s leg, then follows the bloody trail of a suspect trying to flee the snow-drifted mountains. Hawke is torn between getting the woman he loves medical care and knowing he can’t leave a possible killer on the mountain.

Before the killer is brought to justice, Dani and Hawke will put their relationship to the test and his job on the line.

https://books2read.com/u/bw19DG

It’s All in the Details by Karen Shughart

Even in fiction, it’s important that some details are correct, especially in a murder mystery when describing an investigation and its resolution when the killer is captured. While the plot, setting, and characters can be a complete figment of the imagination, there’s got to be some accuracy when describing the measures taken to solve the crime.

Our communities offer many resources to those of us who write mysteries, among them sheriffs and police personnel, district attorneys, public defenders, prosecutors, and judges. Having access to these experts and being willing to learn from them adds a level of authenticity to our stories, and hopefully results in more reader satisfaction.  I’m fortunate that these professionals have been available to me when I’ve had questions.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

There’s wiggle room, of course, but when investigators on TV are trying to solve a crime and get DNA results in an hour, that’s not how it really works. Although technology has evolved, and today it’s possible for a speedier turnaround time- sometimes in as little as six hours-I try and stick as much to the facts as possible.

I’m working on Murder at Freedom Hill right now, the third is the series of Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mysteries.  In the last two books, the crimes were solved without my needing to provide precise details of what followed after the murderer was apprehended. This time around it’s a bit more complicated.

I’ve realized as I’ve been writing this book that my knowledge of some those procedures is a bit rusty, and I wanted to clarify the steps that must occur from arrest to sentencing, the difference between probation and parole, and the circumstances that permit the defense attorney to make a deal. A few weeks ago, I met with our county’s district attorney.  We spent about an hour together, and after, I went home and revised some sections of the book for clarity, although I must admit that I fudged a few of the details to mesh better with the story.

 The women and men who work at various levels of law enforcement and in criminal justice professions are a valuable resource to those of us who write mysteries. They help provide a framework that allows us to create a book that weaves fantasy and reality into a believable plot.

The Art of Getting it Right

Last month I participated in a month-long online workshop/class about law enforcement. It was taught by a veteran policeman who had worked in several places and organizations and enjoys helping writers get it right.

He started the class with an actual case report of a murdered woman. We read it and then asked questions, which he answered very thoroughly. He told us what the police had to do by law at the scene and what they could and coudn’t do while talking to people trying to gather information to help them catch the perpetrator.

We went through processing a crime scene and saw actual photos of the scene. I had a barebones idea of what took place but had left out a few steps when my characters have come across a body. However, I was happy to hear that when a homicide happens the detectives or whoever is working on the case can and do work non-stop the first 48-72 hours. They take short naps and go home to change clothes, but they stay on the evidence because there is that small door of opportunity to gather all the information that could help them apprehend someone. I have had Gabriel Hawke work nonstop on murder cases. I had made it his need to find the truth, but it appears is what a good detective does.

The evidence in the case of the homicide we were “working” pointed to one of the victim’s sons. But several of us, me included, felt it was too easy. Yes, our red herring minds were trying to find ways to make it stick to someone else. Even when all the evidence clearly pointed to the person that was eventually arrested. He even confessed in his own way.

The instructor said that few murder investigations and homicides are as convoluted as writers of TV shows, movies, and books make them out to be. The need to make motives and means hard to figure out are the writer’s way of entertaining the reader. In real life, if the evidence is pointing to one person, it is usually that person. It’s just a matter of the detectives gathering enough to make a solid case and the icing on the case is getting that person to confess.

Something I have had happen to me several times while on jury duty. Once the evidence is all lined out against the accused, they will plea out, sometimes at the last minute, (as when we were waiting for a trial to start and were dismissed because the person plea bargained). The instructor said, that happens the most when the accused has confessed during an interview. The interviews are taped and once a jury sees the person confessing, they are going to be found guilty.

I enjoyed that the instructor was so willing to answer questions for our books and help us with law enforcement questions. I have asked this person questions before on the crime scene email loop I’m on. If you would like to join to ask questions of retired and practicing LEOs, lawyers, forensic pathologists, FBI, DEA there is a person on the loop from just about any entity you might want to ask questions to get your scene or scenario accurate. Crimescenewriter2@groups.io

Besides knowing what I need to about the legal side of things for my mysteries, I also like to go to the area where the story I’m working on is set. I recently watched security guards at an Indian run casino and did a walk around the tribal police station in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series. In June I’ll be traveling to Montana to walk through a resort that will be the jumping off spot for the next Gabriel Hawke book and I will be taking a couple trips into a wilderness area near the resort to discover what it is like to better write that story.

What can I say, I like to make sure I not only entertain but I enlighten as well.

What Being a Writer Means to Me

I started writing stories when I was a youngster. I wrote my own versions of the books I read. My first original was a story about fairies which I illustrated. My mother sent it to a publisher, who sent back a nice note telling me to keep writing, and I did for a long time.

My first efforts as an adult were rejected and I’m sure because I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t get serious about writing until I had grandkids. My sister did our family genealogy and I decided to write an historical family saga based on both.  I had to do lots of research about places and times my ancestors lived and believe me it took a long, long time.

The second one I wrote was published by a major publishing company. I had no clue about marketing or promotion and did one book signing. When the 2nd was published, I knew a bit more.

Next came my first mystery, and another.  I’ve been at this a long time, and now have 50 published books all available on Amazon. Along the way I’ve learned so much about writing and promotion.

Besides the fun of writing and creating characters who seem as real as the people I know, I’ve had a great time over the years traveling all over the county attending writers workshops and mystery cons—Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime, plus many of the smaller ones  that have disappeared like Mayhem in the Midlands and Crimefest.

I was able to meet some of my favorite authors like Mary Higgins Clark, William Kent Krueger, Craig Johnson, Naomi Hirahara, and so many, many more. Plus, I made friends with so many other writers and more importantly readers.

When I read about how much writers and readers enjoyed this most recent Left Coast Crime, I was a tad envious, but then realized I had so many great memories of conferences past and all the interesting people I’ve met over the years.

I’m now in the process of my two favorite writer pursuits: 1. Planning for and promoting my latest book, the last in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Reversal of Fortune and 2. Putting together ideas for my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Being a writer is a wonderful and rewarding part of my life in so many ways.

Reversal of Fortune is about the death of a fortune teller. It’s available in paper and for Kindle on Amazon: (I wrote this series as F. M. Meredith)