March 28, 2016

Tales of Title Woes (Part III)

So, some of you may have seen on social media that I was struggling with a real (not placeholder) title for the next book in the Mending Heartstrings world. This led to a conversation of title formulas with a friend. (You know, how books in the same world will have similar formulas for the title, or sometimes use the same word in all titles.) He is against formulaic titles and made a comment about them feeling uncreative, and how Shakespeare never did that. Now my gut instinct was "fair point." Except...

Shakespeare often used the main character's (or characters') names, like in all the histories (Richard II & III, Henry IV-VIII, Edward III, etc.), in many tragedies (King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Julius Caesar, etc.), and in character pairs (Antony & Cleopatra, Romeo & Juliet, Troilus & Cressida).

But there's more! Shakespeare also used a formula for many comedies:

The Merry Wives of Windsor
The Merchant of Venice
The Taming of the Shrew
The Comedy of Errors
Two Gentlemen of Verona (okay, slightly different)

Why am I pointing this out? Because, originally I had defended the formula choice as a means of signaling to readers that stories are in the same world/series—in other words to some extent, a contemporary marketing choice. But it seems that this is in fact not at all a contemporary trend, though possibly it is about marketing.

What do you think? Was Shakespeare signaling to his audiences what to expect, or did he—like many contemporary writers—simply hate coming up with titles?


  1. Sometimes if the shape of the title is the same, it would work as well. Marissa Meyer wrote a series called "The Lunar Chronicles" and the titles were: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest, and Winter. All one word and felt like parts of a whole. Good luck with your title!

    1. Hmm, on their own (without the art) those don't necessarily strike me as formulaic. Yes, they're all one word, but I suppose for me, I would only consider that formulaic if they were also the same part of speech. But I'm sure the art would have pulled it all together :)