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In which fictional characters are no help at titling things

by Theo on August 29th, 2011
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I just started work again on a novel from last year. It’s good, I think – much better than I thought when I shoved it into a drawer last December, for sure – and one of the weirder concepts I’ve worked with. (It’s about two sisters who hunt superheroes.) I’m going to try to finish up the first draft and quick spit and polish revision before I’m back in school in September, and I’m optimistic, because I really like this story.

But I hate the working title. It feels like a popcorn kernel stuck between my teeth, and I can’t stop picking at it. (It’s In the Shadow of Heroes, which is way too on the nose and serious.)

When I encounter a problem in an early draft, it sometimes helps to set up an imaginary conversation with the characters, just me and them sitting in a blank white room. So I tried that.


Me: “So, this title.”

Morning: “It’s terrible.”

Elle: “It’s not that bad.”

Morning: “You said the same thing about The Lake House.”

Elle: “I was drunk at the time.”

Morning: (sighs) “You keep going back to that well.”

Elle: “I was! You think I’d watch a Sandra Bullock movie sober?”

Me: “Girls.”

Morning: “Miss Congeniality.”

Elle: “Miss Congeniality gets a pass because it has Shatner.”

Me: “GIRLS.”

Morning: “Anyway.”

Elle: “The title’s not good.”

Me: “Well, what would you call this story?”

Elle: “I’d call it The Epic Vortex of Suck That is the Lives of the Campbell Sisters.”

Morning: “Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it?”

Elle: “So you take a shot at it.”

Morning: “I’d call it…That Time Elle Boned a Caped Crusader.”


Morning: “At least, that’s what I’m gonna call it when I relate the events to people.”

Elle: “I didn’t know he was a cape when I met him! I can’t believe that’s the thing you’re choosing to pick out about all this.”

Morning: “That you had a one-nighter with a guy with a super suit hanging in his shower? Oh yeah. I’m gonna be telling people about that for the rest of your life.”

Elle: “Which is exactly how long you’re gonna be banned from driving the RV.”

Morning: “Aw, come on!

Elle: (miming hands on a steering wheel) “What’s that? I can’t hear you over the sound of this mix CD I made for long drives.”

Morning: “If there are more than three Gaga songs on that CD, I will leap out the door.”

Elle: “Pah-pah-pah-pokerface–”

Morning: “I’ll do it, I will leap out of the moving vehicle.”

Me: (walking out, muttering) “Useless. Utterly useless.”


That didn’t go so well. But y’know what, it’s just a working title, anyway. It wouldn’t matter if I called it No Capes! and make my beta readers pronounce it in Edna Mode voice. Which is…really tempting, actually.

Hey, beta readers, how are you at impersonations?

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  1. 'Lista permalink

    Can I just say I love your characters? It’s like my sister and me are in your story. That’s exactly how we communicate! Best of luck finding a title that they can agree on, because my sister and I haven’t agreed on anything since 1993.

    • Nicole permalink

      I hope you’re not! I’m mean to my characters. XD

  2. Lisa does quite a good Edna, really. I’m sure you’ve heard it.

    • Nicole permalink

      I may have. Don’t remember. I’m sure she’ll refresh my memory, though!

  3. i have a pretty good edna mode impression that i am practicing just for you.

  4. Gypsy-Maria permalink

    I can do a half-decent Edna. XD I actually kind of like “No Capes!” for a title.

    • Nicole permalink

      It doesn’t fit the book, tonally, but it’ll certainly do for now! So far everyone I’ve pitched it at seems to like it.

  5. janalee permalink

    NO CAPES!!!

    (i’m practicing here)

    and really long titles seem to work for some books (ie the girl who circumnavigated fairyland in a ship of her own making)

  6. Bunny permalink

    Every time I see “no capes” I end up mixing Edna & The Soup Nazi together. “NO capes for YOU! Next!”

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