Once in a while you come across a really great book title. More than once I have stopped cold in admiration and (yes) envy. An excellent title is almost as hard as the whole novel behind it.

Here are a few that strike me as just right:

A Hundred Years of Solitude
The Shell Seekers
The Inn at Lake Divine
Fear of Flying
Welcome to Temptation
Small Sacrifices (nonfiction)
She Drove without Stopping
The Things They Carried
Friend of My Youth

I thought Pajama Jones was a pretty darn good title, but my editor isn’t sure about it. The rest of her suggestions were really very reasonable and minor, things that I had been half worried about myself and that I can fix in a couple hours total. But the title?

That’s a lot harder. Also, I got good reactions on this end. Jenny (she who came up with Welcome to Temptation, Bet Me, Faking It, and other fantastic titles) loves Pajama Jones as a title. Unfortunately Jenny is not my editor.

The primary plot is about two people: one agoraphobic, the other claustrophobic. Whenever I consider that fact, I remember the Yiddish saying: a bird and a fish may love each other, but where will they make a home together?

Somehow I don’t think that would work as a title.

As I can’t solve this right now, I will go and work on something else. Like, hiding cookies from myself.

10 Replies to “temptation”

  1. I can remember in high school despairing of every being able to be a novelist because (with the logic of your average teenager), clearly all the good titles were taken:

    After Many A Summer Dies the Swan
    Long Day’s Journey Into Night
    Everything that Rises Must Converge
    The Sun Also Rises
    Unbearable Lightness of Being
    Speak, Memory
    The Robber Bridegroom
    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

    They all sound like such poetry, like they’re pieces of poems unfinished (although, granted, some are). I confess, I read those books (with the exception of the last) because of the titles. It’s not like versions printed for HS libraries have much in the way of cover art, so you make do for what draws you in.

    I think Pajama Jones is a great title, but it sounds like comedic chick-lit to me, and I never got the impression that’s what you write. It also sounds rather urban (oddly), and not at all like something I’d associate with Deep South. Maybe because ‘pajamas’ somehow feels like a yankee thing, where we called them PJs?

    Then again, I’d be going with something like Bird/Fish as a title and let the editors/publishers play off that, and see where it gets them.

  2. Like the word “Pajamas”, almost as much as “‘jammies”…”Comedic chick-lit” bin hearing that a lot lately, another peeve of mine, cute catch phrases hehehe. Hey remember that old guy that did the bit at the end of every episode of “60 minutes”? loved that guy.:D …he’s not dead is he? Aack! Now I gotta check :(. Yeah thats kinda a bummer bout the title. Think she mighta mentioned something earlier, kinda hard ta be objective about it now after all this time. Did it always sound right? Or did it just grow on ya? hehehe Go out and buy some more cookies :D

  3. I love Pajama Jones as a title and I also agree with ksgreer that it gave me the impression (from the cover page that you have displayed somewhere here on your weblog) that it is comedic chick-lit book.

    Your description of the story surprised me, but now that I know more, it fits in together. Is it safe to assume that Pajama Jones is the agoraphobic and always living in her PJ’s?

    I’m already looking forward to the story. Tell your editor that Robyn says the title is catchy and fits like a glove, don’t change a thing!

    By the by I love that Yiddish saying LOL!

  4. Robin: ha. I’ll run that one past my editor.

    Robyn: I’ll tell her you said so.

    Re the cookies: I’m not looking for them. I’m trying to put them out of my own reach.

  5. Each of the 9 titles you listed immediately conjures up interesting images, making me want to pick up the book to see if the author has the same image. Take The Shell Seekers. I imagine a group of people, heads down searching for the perfect shell. Never mind that it turns out the name of the book is the name of a painting in the novel, which turns out to be about life and a romance in WWII in England.

    Alas, a book’s title must have immediate appeal in a somewhat similar manner as items near the checkout trigger impulse buying. Ah, marketing, and product-positioning and shelf appeal!

    Also alas, I get no image for the words Pajama Jones. I would have read novels by both Rosamunde Pilcher and Rosina Lippi because of the authorship, but I probably wouldn’t pick up Pajama Jones by Josephine Blow. The Fish Worn Pajamas? The Bird Who Loved the Fish? Pajama Jones Married a Fish? Now there are images.

  6. Robin, yes, that’s what I was getting at, but the punctuation would tell me a little more about the style:

    A Bird and a Fish — I think, hrm, something rather…sedate. I think it’s the A — and A — pattern (the two As) that throws it off for me, though.

    Bird, Fish — a little more edgy, possibly faster pacing; not gritty, more literary.

    Bird/Fish — edgiest (for some reason the “/” is big for edgy stuff right now), probably a bit more experimental either in style or content.

    Bird and Fish — makes me think of Frog and Toad… but that could just be me.

    But I do think if that’s the theme of the story, the underlying notion, then why not toss it out there and see if the marketing people can use that to trigger some niftier titles, if you’re stumped on your end?

    (I speak as someone with an adequate, if flat, title, so I made notes when metaphors or themes occured to me that show up in the story, so at the very least I could say: here is what I saw/wrote, if you want to use this as a jumping-off point in brainstorming better titles that reflect the book’s interior. I mean, hey, they see a lot more titles than I have in the past ten years.)

  7. I’m with Edie, A title like “Pajama Jones” sticks with you. When I first came across the title I wanted ta know what it was about. Now a Bird and a fish…ehhaaIdunno if I would pick that up.:D

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