Apparently I am easily fascinated by the reasoning and the process that each writer has when it comes to selecting their title.
For me, titles can either be the easiest thing in the world or they can be so obnoxious to develop that I stress over them for an unnecessary amount of time and hate on my inability to make a goddamn decision.
When they're easy, that's when the story is often the story that writes itself and it's a relief to get out a story as I don't like them rattling around in my head. There's a higher story death rate if I wait too long to finish a story and if there's no title I think of the story as never wanting to be completed in the first place. I don’t like posting anything that’s untitled, which I now wonder is one of the effects of posting fic to a journal; it’s impossible for me to track down untitled stories and I'm really twitchy and particular about tagging these days.
When I was compiling my master list of fic (to be released tomorrow, god willing), I actually got annoyed when I didn’t have titles for drabbles written years ago.
And I cracked up that I had written a short one-off called untitled: in springtime, which duh, that is a title and look at me, sometimes I really am pretentious. (Especially when I quote T.S. Eliot but that’ll be discussed elsewhere.)
I tend to hate handwriting my fic as I have really godawful handwriting but I love scribbling down titles and playing with them. I'm more likely to be playing with titles than I am to be playing with sentence structure or developing the final lines of a story (I do however prefer to handwrite notes and questions/research that I have to check out). It's strange how a lot of my fic writing memories are less about the actual writing of the story than they are about the creation of the title.
In my weird (WEIRD) John/Aeryn story mending horizons, I remember being at dinner with RL/fannish friends, scribbling down title options while having conversations that absolutely nothing to do with said story but I needed to work it out, like a puzzle or I’d never be happy (it’s sort of like this: I sometimes am overcome with a need to title, which is different than a need to write as I can title sort of absentmindedly where if I’m writing, I don’t like being... looked at, much less spoken to, as I in a special zone that is fragile and mustn't be disturbed).
There were some bad titles considered for my Farscape story and sometimes I consider ripping off titles of other works, like I'm pretty sure I thought at one point to use Gravity's Rainbow even though I haven't read that book. At one point, it could have been called The G.R.I.V.A. Directive, which is an ugly title for a variety of reasons and simply didn't fit the story I was attempting to tell, not of the directive itself (it's in there as background noise and I didn’t want to interrupt the strange lucidity of the story's narrative), but of the consequences of trying to mend all potential (unrealized) realities. Also, zero-gravity sex. (or should that be, "in conclusion, zero-gravity sex"?)
A story isn't real to me until I have the title. And sometimes I do have secret titles, these overwrought, profoundly obnoxious titles that if I used, I would be smacked deservedly for being a pompous jackass. (This is why betas can be the better angels of our nature as they’ll look over a working title and say, “What the hell are you doing there?” For lo, we often need to be smacked in the face with the frozen fish of truth, and if not truth, then truthiness. If your gut says it’s wrong, it’s probably wrong.)
There is an awesome review/criticism on the interwebz about a fic I co-wrote in The O.C. fandom which dismisses the title as “stupid” even though the whole reason for the title was explained in the story. FYI the title is Word Porn. Laugh all you want but there was totally an important reason for it. Or so I recall.
Still, my pretentious titling that came out of being an insufferable English major (oh man, now that I’ve got a little bit of time on my hands, damn, I was highly smackable on some memorable occasions) is something that’s really hard to ignore. I continue to have T.S. Elliot inspired titles that I refuse to acknowledge as being overused. There’s one title in particular for this dead story that I wish I could re-use but I can't as the original story is too strong in my mind (and again, the highly smackable offense of invoking T.S. Eliot as I am far too often wont to do). I love the idea of using "Go South in the Winter" as a title, but that's my never-written Wolverine/Rogue story about Rogue and multiple personalities and her befriending a bisexual cross-dressing fortune teller (!) as she struggles to regain an overriding personality that'll let her be sane. Yeah, I can't finish that one due to a lack of ambition and a fear that the story will never match up to the idea of the story.
Lately I've noticed I've been lowercasing titles, which actually has an artistic reason and not that I’m too lazy to hit the Caps Lock key.
Mostly it's due to my idea that the title should be read as mislaid bit of poetry. I like doing that, thinking of titles in how they're spoken, the sounds they make. So something like Crib, Catch, Call isn't just about the segmenting of three particular moments that John Winchester experienced in raising his sons, there's a lyrical reason behind the title.
I don't actually collect interesting lines to use in the future. I never intend to do that, anyway. I do go back to Monica Youn’s book of poetry Barter a lot for inspiration and I have used a few lines of her poetry as epigraphs to a couple of fics. I just rip elements out of my own story most of the time if the title doesn't immediately come to me. If I'm really unsure or worried, I may pester ignited to link me to her big list of song lyrics (Beatles and other artists) for inspiration. Um, usually when this happens that means I just wrote some incredibly dirty porn and my brain has short-circuited and I NEED TO POST NAO, ZOMG, so I hunt for whatever works. Which is how he swallowed his pride and puckered his lips happened.
Sometimes I’m just playing with words. I mean, I think witchy women of the west is kind of an obvious play on not only Wicked Witch of the West but a play on wicked women of the west. It’s me putting forth my thesis on Dean and the mystery of his relationships with women, his innate longing for them and his lack of understanding of how they operate and that there’s no such thing as a witch, just a good woman or a bad (wicked) woman (as the character Rose states to him when he asks her if she’s a witch). That’s a title I had for a long time and a story that nearly died but didn’t, thanks to my own stubbornness and the help of several of my peeps. (Um, and now I refrain from rambling about the treatment of witches in the SPN world because in my world, witches are a lot cooler, yo. Or something.)
Titles can totally lead to unnecessary but satisfying arguments even if the title doesn’t manage to get spun into gold. I do like defending my titles to Stef when I'm in the beta/final draft process. "But does this title not suck?" is the ultimate criteria and sometimes I just give up. ghostings, fake zombies, and pranks, oh my is an example of my inability to figure out a proper title and just go for something that at least offers a little of what's going to happen in the story proper. (I also had a posting deadline on that story, so er, throw anything against the wall and that's the title that stuck.)
The memory of writing the story dies on me. What lasts is the creation of the title.
Sitting in that restaurant with friends as I furiously scribbled down titles before 'mending horizons' became it: the real title that made a dream-turned-story into reality.
Sitting on a coach at raelala's apartment with ignited discussing her wonderful J2 epic and telling her how I'd been listening to the Dar Williams songs she'd given me nonstop and how she didn't know what to title her story and I was like, "Dude! There's this one song that you have to use! Closer to Me." But what part? What lyric would best explain all the goings-on in Stef’s story?
There was a too-long suggestion I made and then I finally turned my iPod on and found the title that had been waiting for us to discover it: all that's left to chart…is nothing more than your own heart. God, All That's Left to Chart. I adore that title like a smishy fangirl. *fangirls all over ignited*
Sometimes I go for too-long title to the detriment of the story. Ultimately I went a little overboard in my Simpsons-referencing when it came to El Viaje Misterioso de los Hermanos Winchester, as no one really gets the title and I wonder if it was off-putting to gen-readers who were afraid the story was written in Spanish. Mentally I call it "The Evil Mermaid Story" or just "El Viaje" and I never translate it to the English title: The Mysterious Voyage of the Winchester Brothers.
Maybe I should've just called it "The Evil Fucking Mermaid Story."
I did actually poll my flist (for I love polling the electorate) about which variant on that title should be used and that was my final decision, so the fault is my own.
My current contender for most obnoxious use of titling may indeed be my Dean/Faith unfinished series Other Myths That Aren't True. First of all, that part is really unwieldy and that's just what I had in parentheses. Like: Kidney Punch (And Other Myths About Healing Abilities That Aren't True) is a damn long phrase and I now apologize for making people read those titles. I had a total of six or seven stories planned but after getting delayed in finishing the third story and having real difficulty writing the forth story, the series has officially been left for dead.
(Also as my end of the fic series was Dean and Faith going their separate ways as Faith was going to leave Buffy & Co.'s team and join up with Angel, I kind of got annoyed at myself for having decided that the end of their relationship was going to be too reminiscent of my past fics in other fandoms.)
I also polled my flist on the proper way to spell Sasparilla for the initial kickoff Dean/Faith fic Sasparilla Boots(Other Myths About One Night Stands That Aren't True) and heh, I went with the wrong spelling because I'm...like that sometimes.
My kink for titles with parentheses is kind of a sickness really. But I remain grateful that the intriguing title of knocking boots (the birds and the bees are at it again) kept me engaged in completing that story even though I have Sam-POV writing anxiety.
In conclusion, there is no conclusion, just a title, not a summation of the story as a whole, instead it's a promise of something that will be delivered even if the title is incredibly convoluted, confusing, or overly arty for the sake of arty.
Hah, that might be a warning about my own writing style. Awesome.