Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Significance of Titles

Some people believe that words have mystical powers. There are others (mainly kabbalists) who think that even individual letters possess a mysterious force that when viewed in particular combinations, can reveal clues to the secrets of the universe. I was never one to take such things seriously until something happened that made me think twice about the power of words. But it was not just any words. It was the words of a title. My title. The title of my book.

I originally called my novel Tenacity. I liked the title for its simplicity and its suggestion of strength and stubborn resistance. But inside, I knew it was not the right title for my book. And I am sure that others knew it too, although they were probably too polite to say it out loud.

As soon as I dropped the title, it was as if the book had been reborn. Of course, I must admit that before I did so, I made major revisions to the novel itself. I added and changed and fixed and polished until I was confident it was as perfect as it could be. Yet something was askew. It still felt flawed. And then it hit me: the title. It was all wrong.

Almost miraculously (in a matter of minutes?), the new title came to me as if it had been waiting for me all along: Come Back for Me.

Yes. That was it. It felt so right. And I immediately knew that others felt it too. As soon as I’d mention it to them, there was a reaction. A good one. They would look up and smile, as if they could hear it gently humming in their ears: Come Back for Me.

Certainly titles cannot make a book speak to the human heart. The book must do that itself. But a title can beckon a reader. It can draw them near. And if not for that wondrous meeting, what is writing for?

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