The Name Game

Last week my editor and I finalized the title for my second book. It was a relief. To me, a title is hugely important. When it changes, so does the flavour of the book. It got me thinking about the names we give our stories and our characters, and how much their identities are formed by the words we ascribe to them. Shakespeare was right to question it; there’s plenty in a name.

There were no such wrangles over ‘Frost Hollow Hall’. The book was acquired with that name, and the name stayed. Yet in its very earliest, incomplete form it was called ‘Our Beloved Kit’. Then as the house became such a focus for the story, it was an obvious switch. Tilly was called Nancy, until a fellow student in my MA class (you know who you are, CJ Harper!) said it made her think of Oliver Twist. Point taken. This definitely wasn’t the association I was after!

On my contract, Book 2 has the title ‘As yet unnamed’. Yet a month or so into writing it, I felt I knew what to call it. The story follows a girl called Louie on her quest to become a famous tightrope walker. Her hero is Charles Blondin who, in 1859, became the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Many tightrope walkers in the Victorian era were influenced by Blondin’s success. They even took on his name to define their acts. With this in mind, I decided to call my book ‘ Little Miss Blondin’. My family and friends liked it. I liked it. Faber weren’t so sure.

Their point was fair: would a middle- grade reader know who Blondin was? Would the title be effective as an instant reference to the story? Actually, this was something I’d considered myself. On a school visit recently, I even asked a class of year 6s if they’d heard of Blondin. They hadn’t.

It was back to the drawing board. My editor came up with a list of potential titles. She’s a very clever lady; she knows how I tick. As soon as I saw her suggestions, I just HAD to come up with my own. One of my favorites was ‘Showstopper’ because this is what Louie wants to become. My editor liked this too, so it went on the list of possibles.  Yet even this had its niggles. It did sound a bit like ‘Rooftoppers’. It might make people think of The Great British Bake Off. And… it’s the name of a Barry Manilow album.(NB: only one of these three things is a bad association.)

So I went back through my notebook. Right there at the front was a list of titles, written over 18 months ago during Book 2’s earliest days.  I chose my favourite from this list and sent it to Faber. Everyone loved it. So now Book 2 officially has a name. It is called…drum roll…

The Girl Who Walked On Air.

Hope you like it!

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One thought on “The Name Game

  1. Hi Emma! It’s odd how some titles seem right at the time but then, someone points it out to you and comes up with a change and then you go, ‘Ah, I see what you’re getting at now!’ And it fits the story perfectly. 🙂

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