Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Entry # 159 “Whisper To Me"

Photo Credit - Jan Bowman - Spring 2013
Eudora Welty is reported to have said, “I’m terrible about titles. I don’t really know how to come up with them.”  Writers often struggle finding the best title for their work. So how do we name our stories? What shall we ‘name’ a story or novel, if we are to suggest, intrigue, and connect with readers so that they say the title in their mind? And if we truly find the perfect one, we can imagine our readers saying it aloud or whispering it softly to themselves as they wander among the stacks in a library or bookstore. Readers saying a title, bring it to life with their breath.

Music and metaphor live within great titles, especially when a title confronts the ear and the mind with the richness of promised pleasures. Great titles leave readers with a desire to explore, to discover and savor what else lies within the pages of the story.

Looking in my bookcase I see titles that truly intrigue me now as much as when I read the books quite some time ago. For example:  Grace Paley’s The Little Disturbances of Man, or Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars or Peter Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow or John Dufresne’s Deep in the Shade of Paradise or Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures or Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. These are just a few examples of titles that were perfect for what I discovered upon reading these books.

In some ways finding the title within the book is a bit like naming children. Both involve a difficult process requiring thought and patience, if we hope to find both the truth and promise within.

David Madden's writers’ handbook, Revising Fiction, says, “Titles have a runic, iconic, talismanic, touchstone, charged-image effect.”

About Jan Bowman

Jan Bowman’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others. Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, her stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, a Pen/O’Henry award and a recent story was a finalist in the 2013 Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at or

No comments:

Post a Comment