Friday, October 15, 2010

Here's the thing: By the time I get halfway through a first draft, my work has a name. It fits the story, as I see it, from the point where I start to actually see the story.

(The Tom Petty music in this coffee shop is too loud and makes it difficult for me to enjoy the Smiths and Noisettes and Belle and Sebastian and Avett Brothers in my headphones. The complicated musical collision is unpleasant and I keep making all the typos and losing track of sentences before I finish them.)

Where was I? Oh yeah. Titles. When I wrote |-1|, it was called Splinters. In my head, and to my wife, I still sometimes call it Splinters. It was only very recently that I renamed the folders in my PC, from Splinters to Absolute Value.

I've got a WIP right now--about a girl addicted to a popular MMORPG, losing her grip on reality--that I call A Terrible Mistake. The aspect of the plot that produced that title is now gone, but I think I'll always call it A Terrible Mistake in my mind.

There's this other one--I just sold it, and I got my revision notes from the AE last night--that I've been calling Two Summers around the Fire for, well, like a year, I guess. It takes place during two separate summers, and between them was a fire. But yeah, it sounds more like it's a camping story. (Is there such a thing as a camping story? I've never camped, so don't ask me.) Therefore, I exhibited exactly no surprise when that title had to go.

We brainstormed. Everyone I know brainstormed! Well, like five people I know brainstormed! I don't know a lot of people.


We came up with a few great ideas, several mediocre ideas, and a multitude of crap. (Have you ever seen a multitude of crap?! It's not what the angels had in mind, I can assure you.)

We narrowed it down. We bartered and haggled and compromised and held firm. We added commas. We took them back out. We put them back in. We added "is," and took it out again. We put it back. We capped it. We lowercased it. We took it out again. There was a comma under my desk, so I put that in. A question mark got stuck in my shoe and I had a limp for a week.

I went to the Metro State library and worked with the research librarian for 45 minutes to properly attribute a quote of Jeremy Taylor that he probably never actually said.

I watched this video like six times.

And this one.

And then this one, for no good reason. It's a freaking Four-Chord Song, but I couldn't stop. I'm going to watch it again.

Then, last night, I met with the AE at a coffee shop here in St. Paul, where we both live. While I waited for him to show, I watched this video again. I'll leave out the boring part, or at least save it for a post about revisions, and cut to the title--the final title for what was Two Summers around the Fire--and is now . . .

Brooklyn, Burning

Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Fire. Love. Arson. Sunrise, sunset. It's pretty perfect, really.


6 Responses to “Titles”
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Annie said...

Please now come up with the title for my dissertation. Thanks, Your Cousin-in-Law.

October 15, 2010 at 2:42 PM
Blythe Woolston said...

I like titles, but I'm convinced I don't know a good one from a bad one. Today I found another one. I love it much. It's really helping me think about a book I haven't started writing yet. That may be the purpose of the titles authors give our books--helping us write the story. Once things get to a certain point, they can just fall away like scaffolding.

October 15, 2010 at 2:55 PM
Steve Brezenoff said...

B: Scaffolding is exactly right.

A: I'd have to read it first, or you can have the titles we didn't use. They're in my kitchen trash can, though, and probably have some cheerios and coffee grinds and tomato sauce on them, but they're pretty sturdy and that should rinse right off.

October 15, 2010 at 2:58 PM
Kangaroo B said...

(1) I hadn't heard the Avett Brothers before. Good stuff!

(2) A few of the other videos were blocked from my new country because evidently they cause blindness in wombats. What was the four-chord song? (Not the video making fun of four-chord songs, but the video that you can't stop watching). Maybe I can find a marsupial-safe version.

October 16, 2010 at 8:37 AM
Steve Brezenoff said...

Kanga: The song is called "Scar," and it's by an Aussie named Missy Higgins. I expect you've heard it in your local grocery store over the PA. I think it was a pretty major hit down there. Also it's a terrible song. Please dno't judge me too harshly. I have a weakness for a crappy song now and then.

October 16, 2010 at 10:31 AM
Tina Laurel Lee said...

Love the title and the whole post. I'm horrible at naming things. Although I think I did okay with my children.

October 18, 2010 at 3:40 PM