What’s in a Name?

Steph and Joe leaving church

When my son got married this past summer, we chose the song “Forever Young” to be played for the mother-son dance at the wedding reception.  As the date for the big event approached, friends asked about the music.  When I said the name of our song, I was met with perplexed looks and pauses.

“Hmm.  I know that song.  Really? That’s an interesting choice.”

Again and again, baffled looks followed the answer to the question.  I thought it was because people were under the impression that we had chosen a song sung by Bob Dylan.  “Oh, it’s very pretty.” I said, “Joan Boaz sings it.”  Still, that seemed to baffle people more.  Some people had never heard of Joan Boaz.

“Forever Young is a beautiful song.  Written by Bob Dylan in 1974, the song reflects my wishes for my son and his bride.

The mystery was finally solved one day when yet another friend asked.  She said, “Oh, I heard Rod Stewart do that song at a concert once.”

“Rod Stewart?  Really?”  I couldn’t imagine the song being sung by Rod Stewart.

She hummed a bit of it and I said, “Oh, that is not the song.  There must be more than one.”

I went home and pulled up Spotify on the computer.  Sure enough, there was another “Forever Young.”  In fact, I found three different songs with the same title (and there may be more).  Our friends from the 1980’s were unfamiliar with Dylan’s song so they assumed I was talking about the Rod Stewart song.

The soft lyrical words sung by Joan Boaz are much different than Rod Stewart’s raspy version.  The sentiments are very similar in the two songs, but the music and lyrics are different.  Yet other friends may have been thinking of the 1984 song by Alphaville, a version of which I was totally unfamiliar.

Take a listen–

Joan Baez – Forever Young

Rod Stewart – Forever Young

Alphaville – Forever YoungMotrher son dance

It made me think about book titles.  Long ago, I learned that there are no copyrights on titles,  No one “owns” a book title. I also read that book titles are very important.

How does one decide on a book title?  How can your book title stand out from other similar titles?   Some recommend looking for an important scene or part of your book and name it.  Make it intriguing so the reader will be curious and want to find out more about the book.  Some say make the title intriguing and ambiguous.

Five steps to a title:

1. Determine the gist of your story.

2. Brainstorm.  Make a list of words that might fit the gist of your story.

3. Refine. Select the word(s) that are strongest.

4. Research competition.  Do an internet search of the potential titles you have chosen.

5. Solicit opinions.  Ask your friends and colleagues.

Searching the internet, I discovered there is actually a “Book Title Generator” out there.  The site combines two or three nouns and/or adjectives to create titles such as “The Truth of Obsession,” “Waves of Ice,” “The Dreamer of Streams,” “The Unwilling Rose,” “The Silent Rainbow” and “Shores of Vision.”  What do any of these mean?  Personally, I doubt I would use a “title generator.”

My novel deals with a ghost and Hell.  “Hell Hath No Fury” seems to capture the plot.  Do I want a Shakespearean quote for my title?

I am not going to worry about it.  It will be my working title for now.  The undercurrent of my story is that “Hell is other people,” the premise for Jean Paul Sartre’s play, “No Exit.”  (I didn’t realize this until I was well into the story and my son, a philosophy major, pointed it out to me.)  So, should I call my story something to do with an exit or a play?

I am not convinced a book title is as important as some claim.  I think we obsess over the title too much when we should be writing our stories.  There are some wonderful book titles such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “the Agony and the Ecstasy” and “Gone with the Wind” but many books have nondescript titles.  And like the songs “Forever Young,” it’s the substance that matters in the long run.

“May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung.  And may you stay forever young.”

Dads birthday 1998





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