“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Some may say I meant to write “Stars of Heroes” when they see Stars of Heros as the series title and they’d be wrong. It’s definitely heros without the “e.” A few years ago, when I was searching for an identity for the series, my fellow author and friend came up with the word play on horse and heroes as Heros. We then explored what else the series was about to add the “Stars of” part. I’ve grown to love the title because I didn’t want to have any comparison with the Heroes franchise, I like the word play, and it sounds sort of like something from Greek mythology. Turns out, Heros is actually part of Paleo-Balkan mythology, which makes the word have meaning in real life beyond what I’m using it for.
With the series name out of the way, how does an author go about naming the books within it? Like any part of writing, the inspiration for them can happen anywhere at any time. Most of my book titles came when I was sitting down contemplating what I wrote. One happened in the shower when I was wondering if I wanted to continue on as a writer. No matter where and when it is created, the key to a good book title is that it catches the potential reader’s attention and piques their curiosity enough for them to look inside. Should the title hint at the book’s content? If it’s non-fiction, yes, because a properly named book adds credibility to the contents. With fiction, it’s not a requirement as a misdirection could add more to the intrigue and mystique of the novel.
Spirit of the Lone Horse sounds like it’s the story of a horse and their heart. While that’s part of the premise, it’s not the complete one. The title was inspired by scenes in The Black Stallion and other horse-related stories, both fiction and non-fiction, where a stallion is standing on a cliff or some other high point and looking down surveying his territory. With the title, I’m capturing the steady certitude and power created by that image not only for horses in the story, but the humans as well. More than that, I am honoring the essence, creativity, insight, audacity, heart, will, and soul of each and every character, be they human or horse, as they deal with the challenges I put in front of them.
Chapter titles as well as numbers are a tradition that I’m maintaining in every book of the series. In non-fiction, they are a requirement because they help the reader understand what the chapter contains. In fiction, they seem to be disappearing and that saddens me. I know that some older books don’t have them as well, but it seems like more and more all I’m seeing is chapter numbers without the names. Not that naming a chapter is easy. The chapter title in a novel shouldn’t give away too much about what is happening, but it still has to be relevant to what is going on. The other thing is that while the chapter titles can be recycled between books, they really shouldn’t be since it might confuse readers by making them think that they have read the content before.
In Spirit, I sort of cheated and used book titles from the rest of my series for some of the chapter titles. Will I do that for other books? Maybe, but only if they fit. For most of the rest, I managed to keep from stating the obvious or dropping major plot hints. Other times, that couldn’t be helped. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite chapter title or two without giving away too much of the story. I will say that while the surroundings and people involved are different, the thoughts and feelings expressed by main character in the one called First Ride are some of the same I had when I learned to ride above a trot many years after a pony threw me one too many times.
What about the characters themselves? Well, that’s like naming a baby, so a good place to start is all the resources on baby names and the meaning of names. Then there are names that have meaning or are inspirational to the author for whatever reason. The key here is not to use ones that might bring on a copyright infringement lawsuit or start with the same letter too many times. While I’m not guilty of the former, I had a little trouble with the latter as about eleven characters all have first names beginning with “J.” There would have been more, but I caught myself.
If you are a reader, what’s the title of your favorite series, book, or chapter, or character name and why? Just because it’s popular or trending, doesn’t count. If you are a writer, what inspires your title and character names? Leave your responses in the comments.