Today, I want to talk about titles.
And not the Prince George Cambridge kind. I want to talk about book titles, film titles, and why genres are shit. So that’s what I’m going to do.
If you read a certain genre for too long, you’ll notice things. Maybe it won’t be surprising anymore that the love interest is a supernatural creature who is too dangerous to love, because that’s what happens in all the paranormal romance novels; maybe you’ll just notice that those love interests never have an unassuming name like Roger. Either way, you’ve noticed a pattern.
And it’s not just in the storyline or characters that you can find patterns; it’s in the titles too.
Let’s nerd out for a moment and look at two of the biggest star-related science fiction film franchises. Star Wars, apart from giving its films numbers so you only get partially confused when they don’t come out in chronological order, gives them names like this:
- A New Hope
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
- Revenge of the Sith
Which are all pretty straight forward names. They mean nothing if you haven’t seen the films, but once you’ve seen it you understand the meaning of the names.
Star Trek, apart from having too many films to mention, in its newest revamp has done something pretty similar: Next Generation and Into Darkness, while a reasonable amount more vague than the Star Wars names, still tell you what you need to know after you’ve watched the film and don’t really have a need for an informative title.
And it’s not just sci-fi that has it’s own brand of titles: a lot of contemps go for the one-word title; a lot of urban fantasy novels will have one word that is repeated in the title throughout the series (think Magic Bleeds, Magic Slays, Magic Bites; Grave Witch, Grave Visions, Grave Mercy; First Grave on the Left and lots of other Grave related things; Biting Bad, Biting Cold, Friday Night Bites [three points for each writer you can match up with the titles]). Most genres have a reccurring theme within their books and their titles.
And sometimes that can be annoying.
If you’re a reader who’s sick of a genre like I am of paranormal romance, it can kind of piss you off that they can’t even have variety in their titles. If you’re a writer like I am who has a hard enough time choosing titles, finding something that fits the status quo but not enough that is forgettable can be a pain in the backside.
However, if you’re a reader who finds themselves in an unknown, badly sorted bookstore or looking through one of those sale bins for a book, seeing a title and knowing that it’s a crime novel and that you hate crime novels is helpful.
So it turns out that, just occasionally, cliches are good for your writing. Unfortunately.