Finding the perfect story title can be challenging. I struggle for days, weeks, or sometimes months, before settling on The One. I’m not sure if it’s because my stack of written stories is constantly growing higher, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find fully satisfying titles, ones that don’t keep me up at night as I strive to find something better.
I was asked this week how I came up with the title for “All of a Heap”, which was published a few days ago in Plague: Aftermath. It is a title I am proud of because as you read the story, it can be interpreted in more than one way, which is always a thrilling accomplishment.
The story had gone untitled, referenced as “the ebola story” from its origins and was still unnamed as the submission deadline loomed. I didn’t want to make the title obvious by using ebola or plague, or something relating to the missing daughter. I wanted something that represented the story well, but wrapped in subtlety.
Despite the almost deserted part of the town used as the setting (most everyone has fled to escape the deadly plague), I kept returning to the idea of a crowd because the crux of the story revolves around a collection of victims piled high on the street.
I read and re-read the story without coming up with anything satisfactory so a word association and brainstorming session followed beginning with the word “crowd”. Mob. Congregation. Herd. Confluence.
Nothing felt right so I entered the results in turn in Thesaurus.com. Rable. Posse. Great unwashed. Rank and file. Not necessarily off from what I was looking for but none of the results were le mot juste.
Then I thought of a gathering crowd. Not right, but definitely heading in the right direction. “Gathering” yielded many duplicate results from the previous searches but lower on the page there is a section on related adjectives. Most of the results posted seemed like made-up words (allemang, agminate, coacervate) but one idiom stood out from the group in all its glory as if surrounded by glowing neon arrows: all of a heap.
So thank you for your help, Thesaurus.com. “The ebola project” became “All of a Heap” and was accepted within two days of submission. I like to think the title helped propel it to the top of the…heap.
In future, when I am really at a loss for naming a story, perhaps I should consider turning to Metallica for inspiration. Their song titles are more than fitting when not in the lyrics. Enter Sandman. Welcome Home. Fade to Black. No Leaf Clover (okay, though one of my favourites, I still haven’t figured out this one yet but…“then it comes to be, yeah” so it all works out in the end).
Summer Project Update: I am hoping to submit at least two stories in the coming week, three if I can swing it by the Wednesday and Thursday deadlines, but I have a feeling the titles for those stories might not be settled yet.