Title to title

Now that Swan Harp is under consideration with a publisher, I’ve started the second of three linked and sequential stories each of which I hope will be readable as a free-standing story. I think of Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia; each story can be read independently, although they take place in particular sequence. I read the first two and the seventh, and only discovered the others later.

The current working title is “The Bog”, which I’m not really happy with. All right, it’s a working title, but it might turn out to be the actual title of the book after all. I knew a young woman once who used a particular name for her baby in utero and gave the child her “real” name when she was born. Guess what? She very shortly returned to the name she’d been using all along, and that became the child’s legal name. In the same way, I feel a working title may have a prior claim on the title page, no matter what you try to name the book when it’s born, so I’d like to use one I can live with.

Here’s the rub. The title I want to use is “The Last Black Swan”. I like it, it fits the story. I’m just concerned about resonances in popular culture, specifically Natalie Portman’s movie “Black Swan”.

It’s true that my story is not Swan Lake, nor even the hash that “Black Swan” made of Swan Lake. (I was so disappointed – seriously!) But I know that because of all the fuss and fooferaw around a highly acclaimed film, any use of the words “black” and “swan” in conjunction will probably draw comments like “Oh, I loved that movie!” or “Is this a novelization of the movie?” and require tiresome explanation. There may well be wailing and gnashing of teeth, in private.

Or perhaps not. When I first looked up “Shepherd in Residence” on Amazon.com, I found that there was another book with that same title, published three years before mine and on a totally different subject. The world contains many books and movies, and it’s likely that the same title will occur to more than one creator. Perhaps I’m anxious for nothing – it’s a state I’m in from time to time, one which we call “borrowing a jack”.

I like “The Last Black Swan” as a working title, maybe even the eventual permanent title of the book. I’m not so crazy about what I’m using right now. Whether or not it’s true, I believe that I’ll do a better writing job if I am working with a title I like. Maybe I should just change it and let the chips fall where they may.

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4 Responses to Title to title

  1. Henry Troup says:

    I think I know “borrowing a ladder” as a story similar to “borrowing a jack”. Does it happen on the doorstep?

    I agree you should use a title you like. “Mules in Horses’ Harness” was the original working title of Gone With the Wind, fwiw.

  2. ecreith says:

    Yes, the “borrowing a jack” story does happen on the doorstep – “And you can keep your damn jack!”
    “Mules in Horses’ Harness” – really? Never would have thought. But it fits, too.
    I’ve changed the working title on my draft. Now I have to find a matching title for the third book. Swan Harp, The Last Black Swan, then what?

  3. I have no problem with “The Last Black Swan”, except that to me, it sounds awkward. It does not make me think of Natalie Portman (The Black Swan movie made me think more of the Red Shoes) but is a little reminiscent of Swan Lake – and a little of Afon Araf 🙂 As you say, books with similar titles are published, sometimes within months of each other; but usually the reading public for each of them is different. I don’t think anyone will remember the movie in a couple of years’ time, so I would not worry.

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