A Tale of Book Titles and Latin Terrors

Have I ever told you guys the story of my book title?

No?

*cracks knuckles*

Some of you may recall a time before Aeterna was Aeterna. If you do, I feel sorry for you; my writing was a mess back then. Naturally, I didn’t know it was a mess — not at the time — and to my young, innocent brain, “The Silvershaw of Glenborn” was the coolest title ever. After all, it was the very reason my book came into being. The title randomly popped into my head one day, and I thought, “Neato! I should write a story for this!” and proceeded to work a bunch of unrealistic happenings around those four prestigious words.

Disregard the fact that I had no idea what a silvershaw was, or how on earth its connection to Glenborn (I didn’t know where that was, either) was significant. The names sounded cool, so I rolled with it.

Several years later, I’m still rolling with the mess my younger self created.

As I’ve grown older and learned more about my craft, I acquired a few scraps of sense. And with those few scraps of sense came the realization that “The Silvershaw of Glenborn” just wasn’t going to cut it. The focus of my book had shifted, and the old title no longer said what I needed it to say. Nor was it a particularly riveting name, which all book titles ought to be if they can possibly help it.

In a moment of utter horror, I knew that the old title had to go.

This was somewhat devastating.

See, I am a chronic failure at naming things. Even from the earliest days of my childhood, that fact has been obvious. The very first doll I ever had was named “Crabby Baby”. (She looked really grumpy, okay?) I had another doll named “Mitsubishi” (I thought it was a cool Japanese name…), and another named “Jack-o-Lantern. (Until I learned what they were, and Jack-o-Lantern became Jacqueline.)

I would like to say that my naming ability has improved as the years have gone by.

But then all five of our new kittens ended up being named “Ferdinand”.

All of them.

I am a terrible namer.

And titles… Titles are hard, by anyone’s standards. You take this thing you’ve spent hours of pain grinding out, and somehow have to come up with a few random words that will encapsulate 200+ pages of character development, plot twists, suspense, symbolism, and angst, all without being too direct.

Not only that, but you have to make it interesting, appealing, eye-catching, unique, and thematically-intriguing, NOT TO MENTION there are a thousand cliche titles out there you have to steer clear of. Also, did I mention you only have a few words to do ALL OF THIS??

If you’re not even a little stressed by now, you’re not human.

I briefly considered naming the thing “Bucket Head” and moving on.

Briefly.

But after at least a week (if not more) of heavy thinking and minor panicking, one word slowly began to burn its way into my head:

Immortal.

It was so simple. So short and unassuming, yet still holding an immense amount of gravitas and grandeur for only one word. It fit my book to a T, and I loved it. I wanted to brand it to my forehead. I wanted to print it on T-shirts and wear them everywhere. I blathered endlessly about it to my entire family, and even spent an hour making a ton of collages and mock-up covers for it.

My book was officially Immortal.

Immensely pleased with myself, I ran off and emailed a close friend and writing mentor to “get her opinion.” (Though really, I had no intention of listening to that opinion if it was negative, because… come on, dear, it’s an awesome name.)

Fortunately, she liked it.

Unfortunately, the reason she liked it was because she’d staked a claim on it long before I even knew my old title had to go.

She was naming one of her books Immortal. That name was taken. I couldn’t have it.

Drat.

I’ll spare you the devastation and broken pieces, because honestly, it wasn’t a pretty day for me. My mom will back me up on this.

“Just pick a different name…?” she dared to suggest, her voice laden with that pathetic variety of naivety that only comes from non-writers.

“You don’t UNDERSTAND,” I moaned, face shoved into the corner of the sofa. “It was PERFECT but it’s not MINE because I have been ROBBED by that PERSON who PRETENDED to be my FRIEND so she could RUIN my LIFE. I can’t recover, mom. There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts go too deep, and have taken hold.”

“Name it something Latin,” she said, completely ignoring me.

“It fit my story so well,” I whimpered, not listening to a word she said. “Nothing will ever be as perfect.”

Meanwhile, mom was busy googling a Latin dictionary. “Name it ‘Impraesentiarum’.”

“For three glorious seconds, my writing life had meaning. And then WHAM—”

“Name it Amaranthanine.”

“—it all came crumbling down. Now it’s utterly dark in the abyss before my feet. A light shines behind me, but I can’t turn. I can do nothing but stare at the charred remains of my happy future.”

“Hey, name it Aeterna!”

I rose from my mound of self-pity and trauma-blankets to give her my deepest, most sincere scowl, and throw a sock in her general direction. “THAT is the STUPIDEST name I have EVER heard.”

She looked mildly offended. “Well, don’t say I didn’t try.”

I burrowed back into my misery and prepared to languish in inconsolable suffering for the rest of the day. Except…

Come to think of it, Aeterna was actually a pretty cool word.

“What’s it mean?” I cautiously asked.

Mom sniffed, refusing to look at me. “Eternal.”

Immortal. Eternal. Aeterna.

By golly.

That’s when a strange thing happened. The longer I thought about it — the more I whispered it, in my head and out loud — the more I liked it. The more it began to fit. Until suddenly, it had surpassed Immortal. I liked Aeterna better. Instead of growling at my friend for snatching my precious name away, I felt immense gratitude to her for giving me the obstacle needed to find a name that better suited my book.

And suddenly, Aeterna wasn’t only a title. It was a people group and a culture and a language and a conflict. The door to world-building — something I’d had a strangely difficult time with — opened wider than I’d ever thought possible. My theme went from a bungled mess to a tidy little roll of twine, tying everything together. Conflict between characters became clearer, more precise.

One little name opened up a whole slew of new possibilities for my book.

Which was nice.

I don’t want to go full out Aesop Mode on you with my nuggets of wisdom and “moral of the story”, but seriously, guys, think about it:

By the ruin of my “unbeatable” idea, I was given the opportunity to find something even better.

Since then, with that thought in mind, the disappointments and annoyances and set-backs that life has thrown my way don’t seem quite as villainous. Because in the back of my head, there’s always this “what if…?”

What if this is God saying, “I don’t want you to settle for second best?”

It’s a mildly intriguing idea.

And thus it was that my book had a new title, I learned a valuable lesson, and my mother’s ego inflated to unnaturally large heights. (Seriously, she’ll never let me forget that she’s responsible for my new title. She’s quite pleased with herself. Someone, please help.)

And in the meantime, I’ve sprained my tongue trying to pronounce Amaranthanine and Impraesentiarum.

~Sarah

 

60 thoughts on “A Tale of Book Titles and Latin Terrors

  1. Can I just say, I would like to apologize… again… for thus dashing your dreams. In my defense, you don’t know how I panicked when I heard your ‘new’ idea and agonized over what a terrible thing it was that you couldn’t be happy just because I’d beat you to that particular place in that particular timeline… even considered re-naming my book. Briefly. ;P

    Also, ‘second best’? I am offend! THAT JUST HAPPENS TO BE THE TITLE OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, I’LL HAVE YOU KNOW.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I briefly considered starting this post by apologizing in advance to all personages who would squirm while reading it. ๐Ÿ˜‚ But then I thought, “Naaaah, she can suffer for 1.3 seconds.” But just think, Kate. You are LITERALLY the reason I’m so happy with what my book eventually ended up being named.

      SECOND BEST FOR *ME*, DEAR. READ BETWEEN THE LINES.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *raises paw* What is this thing about Bucket Head? Does a character walk around with a bucket on their head? Like Bucket in the How to Train Your Dragon series? (Cause that’s who comes to mind.) Or is it something else?

        Like

        1. Oh, sorry. I somehow missed this comment.

          There is a long and convoluted history over how the Bucket Head came to be, but the long and short of it is: As far back as I can remember, every time someone in my family needed a name for something, my dear mother would suggest they call it Bucket Head. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. That’s the kind of person she is.

          Naturally, I take every opportunity to get in a reference about it. ๐Ÿ˜

          Liked by 1 person

        1. BONES WILL BE SHATTERED, NECKS WILL BE WRUNG…

          You know, there was a time in this family when either mom, Joseph, or I would tentatively say, “Bones…?” and all three of us would simultaneously burst into raucous song while Anna and dad looked mildly confused in the background. It happened a lot.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh my word. I love y’all.
            Sometimes some us more raucous kids will sing it just for kicks, and man, that’s one of the funnest songs to sing ever. Especially if you imitate the grand finale of the Great Goblin, turning around and around and looking generally abominable.

            And HEY, this is my favorite of the national days yet. I just discovered that it’s NATIONAL BOOK LOVERS DAY. *and the crows cheers* Is that not beautiful, everyone?

            (*and the crows cheers* is actually what I wrote—ON ACCIDENT—but it almost made me choke when I saw it so I’m leaving it for others to have the same fate.)

            Like

            1. Alright, that’s it. We’re having a concert the next time I see you. This must happen.

              ALSO, HOW DID I NOT KNOW NATIONAL BOOK LOVERS DAY WAS A THING?? I think that should be EVERY day. So the crows can cheers indefinitely.

              *chokes*

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  2. TITLING THINGS IS THE WORST.
    Absolute worst. All my stories get named after the main character, so that’s unfortunate. (I’m just hoping that if I ever get published my publishing house will be good at naming things).
    “her voice laden with that pathetic variety of naivety that only comes from non-writers.” << that is the most relatable thing second only to problems titling. Parents just don't understand do they? Except my mother has also contributed to my writing in rather large ways as well.
    โ€œName it something Latin,โ€ <<the best cure all ever. I'm going to give my books Latin titles from now on.
    But your title does have a very cool backstory, I enjoyed reading about it!

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    1. Well hey, Marissa Meyers named all her books after the protagonists, and they still ended up being wildly popular. There is hope for you yet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Parents are beautiful creatures because even when they have sum zero idea what you’re talking about, they still let you ramble and whine and rant and have brilliant brain children while having a one-sided discussion with them. It’s mildly hilarious.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. On a random note, my sister and I used to have toy mice that we named “Bicycle” and “Scooter.” *facepalm*

    Anyway, quite the intriguing backstory! I’m glad you settled for Aeterna.

    (I almost wrote “Aetherna.” *sigh* Dekreel, you are such an Aetherlighter…)

    Like

    1. HA! That’s hilarious. We once knew a kid who named his kitten “Motorcycle”… there is some sort of strange pattern going on here…

      Also, can I ask a question? What exactly is the Aetherlight? A bunch of people kept referencing it on Kingdom Pen, but I have no idea what they’re talking about…

      Like

      1. *squeaks in excitement that I get to talk about it*

        The Aetherlight is the AWESOMEST game I have ever played. It’s an allegorical, Bible-centered, steampunk questing game where you basically get rid of fog, fight robots, and spread the impact of The Resistance.

        It’s made for kids and pre-teens, but I still recommend it to people of all ages. (That also means you. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

        Anyway, Aislinn, Iliara, Ariella, Silverclaw and a few other Kapeefers and Emberites play it besides me.

        Like

        1. So it’s like one of those… big, internet games, but from a family-friendly and Christian standpoint? Huh! That’s really neat. Is that where those Kapeefers got their somewhat strange names?

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          1. Yeah, basically. It’s an awesome and totally underrated game. Highly recommended.

            Yyyyyup, that’s right! You find some pretty amusing names on that game. “Bonnetfolly” isn’t even the strangest. XD

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  4. Thatโ€™s a really cool story! Iโ€™m still pretty early in my WIP, but thankfully Iโ€™ve already figured out a name for it: Insidious. Which I think is an epic name- except for one minor detail…. IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH MY STORY. Seriously, โ€˜Bucket Headโ€™ would fit it better. *wails* But anyway Iโ€™m sticking with that until I figure out the plot more.
    Ah well. The price one pays for genius ๐Ÿ˜œ

    Oh, and I donโ€™t think Iโ€™ve mentioned this yet, but welcome back!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is great.
    It’s funny that in your words, that-is-the-stupidest-name-I-have-ever-heard is now your title. Nicely done.
    XD

    I did meet some one on KP once who world had the same name as mine. A name that I came up with after several other varients and had to say, “Allore. Just name it Allore.” Many moons after that decison the person and I discovered they were named the same thing. Neither of us budged so the worlds remain owning the same name.
    Also this was after I changed the series title from “Guardians” which was VERY original. Not.
    Though the new name may change again…

    Like

    1. Oooh, man, that’s tragic… *mourns for you* I don’t know why it’s so hard to be original these days… (Out of curiosity, who’s the other person you share a world name with?) Hey, if it’s any help, Bucket Head is still up for grabs!!

      *ten points go to Sarah for her stunning helpfulness*

      Liked by 1 person

      1. In my mind that proves it’s a good name. ๐Ÿ˜œ
        I think it was Elizabeth (which ironically is my middle name), but her story sounded different enough we ignored the doppleganging world names. I thought it was kinda cool and a bit awkward. But what can I say if it wasn’t her it would be someone else I didn’t know about. I’m probably just used to it, since I know a few other Hannahs and most of them have the same middle name as me (my parents claim they were trying to be original. If you look on Behind the Name, it has a popularity chart for my name. The spike is when I was born. Everyone had the same idea. Great minds think alike. [I’m not mad or anything. I think it’s kinda cool. Also my initials spell HER and He Rose, so I can’t complain.) Life is hilarious sometimes. ๐Ÿ˜น

        *imagines a kingdom named Bucket Head where everyone wears a bucket like Bucket in the HTTYD series*
        What is this thing about Bucket Head anyway?

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        1. SHAME BE UPON that foul, name-snatching villainess of an Elizabeth! Dour words will pass when next we speak. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          And OH, honey, I can seriously relate about having a common name. Just within my extended family, there are two other Sarah’s, and every church I’ve ever visited has at least four. Such is our lot in life, m’dear, though when you think about it, such names are actually perfect facades for being intriguing. As a friend once told me, “It cloaks so many secrets and mysterious characteristics behind such a common name.” ๐Ÿง

          Liked by 1 person

          1. *nervous laughter* She had it first…
            It’s like when I found out there was already a Panther super hero… I had invented my own Panther character and then I discover Marvel has beat me to it! (Mine was The Panther, and their’s is Black Panther…)

            ๐Ÿ˜€
            And people will wonder where all these people with the same name came from. “We form clubs with people of the same name to confuse others.” said one.
            “Just wait till we dress alike.” Said another.
            “And imagine what we could do with short dialogue tags with just our names! You would get dizzy!” Said yet another one.
            “You will forgot which one I am and then we shall take over the world in a confused state.” And there’s more of them.
            “We will even confuse the narrator!” Oh, please no!
            Another book idea…
            Those are wise words. They never know what hit them. Muh, ha, ha!

            Like

  6. A fascinating tale indeed and a wonderful lesson to be sure! I didn’t even try to pronounce Amaranthanine and Impraesentiarum. I can’t even pronounce Aeterna. Is a-tern-uh? E-tern-uh? Something else?

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  7. OHHHHGAAAH I CAN’T STAND IT WHEN PEOPLE STEAL TITLES!!! IT IS LITERALLY THE WORSTEST. ๐Ÿ˜ก

    But I’m so glad yours turned out for the better. Seriously, Aeterna is such a cool thing to say (and fun too). I think I’ll spare you a chair just because it’s so awesome. ๐Ÿ˜›

    Danielle | silverphoenixwriter.blogspot.com

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      1. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

        What can I say. You’re an angry dragon. ๐Ÿ˜ก

        Fortunately, I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about people stealing your title. Sector One is beyond coolness and originality. We can bask in the loveliness of our titles together.

        (You know, you ought to start giving people “1 Un-melted Chair” coupons for special occasions and birthdays and stuff…)

        Like

  8. Aaaaand I finally show up. Firstly, I love your post, and the way you cane up with your title is just amazing. Can I borrow your mother’s inspirational skills at some point? I am in desperate need of them.

    Like

        1. Ugh… the inspiration banks are that dry, eh? *sympathizes on you with warm blankets and soft music and chocolate and kittens* Hey, if you ever need a brainstorming/mental support buddy, I’m always available to bounce ideas off of or just generally complain at. (Particularly the latter. I’m very good at being people’s ranting board. It’s the INTJ stoicism. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

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  9. Hi Sarah!

    I love the name. (Good going, MOP!)
    Unfortunately, my family has been no help whatsoever in naming my stories. I’ve named every single one. But fortunately, I am not completely deficient in naming things. I mean, they may not be perfect, but they’re not Ferdinand, Jack – O – Lantern, or Bucket Head. *gives an innocent smile*
    To be honest, if I asked my family to help me name my stories, which I have, they would suggest something preposterously cheesy. (Somehow I managed to be the only one in my family who is not naturally corny. I’ve learned how to be, but it takes effort.) My Dad might give me something raw to work with, but he would rather me figure it all out myself and he doesn’t give me any suggestions. He does listen to my story ideas though. And then tells me that I can do it.

    I am the one in my family who would look a word up in a Latin/Greek/Hebrew dictionary and get that cool word. I mean, I named a cave room Kekrym, which is a shortened Greek word for “hidden”. Is it not cool or what?!

    ~Akir

    Like

    1. “Somehow I managed to be the only one in my family who is not naturally corny.”

      Are you SURE of that? *peers closely* Absolutely POSITIVE?? *scrutinizes Abetha* 100% CERTAIN??? *gets punched in the nose*

      Ahem.

      Your dad is like my mom. The quiet cheerleaders. Supportive parents truly are a blessing.

      (Also, a Kekrym is insanely cool. Let’s all learn Latin and Greek so we can sound cooler.)

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I hate titles. My book, Fidelyon, went through for or five titles. Cause Legend of the Shield just didn’t cut it, and neither did The Shield and the Spear or Shattered Spear (which is a spoiler anyway). Would you know it… Fidelyon comes from Latin roots too. XD

    And yeah. That friend. *shakes head* I frankly don’t know what I’m going to do, bending over backwards to twist ideas so they aren’t like hers. People are going to think we like, knew and talked with each other about things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well hey, Fidelyon is an epic name, so I suppose the journey doesn’t really matter if the result is cool.

      *realizes what a messed-up worldview that is*

      Heh. Anyway.

      Between Kate and Brandon Sanderson, the world became a crueler place. They make it very difficult for us poor minions in the fight against unoriginalness. ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I really like the title for your book! And the backstory to it is awesome.
    I totally relate for thinking about the title for a week. I hate titling my books, and I take a ridiculously loooong time to title them. It is so stressful!

    Like

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