I Don’t Understand The Title

I’ve seen some comments in reviews and heard questions from beta readers that boil down to: “I don’t understand the title.”

When I started outlining the Rimes trilogy, I had the source material (comic book scripts, short stories, the setting bible). I thought three books was the sweet spot for the story, but I didn’t have three titles. The original comic book concept was originally going to have the title The Doll House (later changed to Machine & Soul). Neither seemed appropriate for the trilogy, which tells the tale of a man who is truly too good for his time.

So I broke the stories down to what they represented in the overall human story for the setting. Book one covers a sequence of events that pushes society right up to the brink of a total disaster then ends with things frozen. It’s a moment in time where things are obviously going to change and probably in a very bad way. Looking at the book as a whole, that’s actually the point of it. To an outside observer, it should be that “oh” that comes just before everything falls to pieces. Since it was ultimately societal change that was happening, the idea that hit me seemed perfect–Momentary Stasis is used to describe that stable point just before things start to come into conflict to produce change.

Book two was about the start and acceleration of the change that was hinted at in book one. Foolish decisions lead to violence. The exploited turn the tables. War begins. The old order fails. And our hero leads the charge to make things change. He tries to bring a new order to the chaos, so I went with Transition of Order.

Finally, book three was about paying the price, reaping what you sow, etc. And not just as a society but for our hero. The little nugget that was there throughout the series–the dreams, the in media res book opening, the constant references to sleep/illusion/mirage/nightmare–made the first part of the title obvious: Awakening. And what were we all awakening to? Judgment. After years of letting things spiral out of control and not standing up to the excesses of the metacorporations and the resultant greed and abuse, we were on the brink of destruction, complete loss of free will. So Awakening to Judgment.

For The Chain, the title choices were based off the series concept. Beyond the horror and suspense underpinnings and the magical realism, the story is a deconstruction of mythologies, folklore, and religions. It uses the language and structure of the subject matter to explore it. For instance, in book four, the telling of a visit to the spirit world is handled through a Native American folklore styling.

I wanted to use the language of religion to communicate the subject of each book, so I turned to something I knew from my younger years: gospel music lyrics and song titles. The first book tells the tale of wayward children gone astray and returning home. Home in the sense of a physical place, a spiritual place, and a state of mind. Originally, I chose By and By for the title, but I was convinced to go with something else. So, The Journey Home.

Book two’s tale deals with foundations–Harrison Mansion’s foundation brought up out of the Ozark Mountains and the stone segment used for binding in Izucar de Matamoros. And also the much shakier foundation of the family that Elliot and Tammy represent now. Rock of Salvation became an easy choice for that.

Book three deals with things being in the deepest, darkest depths and rising up. It’s about despair and hopelessness and failure. De Profundis. Out of the Depths. Or in this case, From the Depths.

Book four deals with light in darkness, determination and drive to persevere, and the beacon of love that anchors and calls a loved one home when lost. Ever Shining seemed perfect to me.

Sometimes, though, a rose is just a rose. With the Elite Response Force books, the titles are meant to be a little more reflective of the stories, which are pretty straightforward. So while Turning Point also refers to story structure, here it mostly refers to the city at the heart of the story. And Valley of Death? Well, in a few weeks that will be apparent.