A little on my titling process


If there’s one part of the writing process I absolutely love, it’s coming up with names and titles. As promised in my last post, I’m going to reveal a little on my titling process, using the ‘part’ titles of my current work in progress as examples.

The Kraken and the Clock Tower is currently a novel in five parts, with a separate prologue and epilogue. Over the course of outlining, that may change, but it feels right for now based on the story tentpoles I have in place.

Now, as I mentioned above, I love titling. I don’t like starting a project without having at least a working title in place, because I feel it sets a tone for the whole piece. And if I’m writing a novel in several parts, I tend to get those titles in place first too, mostly as a reminder of where I’m headed. It’s worth noting that all my first drafts also have chapter titles, but I figure those out as I go and I’m a lot more amenable to changing them along the way.

So, without further ado, the titles.

The Kraken and the Clock Towertimekraken

In many ways, this was the hardest title to come up with, because it started as two separate ideas, a story about a clock tower and a story about a Kraken. The thing is, neither was working out particularly. Then one day, while trying to break the key aspect of the Kraken story, I was staring at a badge I’d bought to go on my bag (pictured right) and the fairly obvious solution hit me square in the face. In a way, it was like the two stories needed each other to function as a symbiotic whole, and I think the final story will be a lot stronger for that realisation. The original titles for each were The Last Great Kraken Hunt and the rather more dull The Clock Tower.

Prologue: The Kraken

Fairly evident really. I’ve been in love with the idea of sea monsters since I watched Jaws and originally took a crack at reading Moby Dick. My favourite book ever is The Scar by China Mieville, which heavily features a variety of sea monsters (and which I must read again to make sure I’m not unwittingly stealing anything). When I was a lot younger, I defended the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie as being better than the first, simply by virtue of it having a Kraken in it. Imagine my disdain when I got to see the third and found out they had killed it off screen.

The Kraken plays a huge role in this book, and it seemed only fitting to give the prologue over to setting that up.

Part One: Ephemeral City

Fun fact: Ephemeral City is a title I’ve had for years. Most recently, it was a working title for The Clock Tower but it started life as a title for a crime noir style story. I used it here, because it fits the setup of the book. Without going into too much detail (and ruining the plot) the city of Gaslamp is dying. It’s built around a magic core that runs on Kraken ink (all magic in this book is ink based) and the ink is a scarce resource.

As a result of that core breaking down, reality is cracking in places and the city shifts because of it. It doesn’t move out of place, but things in the city move about, causing a lot of impossible geometry (in a similar manner to House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski). The first proper chapter of the book starts with my lead character Lauren Lightfoot counting steps outside her house, one of several tests to determine if that part of the city has changed in the night.

Part Two: The Pyromancer’s Garden

Another title I’ve held onto for a while, this was a title without a novel that I just couldn’t let go of. I had the idea of what the pyromancer’s garden would look like and be, but no story to fit around it. When I reached the idea of one of my lead characters, Raleigh Faulkner, being a pyromancer, I found an opportunity to fit in the idea of his garden.

Part Three: Warpledge

If every part so far has been more of an urban fantasy, this is where I make the switch to a more maritime fantasy and introduce the various pirate characters. It is where the majority of the book will take place and is essentially the story that would have been The Last Great Kraken Hunt. The first title I had for this part was Of the Monstrous Pictures of Krakens, a reference to the title of chapter 55 of Moby Dick. But not only did it not really fit, I also didn’t fancy comparing myself to one of the great works of literature. That’s for braver and better writers than I.

Aside from sea monsters, my other childhood obsession I’m drawing from a lot is pirates. One of my two lead villains is Shuyan Yi, the Queen of Pirates, who commands a massive armada from her two flagships. They are both Kraken Hunters (think a cross between a Man o’ War and a whaling ship) called Seabeast and Warpledge.

Credit where it is due, I have been listening to a lot of music during this process, but none more than Mastodon and Fleshgod Apocalypse. Seabeast is a song from Mastodon’s Leviathan and Warpledge is from Fleshgod’s Labyrinth.

Part Four: Voidwalker

This will be the shortest part. There’s a bit of a time jump between the end of part three and the start of part five, and this sort of fills that gap. I’m considering making it an interlude instead of part four, but I’ll have to see how it turns out in the first draft before making a final decision on that.

A voidwalker is someone who has mastered void, the fifth of the ten magical elements (the previously mentioned pyromancers are people who have mastered fire, the first element). Voidwalkers are capable of creating paths through a kind of alternate dimension that allow them to get from place to place in our world very quickly. To anyone else, it resembles teleportation.

The voidwalker referred to in the title is one of my lead characters, an assassin named Indigo.

Part Five: Fractured City

This will be it, the big final battle and culmination of everything that happened in parts one to four. Obviously I don’t want to go into too much detail about the end, but you get the idea. The title is set up in a way to mirror Ephemeral City in part one. If things looked bad for Gaslamp in part one, they’re positively dystopian by part five, and it’s a last ditch attempt to save the place before it’s broken forever.

Epilogue: The Clock Tower

It only makes sense, given the title of the prologue. The epilogue serves as a denouement to the mystery at the heart of the Clock Tower. Again, I don’t want to go into too much detail and spoil everything here.

Now that’s all written out, it’s turned out to be one of the longer posts I’ve done. So, more like a lot on my titling process. I’m quite sure there were a lot of digressions in there, but hopefully you found it at least a little interesting. The next time I do a post on writing, it will be after I’ve finished my first outline draft, and I’ll go into a little detail on my process for that.

The banner image is the Battle of Scheveningen by Wolfgang Heimbach painted, as best I can tell, in 1808. I found it by Googling “battle at sea” and thought it looked cool.


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