Blogger: Rachel Kent
I came across an article in The Huffington Post about classic books and their original titles. Most of them are SO different from the true title of the work.
Here is a brief list, but be sure to check out the article for more books:
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was originally Trimalchio in West Egg.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was first titled Mules in Horses’ Harness and also Tomorrow Is Another Day; Not in Our Stars; Tote the Weary Load; or Bugles Sang True.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was originally titled Atticus.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings series was titled The War of the Ring.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding was originally Strangers From Within.
And John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was originally titled Something That Happened.
Personally, I like the simple title Atticus better than To Kill a Mockingbird, though I suppose it doesn’t embody the entire story very well.
And I don’t think John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is well-titled, but it seems to have worked for him. 🙂
What do you think of these titles or the others on the Huffington Post article? Do you like the final titles the best?
How did you come up with your book’s title?
And if you are published, is your published book title the original title or did it change?
I think First Impressions fit Jane Austen’s story well! But I love Pride and Prejudice, too. 🙂
I struggle to come up with good titles. Getting better, but it’s not my strength!
Whoa, that ‘Trimalchio in West Egg’ was a close call. LOL.
I like the final titles much better. They were steered in the right direction. Whew! 🙂
I just finished With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin … my heart is so happy right now! Such a sweet story. 🙂
Thank you, Shelli! By the way, of all my books, that one has the title closest to my working title, which was “In Every Letter.” The other books…not so close 🙂
You are so welcome, Sarah. I’m glad the title remained close … it had to mention the letters. 🙂 I’m about to go read the last two chapters again! Tom’s personality soared! Got me so tickled. 🙂
I love that book! 🙂
Most of the published titles were a big improvement, although I think Strangers From Within would have been a great title for Lord of the Flies.
I did not come up with the title of my current WIP. I couldn’t think of anything for the life of me, and then my sister, who gets to read everything pretty much the day I write it, made a suggestion which was a good one. I tweaked it and it works perfectly.
Sisters. What would we do without them?
I find it easier to come up with titles as a group. Doing it alone is hard!
James Scott Bell
Of course, the original title of Tolstoy’s classic was War, What Is It Good For?
(as cited on Seinfeld)
Would we still be reading/watching a story named Mules in Horses’ Harness?
I know! Very funny title. 🙂
My original title for my first novel, one that dealt with a doctor who retreated to her hometown when her world crumbled, was Run Away Home. The publisher gently reminded me that the title didn’t suggest a medical thriller, and renamed it Code Blue. You don’t have to tell me twice–since then, I’ve used two word titles denoting a medical problem.
And, Jim Bell, I agree–after seeing the Seinfeld episode, I’ve always referred to the Tolstoy tome as War, What Is It Good For? Sounds much better to me.
It’s hard to be unbiased when looking at these titles because I’m so used to the published ones, all the unused ones look a little strange. I do think “First Impressions” isn’t a bad title; it even sounds like Jane Austin to me.
My book’s title is the name of the magic sword around which events unfold, but I consider it a placeholder. If I secure representation and my agent or editor want a change, I’ll invite their ideas and brainstorm something new.
For years my debut novel went by the name Violets and Violins, which I learned later was lame. We submitted it as Love in Store. It was released as A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, which my publisher chose.
My June release, Family of Her Dreams, has a title I suggested. I’ve learned a lot over the years, thanks to our savvy agents and their informative posts. 🙂
Kristen Joy Wilks
Goodness, the manuscript that eventually got picked up I thought up the title and they kept it “Copenhagen Cozenage” they wanted alliteration in the title like the rest of the series and so I went to thesaurus.com and just had fun finding a “c” word that meant deception or intrigue. My first ms. went through many many terrible titles including a Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe style thing that was something like…”the ziggurat, the blade-smith’s Daughter and the Sea-Soaked Seer” um…yeah. I ended up going with “Daughter of the Decoy King” after I pitched it at a conference and someone who was pitching beside me said “She is the daughter of the decoy king…that should be your title!” I love to flip through dictionaries and see if there is a word that I love that might have something to do with my story. “The Wandering Wood” actually came first before the manuscript. I was trying to think of a fun and magical premise that my boys might like and so the title came first. Anyway, only have one book that will be published and they liked that title, but they never got to see my really horrendous ones that came for the other stories.
Hi Rachel, another great blog post, thank you. Your posts are so inspirational. I changed the title of my WIP a week ago, and I love it. I sat and thought, ‘what is this novel about, and how can I convey it in three words or less?’ and it came to me, it was one of those lottery moments. I started with a primary word, but it demanded a complimentary, and after scrawling out a plethora of action words, I landed on the right one. It amazed me how powerful the simplicity of two words can be. Now my title has panache.
Like many other authors, I took the strong suggestion of the editor on four my books and went with different titles–which proved to be much better than my original working titles. Maybe it’s the old forest vs. tree issue. Hard to see what’s so close.
Yes, very true! It can be hard to objectively look at your book and come up with the “perfect” title. Editors also brainstorm titles with a team and that helps, too.
Kathy Boyd Fellure
These titles were so interesting and some not so on target.
The Gone with the wind original just missed the mark for me.
Glad they went with The Great Gatsby.
This was encouraging, Rachel ~ Thanks!
Maybe my titles aren’t so bad after all and a publisher will chose them.
I have four alternate titles for the first novel ~ The Language of the Lake but would like to move forward with the WIP title and not have to use one of the others.
We pre-pubbed novelists can’t be too picky.
This was fun!
Mules in Horses’ Harnesses. Ugh.
“Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart” was originally “The Place Where Angels Dwell”; it’s a reference to Con Thien, on the DMZ in Viet Nam. I liked the original title way more. But the book was picked up after being SP’d, and the title had to change.
Two of my published books carry their original titles. One doesn’t. Burning Sky was originally called The Quiet in the Land. It was runner up in the Genesis 2010 contest under that title. I’m very happy with the change now though it was hard at first.
To Kill A Mockingbird sounds more appealing…but after reading the book, Atticus would have been just fine! I like my title, “Finding Jane.” because it holds so much more meaning than what it says.But the reader won’t know that until after they read the book. I hope that when it gets published they do not change it. I worry they will, but I’ll cross that road when I get there!
My published work started as Knuckleball Secrets, but an early reader suggested The Knucklebook. When the manuscript was referred to in a New Yorker article (a long and crazy story in itself) I semi-mockingly referred to it as The Knucklebook and the ultimate publisher liked that. I have a novel in the works I have many compelling reasons to name Innocent Lives Matter, (which is an interesting statement on its own) and I gotta believe that a publisher will go with it.
I agree with you! Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, I love that book! I
like her original title.