Title Help

Since I am short on time and in need of assistance, I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone, blog about what I’m working on, and enlist any help you might offer.
Right now, I am scouring the works of the Russian poets Pushkin and Lermontov in hopes of finding a phrase that might serve as a title for novel that I sold, an epic tale set in the Imperial Court of Russia. As I try out various phrases, it’s once again clear that finding a suitable title is tricky business. The book was originally published in French, but like so many direct translations, its title (All the Honor of Men), which is taken from a quote, does not quite work in English. It also sounds a bit too masculine for a work of historical fiction that has at its heart as star-crossed set of lovers as ever existed.

I’d like something that sings, zings, and otherwise announces itself as a humdinger of a title. Since I can’t ask that you read the book (well, not at this point anyway) I’d love to hear your nominations for recent terrific titles. Maybe your suggestion will inspire a breakthrough!

15 Responses to Title Help

  1. Silver James says:

    Okay, I’m a sucker for researching odds things. While no current titles come to mind, I have been culling through Russian poetry, with a mind to your description above. Some ideas:

    In the Silence of Night

    Another Spring

    In the Moonlight Pale

    Serenity Eclipsed

    Leaves of Frost

    A Secret Court

    And as a reader, simply “The Honor of Men” would attract my attention. Just drop the “All.”

    Hope this gives you some ideas and thinks for a lovely evening spent reading a translation of Pushkin’s “Yevgeny Onegin.”

  2. RamseyH says:

    Does it have to be one of the two poets? If not I also recommend trying Yevtushenko as well.

  3. Redleg says:

    It’s not from a poem, but I’ve always thought “Axe Rise, Axe Set” would be a wonderful title.

  4. Lance Parkin says:

    There was a title I considered for a novel, Into The Hands of Unbelievers, which is a quote from Imam Shamyl, a Chechen warlord who ended up going native in St Petersburg. I thought it was a bit too historical romance for my sort-of science fiction book, but did quite like it as a title.

  5. Emily says:

    Why not play off of the concept of Honor?

    Honor’s Grace
    Honor’s Reward
    Abiding as Honor
    Enduring Honor
    Honor’s Endurance
    Enduring Grace
    The Favor of Honor

  6. How about “#&$@% The Czar Says”?

    • Lance Parkin says:

      That’s the line from McKee’s Story, isn’t it, when he’s talking about titles: ‘Mogambo’ is a terrible title; ‘Clark Gable, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner star in Mogambo’ is a brilliant title.

  7. I don’t even have a passing familiarity with your subjects’ work, but why not go with a less-masculine version of your original intention? As in, “All the Honor”. Just an idea.

  8. is_the_third_time_a_charm says:

    Hmmm, “nominations for recent terrific titles.” What comes to mind for me, relating to honor, men, Russian and French, is a translation of an Osim Mandelstam poem, the line: “Your brother, Petropolis, is dying.” In reference to 1920s St. Petersburg. I would so buy a book entitled “Your Brother, Petropolis.” Especially if there was a green star on the cover, like in the poem. Are there green stars?

    Although that wasn’t the question you were asking. I’m in the midst of trying to soak up some of that NaNoWriMo energy for my own (of longstanding) novelistic endeavor, so a line from Mandelstam is all I’ve got.

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