Full Entitlement or How I Come Up With Titles For The Mythic Series

It all began with a title. Literally.

Originally The Mythic was a completely different tale, told in a separate genre (comics rather than novels), with a wholly different lead. I can’t recall how I came up with “The Mythic” title, it was a very long time ago, but I do remember the name preceded the original concept. Years later, while working up that idea, Lucy Knight staged a coup (explained in detail here), seizing “The Mythic” moniker for herself, and as I write this I’m preparing to publish the fifth book about her adventures.

What's In a Name?

Titles, of course are basic identifiers that help writers distinguish one work from another. Beyond that they need to grab a reader’s attention and, for me at least, give them a sense of the book’s “feel”.

For example, Horses of Doom refers to the perilous ponies in the plot, but the word “doom” also lets everyone know Lucy is up against something cataclysmic.

The City of Sweet Sorrow name-checks the slave-mine in which Lucy and Amber find themselves imprisoned, but “sorrow” warns readers that this tale will see our characters suffer losses and its discordance with “sweet” should have put you all on edge in the horror tales strive to do.

The Illustrious Lie is the highest governing body in Aedea but they don’t actually drive the plot of Book Four. I chose it because although “lie” means “level” in that world, to us it has an altogether negative connotation and, sure enough, Lucy must navigate falsehoods and deception in order to triumph.

I can’t analyse the title of Book Five without giving away a key twist in the plot but it was the most difficult of all The Mythic title births. For a long time I jumped between Rosetta Engine and Rosetta Machine, preferring the first but loving the word “machine” for the various senses it communicated. Finally I asked my readers for their opinion. They chose Engine, overwhelmingly so, which came as no surprise. Despite my flirtation with Rosetta Machine, in my heart I knew the other title was right.

Title Search

If it isn’t already obvious, I love titles and the heading to this post itself is a wee bit misleading as there isn’t a method to how I create them. Titles for The Mythic Series come fairly easily and quickly, typically once I’ve decided upon the central idea for the book. They also pour out in large numbers.

That last point is significant because having too many titles can be worse than not having one. However, I have set myself some guidelines that helps me spot which suitor title should receive my rose.

Naming Conventions

First, some context. The Mythic Series has a simple naming pattern, common in any franchise—Common Title + Separate Subtitle. I’ve previously mentioned that I toyed with calling the first book The Mythic and the Casket of Woe but I shortened it because I wanted the focus on Lucy herself and also create an easy way for readers to identify the first book.

As a series following that Common + Separate pattern, I wanted each backend to be as unique as possible, and distinctiveness can be achieved through playing with things like composition, length, and sound.

In terms of composition/length, I’ve used two types of sub-patterns: titles with “of”—Horses of Doom, City of Sweet Sorrow—and those without—Illustrious Lie, Rosetta Engine.

Beyond that I decided each title would have a key sound/be composed of similar letters but feature words with diverse starting letters. Horses of Doom has a lot of O’s. City of Sweet Sorrow contains a lot of hiss, while Illustrious Lie is heavy on the L’s. Rosetta Engine’s key sound is that hard E. And none of the key words in these subtitles start with letters featured in any other title.

I have the next two titles already set and, as I write this, I realise Book Six doesn’t neatly follow some of these conventions while Book Seven does, but with a slight twist. Both the next books are “of” titles, however, which appears to create a pattern in my series—two “of”, two not, two “of”. That’s just luck. Book Six has been pushed back twice now due to me needing to set up more plot, and Book Seven swapped places with Book Six last year and may yet swap back or might even be published alongside it—I’ll know once the final part of Rosetta Engine is complete. I can’t wait to write these next two novels so I may just jump back and forth. The elasticity of the Mythic concept is incredibly freeing!

I don’t have any set titles beyond Book Seven. I loosely know where Lucy will be at the start of Book Eight and that it signals the start of her final arc, but the specifics of the journey are yet unmapped.

Pick Me Ups and Downs

Picking my favourite title would indeed be a Sophie’s Choice. But if I was forced to choose between them then The Mythic and the Horses of Doom would be the one I save. No disrespect to the others but HOD as it’s referenced in my notes has a je ne sais quois that sets it apart. Horses plus an impending apocalypse? That’s a high bar for another title to clear!