A Tale of Titles: Slumberland & Tomorrowland

This year, I attended the AWP Conference and Book Fair in Seattle, and what a time it was to breathe in the ink-stained air of a real, live book fair after what felt like eons. It was an exhilarating experience, punctuated with insightful conversations, and some quirky coincidences that left me with a lot to ponder.

One such moment unfolded at my exhibit. I was standing there, pride in my heart, as I watched visitors stop by and give my books a glance. The banner for “Tomorrowland,” my latest psychological thriller, fluttered high and caught the attention of a man, who approached me with an intrigued look on his face.

He asked, “Did you know there’s a TV show called ‘Tomorrowland’?”

And you know what? I did, but not until later.

I learned about the show only after my book was set for publication. Here I was thinking I’d come up with a unique title, when, in fact, it had already found a place in popular culture. And believe it or not, this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Flashback to 2019, I published my fourth novel, “Slumberland.” Fast forward to November 2022, Netflix made a film with the same title, starring the formidable Jason Momoa. (Talk about having a knack for telepathic predictions!)

The story in the film is a far cry from the story in my book. The movie has nothing to do with a naive weather girl who gets struck by lightning and obtains the gift of understanding superior mathematics in exchange for insomnia. But I sure wish I had trademarked the title when I had the chance.

The man at the book fair, after hearing my stories, chuckled and said, “Titles are hard to come by.”

His remark resonated deeply with me. Yes, titles are indeed hard to come by, especially unique ones. But isn’t that one of the intriguing challenges we writers face?

So, how does one come up with titles?

In my experience, the best way is to allow the story to dictate its own title. It might sound cliché, but it’s true. When I’m developing a story, I try not to rush the title. Instead, I let it emerge organically. It could come from a phrase that repeats, a thematic element, or maybe the name of a significant location in the narrative.

For instance, the title “Tomorrowland” came from the central theme of the book – the uncertainty of what tomorrow brings. It just felt right, even before I knew about the TV show.

Sometimes, a title might jump out from the most unexpected places, when you least expect it. Something just clicks, and there you have it – a title that fits like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

But it’s important to remember that even if the title isn’t entirely unique, that doesn’t make the book any less so. Each author brings their unique perspective, narrative voice, and story, making their work irreplaceable, regardless of a shared title.

In the end, the man was right. Titles are hard to come by, but the journey of finding them is part of the thrill that we writers live for. And who knows? Maybe one day, your book will share a title with a TV show or a film, adding a whimsical twist to your authorial journey!

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