Name Game: Struggling with Titling my Latest Novel

Sometimes, I have to stand back and marvel at my own thickheadedness.

I’ve been trying to write this book for years — 30 years to be exact. It’s about a wizard that gets murdered, and his son gets a magic sword to avenge him. From the day I conceived it when I was 14, it’s been simply titled Calibot’s Revenge.

That seemed perfect enough. It was a revenge fantasy. The main character was named Calibot.

The book has been through several drafts and iterations. In the 30 years I’ve been working on it, both the characters and the story have evolved. But the basics stayed the same — the son of a murdered sorcerer got a magical sword with which to avenge his father.

This latest version, though — the one I’m actually going to publish — veered off the novel’s original premise into an entirely different kind of story. Yes, a powerful magician gets murdered. Yes, his son gets a magical sword and a mysterious mission to use it on his father’s behalf. But it’s no longer a revenge fantasy. It’s very different kind of book altogether.

And that necessitated a new title. You can’t call it Calibot’s Revenge if Calibot doesn’t take revenge, doesn’t even try.

And so I’ve been spending the last several months trying to come up with a new title. It had to be something that captured the essence of the book but that would also be marketable (which perhaps the old title wasn’t).

One of the marketing books I recently read suggested that alliterative titles are more appealing to consumers. I’m not sure what the research behind this is or if it even exists, but I do know that I enjoy alliteration, so maybe there is something to it.

Of course, coming up with something alliterative that is also good and descriptive is harder than it sounds. I spent a lot of time thinking about The Sorcerer’s Son. It had the nice triple-S sound, and the main character was the son of a wizard. I let that bounce around my brain for weeks, but I was never quite satisfied with it.

I also played around with The Gothemus Gambit, since the name of the wizard is Gothemus Draco and his murder is a political gambit by the villain. But that had a very spy thriller sound to it, and, while there are some politics in the book, it’s not really that kind of novel.

A lot of incomplete and worse ideas bubbled up in my brain, and I dismissed them quickly. As I worked through the latest edit of the manuscript looking for some clue or phrase I could use to craft a new, catchy title, I grew frustrated. I’d been working on this book for 30 years. How could it be so damned hard to name? Or rather, why was it so hard to rename?

Regardless of the reason, I remained stuck. What do you name a swords-and-sorcery book about a son trying to find out what happened to his father? What is a good title for a book that features a lot of sorcery and a magic sword?

And then my brain finally unlocked the obvious answer. The novel is about a young man who receives an enchanted sword when his father, the world’s most powerful sorcerer is murdered. He has to use the sword to fulfill the last plans and wishes of his sorcerer father, from whom he is estranged. He knows nothing about magic swords and sorcery himself.

How about The Sword and the Sorcerer?

Sometimes my own thickheadedness is amazing. It’s a swords-and-sorcery novel. That’ll help categorize it. That’ll help it be found in search engines. It’s alliterative. And it perfectly captures the two things Calibot is dealing with throughout the story — his estrangement from his father, who happens to be the world’s most powerful magician, and the enchanted weapon bequeathed to Calibot by Gothemus.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to come up with something as simple as that, but then this is a book it has taken me 30 years to craft into something I would be proud to put my name on.

The Sword and the Sorcerer releases this summer. I’ll have more updates here in the coming weeks.

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