Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Ballad, Call, Power, Legend, and Curse of the Title

Nothing’s done ‘til it’s done, and then you may wish it was undone.


Sometimes titles are so easy. Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen—poof! There it was and everyone loved it. Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy—how can you argue with a song that keeps looping through your brain? Confessions of a Serial Kisser—everyone was in stitches.

But this one?

The one with the kinda loser guy who turned out to be super funny and uses the moniker Justice Jack?


The title has to start with ‘Sammy Keyes and the’—the ‘the’ has to be there. The first four Sammys were named with a ‘the’ and after that it just seemed weird not to have one. You can’t go and switch it up. Sammy Keyes and Justice Jack sounds lame. Like, what are they? Going out?

The ‘the’ has to be there.

And I’m kinda very stuck on having ‘Justice Jack’ in the title.

I just like it.

Nancy (my editor, for you newbies) isn’t as invested in including Jack in the cover.

She’s sorta partial to ‘Masked Maniac.’

Which would work very nicely with a simple ‘the,’ it’s true.

But I’m kinda very stuck on ‘Justice Jack.’

I’ve gone through SO many variations trying to find the perfect fit to capture the essence of this story. It’s been like naming Moustache Mary. I couldn’t figure out what word went best with it. I was partial to Sammy Keyes and the Spirit of Moustache Mary, but Nancy thought it sounded like an airplane. When I finally struck on “Curse” I felt this enormous sense of relief. Like, yes. That is the perfect word.

After that was settled we went round and round about the spelling of mustache. I really wanted the ‘o’.

I just liked it, okay?

Who knew titles were such battle grounds, huh?

Anyway, part of the challenge with both ‘the Curse of Moustache Mary’ and ‘the ______ of Justice Jack' is working with the space constraints. The word that fits in the blank cannot take up much room because of the design of the jacket.

I had settled on ‘Power’ but there’s something about it that Nancy isn’t keen on. And I do have ‘Power Potion’ and ‘the Greatest Power’ in the Gecko & Sticky titles.

That’s a different series, but it does influence my decision. Like, maybe ‘Power’ isn’t the best choice after all. I know I wouldn’t name another book with ‘Run’ in it – I have Runaway, The Running Dream, and Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf. I’m done with running. So maybe I should be done with ‘Power,’ too.

Then I came up with ‘Call’ as a nice substitute.

Nancy's reception to the change was cool at best.


Now, you’d think that an author could just say, This is the title of my book and you keep your mitts off! And if this had been one of those love-it-from-the-get-go titles, well, Nancy would have probably loved it from the get-go, too and we wouldn’t be swimming around in title stew.

But we need to decide!

Like, yesterday!

So I brainstormed some more with Mark and we’re now liking ‘Legend’ as the fill-in-the-blank word. Physically it’s a little long, but only one more letter than Power, which is the same length as Curse, which we know fits.

We actually like ‘Ballad’ but there is no song in the story (silly me!) so it would make no sense. Too bad.

Anyway, I sent the new title to Nancy on Monday and her reaction?

I haven’t heard a peep.

Which means that she’s still wanting Masked Maniac.

(After 25 books with her I’ve learned to interpret the silence.)

And of course you have no idea what this story is about (except that it’s about a kinda loser guy who is very funny and goes by the name of Justice Jack) so you can’t help me!

Maybe next week I’ll have an official title for you.

(But don’t hold your breath!)


Amanda from Seattle said...

Loved Ballad, too bad there is no song...maybe for a future book!!?? What about Erastz Superhero, but that is probably too Lemony Snicket. Peril is a wonderful series book word.

Michael said...

This reminds me of the scene in Julie and Julia when Julia is trying to name her book. Alas, you'll look back at this book and always think. Yup, that's what the title was supposed to be.

g said...

o my goodness i just got back from a seven hour car ride and i reread Sammy Keyes and the wedding crasher like 8 TIMES!!!! AHHHHHHHHHH!!!
And i was wondering... do you have like a picture of what sammy and all the character look like? sometimes i get confused in what the look like :) thanks liked the post:)
GwyMaLaur aka ginngle11 :)

Anonymous said...

Well,i think that you can come up with a good one!
Just think of some good words that go in front of Justice Jack like beginning or friendship,i'm not very good with names but,never know,one word could fix everything(:
Good luck!!I personally loved your first title.

g said...

Yeah! I Love Peril!! hahahaha dont worry you'll find the right word!

KT said...

Maybe you can use an adjective to describe Justice Jack? Like: ... and the Maniac, Justice Jack

or Creepy, Crazy, etc. Having not read the book, I have no idea if it would really work, but you would still have "the" and "Justice Jack" in there.

good luck! I can't wait to read it!

bookworm said...

Hi Wendelin,

I did some thinking about your title issues....... what about "Sammy Keyes and the Curious Justice Jack"?

or the Mysterious.

Let us know, and good luck. :)

g said...

maybe the tale of justice jack... or the...
spell, or fortune, day... :)

kortney said...

I was thinking of different words that could be put in front of "Justice Jack." Maybe "Sammy Keyes and the Absurdity/Insanity of Justice Jack?" Or "...the Eccentric Justice Jack." Anyways, good luck-I love the series!

Norma said...

It's rather amusing to hear about your little battles with Nancy over cleaning up storyline or titles, but I'm totally with you on this one. I love Justice Jack. (The Call of Justice Jack is good too!)

Anonymous said...

i was trying to think of alliterations like journey of justice jack but none jumped out at me as being that great. Then I was thinking rhymes... like the attack of justice jack, or the setback of justice jack...

its fun to brainstorm :) good luck

frances said...

I have a random idea, but I almost feel like it's stupid...
Anyway, if there's a loser guy who's really funny who goes by the name of Justice Jack, how about....
Sammy Keyes and the Comeback of Justice Jack?

Ryan said...

Of all the options you posted, I like how "Legend" rolls off my tongue the best. =)

Can't say that I could think of anything better, but I'm not a professional writer either!

-- Ryan

Optimistic4ever said...

So, I figured I couldnt help cuz I have no idea what kind of word ur looking for, but I looked up synonyms for "story" anyways, out of my own interest, and here's some that tickled my mind a bit...

Parable (not likely but it sounds cool)
Saga (but you'd need more than one book, no?)

And than, tale and legend have already been said, but I also though this sounded kinda cool

Sammy Keyes and the Scoop on Justice Jack

And then I looked up Curse, cuz it was mentioned, and I though Bane sounded interesting, but probably not 4 ur title... How about burden?

Ok, sorry, I'll let you work now...

Good luck!

Raisa Karim said...

I have a few fill-in-the-blanks:
(JK! That first one should NOT be used at all...)
-mystery...?? Nah! Too often used.
-Legend. I liked that one, so keep it on the list.
-story...too simple
-how about...LEGACY?? Too dramatic maybe...
-I like 'tale' and 'call' too.
Well, that's it. I probably didn't help much, but just throwin' myself out there...*sigh*

Jinnyd said...

Sammy Keyes and the Masked Jack!

Okay, that makes no sense, and is awkward to pronounce, but it does give you the best of both worlds! (Better than "Justice Maniac," I think.)

Archived said...

Hi, Wendelin. I love the Sammy Keyes series! I found your blog today and I loved it. I hope you find a title soon! :D

Box said...


Wendelin Van Draanen said...

I love all the suggestions. Some great words among them! It's fun that you've chimed in, thank you!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

GwyNMaLaur: Wow! That was some car ride! Glad you liked it so much. No pictures, sorry! Those are for you to paint in your mind :-)

bookworm said...

I agree w/ you, Wendelin, that the image should be left to the reader's imagination. I introduced the SK series to my best friend awhile back, and one day she asked me what I thought Sammy looked like. I said maybe brown hair that had natural blonde highlights, or just plain brown, with green eyes. She said she thought she was a complete blond with green eyes. I thought that was super weird. I like my mental Sammy more than hers. :D
Anyway, haven't thought of too many titles except for the ones originally stated by me earlier. Good luck!!! :)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

People tell me the see Sammy as blonde (maybe because I am?) but I see her more like you do, bookworm, and there actually are short descriptions in a couple of books to support that image :) But not many! On purpose!

Anonymous said...

I always picture Sammy as a brunette wearing a red shirt and some skinny jeans with red converse(:

frances said...

On a few book covers there is a picture of Sammy and she always has brown hair with straight cut bangs and green(?)or maybe hazel eyes. I take this to be her official appearance.

And Casey has brown hair and "chocolatey" brown eyes (Sammy said that *haha*)I always think of him to wear jeans and flannel shirts.

But Wendelin, what color are Heather's eyes?

Beach said...

I just read an interesting article discussing novel treatments for phantom limb pain that I thought you might find interesting: (it starts off discussing itching and gets a little gross, but it's worth stomaching to get to the interesting stuff).

Anonymous said...

Now, i have an idea, but idk if it fits, or if you'll like it, or if you already have one, or aren't taking any suggestions, but here it is:

Sammy Keyes and the Rise of Justice Jack.

shorter than Legend, but still going along with the theme that there is a story behind him.

idk, that is just my idea.

i also really like the Call or Legacy!

katarinandersson said...

So I've been thinking about titles too, and I searched for synonyms in a thesaurus and I came across a really weird word: "aeaeae". I've never heard of it before and this word really made me curious, why make up a word with only vowels in it? Did someone really like the letters a and e?
Anyway, in my search for words that would work in a book title I also found some more normal words and my suggestions are these: "Sammy Keyes and the Disguised Devotee" (because I think you've said that Justice Jack is a fan of Sammy)and "Sammy Keyes and the Goofy Justice Jack". Oh, and all of your suggestions were great, but I liked "Sammy Keyes and the Call of Justice Jack" the best!
I hope that you will find a title that both you and Nancy love, and I also hope that you will have a good week!

Millers said...

Rise! The rise of justice jack!
I'm totally with Julie with this one...
And I always thought that Sammy had brown hair... I even drew a picture of her once (if anybody cares I'd be happy to show it!)

g said...

the pursuit! or however you spell that!

Raisa Karim said...

wait...I thought Sammy WAS blonde!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So this WHOLE time......gosh

g said...

yeah at first i though Sammy was blonde :) but now i know she has brown hair :)

frances said...

I actually like 'Legend'

frances said...

And can we read another excerpt from Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls, please?

Susanne said...

Hmmm... titles are a toughy. My friend loves writing and she's always asking me about titles. What am I supposed to say??? :P Anyway, I don't know how Nancy feels about this titles, but I think the best fill-in-the-blank words are rise, call, tale, and legend. Good luck! I'm super excited!!!!!

Shaina said...

Hi, Wendelin! I've read and loved your blog for a few months now, but I've never commented...until now! I love Sammy. Reading about your writing process and dilemmas is fascinating! It almost feels like cheating when I read the things you write about unpublished books, but it's one kind of cheating that I can live with. :) As for Justice Jack... maybe you could just move the preposition: Sammy Keyes and the Justice of Jack? I don't know if Jack NEEDS Justice closer to his name or not. Good luck with the title! I'm glad you have so much fun writing these books, because I sure have a ton of fun reading them!

-Ashley- said...

the Wrath, the almighty power of, the intrigue, the saga, the revelation, the jaunt

Heather said...

the perilous pretender
the joking justice jack

not so great but worth a try

and what does Sammy actually look like? I need it for a project in school.