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What’s in a name?

Although the very first draft is “done,” I haven’t totally settled on a working title for my Nano novel. I’ve got two titles in mind. I’m using one because I like it better, but I kind of feel like the other one suits the book better.

The two candidates? Slash and Burn and Scorched Earth.

About the book

A quick synopsis of the premise:

The war for Earth is over. But the battle’s just begun.

In a depopulated post-apocalyptic California, 17-year-old Adrienne Lucas has finally found some semblance of normalcy in a collective farm led by her father. Then newcomers arrive, promising a return to the comforts from Before. Adrienne’s father represents the voice of reason against the newcomers’ siren song—until they silence him forever.

Adrienne’s devastating loss is compounded when she discovers the man she’s loved for years, the man who saw her father as practically his own, the man who lives in her home as part of her family is also the man who betrayed her father and sentenced him to death.

Now Adrienne will destroy them all. Starting with him.

Or, in video form:

Don’t see anything? Click through to view the trailer!

You can read a little more about the project here.

What the titles mean to me

I was discussing this with a wise writing friend (who will GO PLACES), Wendy Swore, at a retreat last month. She asked a very incisive question: What do the titles mean to you?

Naturally, my interpretations of both of the titles have a lot to do with the origins of the phrases, but there’s a lot more to the psychological processes drawing me to them.

Scorched Earth refers to a war-making policy of attacking civilians and burning down everything in your path. Sherman’s March to the Sea is often used as an example (and I’m Southern, though not Georgian).

But I think the reason why this popped into my mind was a blog post I read earlier this year that stuck with me. Nathan Bransford very candidly discussed the implications of divorce in the Internet era, and he mentioned his ex-wife had pursued a “scorched Earth” policy in social media, deleting her Facebook account and blog and starting over. While he avoids rancor in his post, the image stood out in my mind.

To me, “scorched earth” brings to mind images of leaving a wide, blackened swath in your wake.

Slash and Burn has some similar connotations, of course. It denotes a agricultural technique for clearing land: slashing and burning the existing underbrush. (Sounds kinda dangerous.) The agricultural angle is kind of nice, since the main characters live on a collective farm.

“Slash and burn” is a little more proactive, in a way. You’re not just burning as part of total war, a reaction to your enemy. You have a purpose, a goal, and you’re taking the initiative. In reality, it isn’t as violent as it sounds, and the blackened swath here becomes the fertile fields of future growth. But it leaves the same image of destruction, which is very appropriate for the novel. Or, at least, I want it to be and hope it will be after revisions ;) .

The covers!

I made up a book cover this year, because I love looking at my mock covers for a little burst of inspiration. As always, it’s a very rough draft, but here’s the idea:

Come vote!

What do you think? Which title attracts your attention more?

What images and connotations do these titles bring to mind for you? Come share your thoughts!

Photo credit—Burning Fields IV by Gary Scott
COVER IMAGES: Girl: Self-portrait by Kelsey; Fire by Marion Doss;
Blood drips: Pooling Blood by Joleene Naylor; all via CC

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This entry was posted in Technique, Works and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What’s in a name?

  1. Gordon Maddock says:

    “Scorched Earth” is a good one, but there is a computer game with the same name.

  2. Jordan says:

    It’s always interesting to see what other things use the same names! Of course, that doesn’t preclude anyone else from ever using them (especially when it’s a common phrase).

    For example, Slouching Toward(s) Bethlehem is a Joan Didion nonfiction collection and a Joni Mitchell song (and numerous TV episodes). Things Fall Apart is the archetypal English-language African novel by Chinua Achebe, and an album by The Roots. And both phrases are from “The Second Coming” by Wm Butler Yeats, which has yielded names for dozens of other works, as well.

Author photo by Jaren Wilkey
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