Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Name of the Rose

Ever heard of the book titled The Name of the Rose?  It’s the first novel by Italian author Umberto Eco and it was later made into a film in 1986 starring Sean Connery.
The Name of the Rose is a type of book that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  In all honesty, I might not have actually watched the movie had it not been for Sean Connery himself.  Yes, terrible, I know.  I might miss a good many films if I decide what to watch them based on which actors play the characters.

Even though Sean Connery’s portrayal of William of Baskerville gave me reason to enjoy the story, I have to say I did enjoy this film based on the original historical murder mystery set in a monastery in 1327.  
But it’s not the movie or the book it was based on which are really on my mind.  It’s the name of the book that intrigues me.  If you have seen The Name of the Rose, you may question, as I did, what the name had to do with the story at all.  I thought I was missing something and I didn’t quite understand why the name had been chosen for that particular type of story.

And apparently I’m not alone.  According to Wikipedia, the title of this book and what it might refer to has received quite a bit of attention.  The author has apparently been said to admit he wished to find a “totally neutral title” and beyond that, there are two versions of how he came up with the name.  In the first version, he came up with ten titles and asked his friends to choose one.  In the second version, the original title Eco had chosen was dismissed by his publisher and so the author apparently came up with The Name of the Rose by chance. 
However it happened, the title is in fact completely neutral.  If I saw this name on a book in the store, I doubt I’d give it a second glance.  The only reason the book would have drawn me in is if the cover gave me the impression it was about a good ole’ murder mystery at the abbey.  I’ve seen different variations for this book as far as covers go and I can’t say any of them really draw me in.

So you might be wondering where I’m going with this. 
Well, right now I’m focused on how a book earns its title, which I believe is one of the most important elements of any book besides the cover art and the story inside.  Until I read about the history behind The Name of the Rose, I’d never heard of an author who took such a blasé look at choosing a title.

I don’t have it in me to show such a nonchalant attitude.  I’m only a few short months from when I anticipate the second book in the series of No Mother of Mine will be published but I’ve hit a snag when it comes to the title of the book. 
How can I not have a title?  Read on…

As with No Mother of Mine, I had a name for the second book right from the beginning.  It’s the name I’ve used to save the drafts, it’s the name I used when I joined National Novel Writing Month in November and pumped out the first 50,000 words of the book, and it’s the name I thought I would see in print when I was finally able to finalize the perfect cover.
And then one day, as my husband and I were browsing through the books at Costco, my husband came across an unexpected sight.  There, perfectly nestled between hundreds of other books, was a new book with the exact same name I had chosen.

My heart dropped.
Don’t get me wrong.  There are many books out there with the same name.  Some titles have even been overused to the point of a gag reflex when I see them.  But I don’t wish to publish a book with the same title as another book which has been published within a few months of my own. 

To clinch my decision, I also saw an entry in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest with the same title.  It’s also a mystery and it too has moved ahead in the contest the same as No Mother of Mine.  If by chance his book were to be chosen as a Finalist, I certainly would not want my book to mimic his with the same name, even if the name recognition might help direct readers to my own book.
Back to square one, I’ve been mulling over the issue of what title might work and I’ve played with a handful of possibilities.  I believe I may have finally found a title that will work and which actually corresponds in some fashion with the first book.  If I could echo Eco, I might just chose a name and stick with it, regardless of how neutral it may be.  Or, maybe I’ll throw a handful of names out to my friends and ask them to choose. 

“Let us instead exercise our brains and try to solve this tantalizing conundrum.”
William of Baskerville, The Name of the Rose

Or maybe not.  I doubt I could go Eco’s route so I’ll just mull over this tantalizing conundrum a bit longer before I finally decide that the name I’ve chosen is the right name for my book. 

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