Crafting a Strong Title

Titles can be admirable for different reasons. My nonfiction book, Legal Guide for the Visual Artist, has a good title because the title very accurately describes the contents of the book. My novel was far more difficult to title because it moves through the fantastic images of the soul with striking juxtapositions and lacunae as the narrator
embarks on a voyage of sea changes. Ultimately, A Floating Life worked as a title with an embracing openness that served the novel well.

I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts my admiration for The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. On first encountering the title, I felt dubious because “Sense” seemed indefinite while “Ending” allowed no qualification. After reading the novel, I find the title very apt. The novel deals with how the process of contemplation can affect our view of the past. The word “sense” takes several meanings. It refers to how the ending of the narrator’s relationships felt—which undergoes an enormous change as the narrator is forced to reflect on the past. It also suggests trying to make sense of complexities that defy easy calculation. And it may also suggest how the narrator, at an advanced age, senses more closely the final evaluation of himself that he will carry to the grave. By the time I finished reading the novel, “ending” seemed quite open to qualification. Which ending was being considered—the ending of a love affair as the narrator saw it as a young man or as he understood it four decades later? Or the ending
of certain illusions about his past and himself? Or a different ending entirely, such as the approaching end of the narrator’s life? Did these endings make sense? Could the endings carry multiple meanings, be sensed in different ways? How did the narrator sense it, the
other characters? How did I sense it as a reader?

The more the title’s ambiguity offered up different meanings appropriate to the story, the more I appreciated it as a title worthy of a fine book.

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