Jilly: Picking Your Brains

Is anyone up for a spot of title brainstorming? I’d appreciate some help.

I’m planning to publish my first book, The Seeds of Power, before the end of the year (much more to follow on that subject soon). All being well the sequel, The Light of Calder, will follow in 2020.

Told you that to tell you this: I want to write a short story (which may grow into a novella) that sits between The Seeds of Powerand The Light of Calder. I know the bare bones of the story. I can visualize the cover. But I can’t find a good title, and it’s driving me crazy.

The books are fantasy adventure romance in a swords-n-sorcery setting vaguely similar to Tudor-era northern England or Scottish borders. The most important commodity in this world is elan, an imaginary medicine created by concentrating life energy into specially grown beans. The mysterious transformation process changes the beans from everyday foodstuff into hard-shelled, fragrant, shiny golden nuggets known as pulses. A pulse of elan can be grated and boiled into a tonic for internal use, or added to a poultice for external application. However it’s used, elan boosts the body’s own natural healing powers and gives near-miraculous results, which makes it more valuable than gold. The only people who know how to make elan are the Edevald family, rulers of wealthy, powerful Caldermor.

The Seeds of Poweris about Christal, a strong-minded princess who’s determined not to marry (she has excellent reasons) and who justifies her single status by becoming an expert cultivator of rare plants. Her plan works fine until Prince Daire Edevald unexpectedly proposes marriage because he needs her to fix a problem with his secret elan beans.

The Light of Calder is Daire’s story, about his attempts to lift the Edevald curse. The men of his family burn brightly but do not live long. Common gossip says the Edevalds made a deal with the gods, and their short life span is the price they paid to gain the secret of elan. The Light of Calder is a priceless jewel, the Edevald family’s greatest heirloom, and so much more than merely the centerpiece of the Calderran royal regalia.

My plan is for the Story in the Middle to show the problem with the secret bean plants and explain how the solution Christal offers motivates Daire to seek out someone who can help him solve the mystery of the Edevald curse.

The title for the new story should be The Something of Something.

Some key elements—a secret bean garden in a hidden valley with mysterious custodians; golden elan beans; life energy; wealth; power; family secrets; a life-shortening condition that could be a hereditary illness or an immortal curse.

The Garden of Secrets? The Valley of Something? The Something of Change? Of Life? Of Danger? Not Destiny, because the conflicts, which hatch into something epic, are all man-made. Not Magic, because the supernatural aspects to the story are elemental forces rather than spells and sorcery. The Root or Pulse of Something?

Argh 😮  Any ideas? I’d love to hear ‘em!

24 thoughts on “Jilly: Picking Your Brains

  1. The Secrets of Power is the only thing that came to mind as I read this.

    Good luck hitting upon a title that speaks to you and good luck with this series. It sounds like you have been making great progress.

    • The Secrets of Power is a good promise for the story I want to tell. I would like to settle on a title, not only because it helps me as I write, but because then I can get a cover for this story done at the same time as The Light of Calder.

      I’ve been trying to nail down the bare bones of The Light of Calder for a very long time now–wasn’t even sure whether I should write it or drip it into the first Alexis book as backstory–but this week I finally (fingers crossed) figured out how to do it. I’m full of that lovely excited feeling where everything’s perfect in my head and I haven’t started the hard work of wrestling the shiny idea into a book.

      I’ve been working on The Seeds of Power for so long, I’m excited to get back to the discovery stage and just start writing again. I think your Friday writing sprints and our short story games have really helped me to keep the momentum going. Hope NaNo is working the same way for you 🙂

  2. Reading it over, something about Jack and the Beanstalk popped into my mind. The Giant of XXX? The Beans of the Giant?

    But to follow your formula, The Curse of Edevald? Seeds and Light are very positive things, so to produce a dark valley between books would be interesting.

    I don’t know how titles work for you. I think it’s very important for defining the juice of the story, and my titles often change as I write (although, the document still often keeps the oldest title up throughout the first draft, and sometimes through most of the editing process, just so I can keep my stuff in the same place).

    Ah, thought of another one: The Custodian of the Pulse. Pulse is such a great term because it has so many different meanings and so much resonance. Heartbeat, kind of bean, something thrilling or weak and wan.

    • Here’s the funniest thing–I never consciously thought of Jack and the Beanstalk when I was first imagining elan, but surely it must have been lurking. Now I really like that it adds a bonus fairy tale echo to the elan saga.

      Titles are really important to me, for exactly the reason you describe. Reminds me of the story I’m trying to tell. That’s why I’ve been feeling so frustrated about this one. Pulse is a very good word here, because it ties together the elan and Daire’s curse. Hmmm. Cogitating. Thanks!

  3. So something unhealthy, something plant related, something that threatens existing good, existing societal structure…

    The Withering of Hope
    The Withering of Promise
    The Withering of The Realm
    The Blight of *placename*
    The Shriveling of Seeds (hah. my mind is ALWAYS in the gutter, apparently)

    Probably none of these are helpful, but that what my brain spit out.

    • Yeah, sadly no destiny. I have to keep reminding myself, because Destiny is such a lovely grandstanding word for a title. Though I have to confess, I hadn’t thought of juxtaposing it with beans…

      • Nope, and nope. They are shiny and showy and energetic until they expire.

        As Prince Daire’s scheming mother says to Christal, “Edevald boys are handsome and charming but they don’t last long. You get the best of them without the rest.”

  4. Rhythmically, I like “The [short word] of [long word],” like what Daisy did: “The Blight of Caldemor” or “The Blight of Aspiration” (I LOVE “blight”; otherwise, just picking a long word that’s sitting right there doing nothing). Also, “curse” and “pulse” worked for me, too, although they sound long even if they’re only one syllable.

    I was thinking more along the lines of elan being essential, so words like “key” or “proof” might yield something, but I’ve been sitting here for 20 minutes and my mind is blank. I guess it’s too late—brain is fried!

    • I also love “blight”, Kay, but probably not for the Story in the Middle, Because Reasons. Blight is a key element of The Seeds of Power–ghost blight, night blight, it’s known by a number of names, causes devastation and strikes terror into farming communities. Naturally Daire thinks/assumes his problem is a kind of blight, but he’s wrong.

      Rhythmically, if the short story/novella/whatever is to be sandwiched between The Seeds of Power and The Light of Calder I suppose it should be The One-Syllable of Two-Syllable. Blight, pulse, beans, curse, life. Vines, maybe. Fruit(s) would have been very handy and may even be technically correct but yeah, no. Or–riffing off Daisy’s suggestion of blight–what about bane?

      • Bane is good! So, still no ideas, but I did a cheap fallback on the thesaurus. There are a lot of words there. Some one-words followed by two-words include:

        The Bane of Essence
        The Bane of Lifeblood
        The Bane of Nature
        The Bane of Spirit
        (or possibly: The Bane of Oomph! 🙂 Sounds like a children’s novel)
        Or, for other fun:
        The Bane of Being
        The Bane of Sparkle

        As I roamed through the thesaurus, I found some other good words. If elan is the essence, the kernel of life, maybe it’s the germ or root of being, or not being, in the case of the Edevald men. Going the other way:

        The Root of Darkness
        The Root of Silence
        The Germ of Ruin

        Yeah, probably not “germ.”

        The Death of Promise

        Yeah, okay, quitting now. Still got nothin’.

        • Probably not Germ. Though maybe Gem, as in those shiny power jewels. The Gems of Danger. The Gems of Fortune. Argh. Or not.

          The Bane of Oomph! I love that. The Bane of Cheesecake. Or maybe Cupcakes…

  5. OK, my daughter wants to play, too. She says:

    The Valley of Secrets
    “Probably too obvious, but needed to be said.”

    The Dusk of…
    The Dawn of…
    “Because it’s about a feared ending, but actually a beginning, with a natural element. Also, because I’m likely to pick up a book with Dusk or Dawn in the title.”

    The Blooming of Dawn
    The Blossoming of Dawn
    Me: ? Her: “You don’t think dawn can bloom?” Me: “Well, of course you’re right. Dawn can definitely bloom.”

    The Fall of Secrets

    • The Valley of Secrets–yes, would work and yes again, needed to be said 🙂

      A feared ending that’s actually a beginning with a natural element. That’s a great way to look at it. Dusk and Dawn fit the story premise nicely but I’m not sure about them for the adult fantasy genre because they feel quite close to Twilight/Breaking Dawn. I think maybe (?) they’ve become associated with YA fiction and sparkly vampires.

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