What’s In a Title?
I’m fascinated by book titles, and the stories behind how authors come up with them. Some titles appear to be ironic—The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some are poetically descriptive—The Winter Journal, Paul Auster. Some explanatory—The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, Joel Dicker. Some obscurely thematic—The Fourth Rule.
While doing research about secrets in preparation for writing The Fourth Rule, I stumbled across a quote that led me to think of the title. I was scanning through the index to Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and reading entries that related to secrets, when I found the quote “Tell No Secrets”, attributed to King Charles I as the fourth of his twelve personal rules to live by. Tell no secrets is exactly the challenge my hero faces when the CIA pressures him to reveal what happened to his older brother after he returned from Vietnam and disappeared twenty-two years ago.
While “tell no secrets” would have been a good title, it didn’t quite convey the mystery I wanted for my suspense novel. In the next beat, though, when I recognized the phrase “the fourth rule” was as relevant, simple and strong, but its meaning wasn’t as immediately explicit, I had my title.
What are your favorite book titles? Why?
Douglass Seaver, authorThe Fourth Rule