coming up with a title

July 1st, 2012 | Category: books, news


My new book, ‘Wildlife’, will be out next year.

It is the second in an extremely loosely linked trilogy.

Lou, from ‘Six Impossible Things’ is one of two point-of-view characters in ‘Wildlife’, and the other, the protagonist, is a new character, Sibylla.

During its gestation ‘Wildlife’ has had a few working titles, and here’s why they didn’t last the distance.

1. Pulchritude
This was my original title idea, and the scene in which that word appears is still in the book. For: it delivers an appealing dislocation of meaning and form. It means beauty, and yet it sounds more like the noise you might make when you vomit. Beauty itself being an undoubted mixed blessing is one of the things the story looks at. Against: no one can pronounce it, and no one knows what it means – brilliant idea if you want to make buying the book, or borrowing it from a library, or even remembering the title as difficult as humanly possible.
2. Kisschasey
Before it was a band and a wine label, this was a game of playground tiggy in which the kiss was punitive. The kissed party became ‘it’: they lost. This suited the ambiguity of the main love story within the narrative. It’s a first love for Sibylla, an experience she finds wonderful, completely confusing, and by no means a simple happily-ever-after. So, the title relates well to the narrative, and it’s catchy. But I could not imagine a fourteen-year-old boy choosing it from a shelf. Overall, it felt a bit young, a bit ‘bubblegum’/cute, for a story that includes content about sex and desire.
3. The Fairweather Term
This was the shortest-lived working title. It split the field – classical/simple vs boring/ho-hum. The idea with this one was that the school campus is at a place called Mt. Fairweather, and the students are there for a term of the school year – uh-huh – but it also calls to mind the ‘term’ ‘fairweather friend’, which has resonance within the story, so it would have been a double entendre, geddit?
4. Wildlife
My friend Debi suggested this one, and I think it’s a stayer. It is a story about first love, and friendship, and it’s set in an outdoor education campus in the mountains. ‘Wildlife’, with its simple connotation of creatures living according to instinct within a habitat felt perfectly suited to this group of characters dealing with life away from the support structure of family. I look at jealousy and betrayal in this story, too, and have a (female) character very loosely based on Iago, from Othello, so the outdoor education camp can also be read as a ‘Cyprus’ vs the relative civilization of the city campus, ‘Venice’; it’s a place with fewer rules and greater extremes. Wild.

My first blog post here was about why I chose ‘Six Impossible Things’ as a title.

It’s possible I spend a bit too much time obsessing over things like this.

My third book, set back at the same school’s city campus at the beginning of year 11, has a working title which I won’t divulge too early, as I did with Pulchritude-Kisschasey-The Fairweather Term-Wildlife.

* I took this photo on Mt Timbertop. That’s right – my commitment to research knows no bounds. I put on the walking boots. I huffed. I puffed. etc. Great view.

12 responses to “coming up with a title”

  1. Matt Armstrong says:

    Love it, I can’t wait!!! 🙂

  2. DoctorDi says:

    Definitely the pick of the bunch, Fiona. All those layers of meaning are great. And it is not possible to spend too much time obsessing over these things – I think titles are SO important. Exciting – looking forward to it!

    • fiona says:

      Thanks, Di. I thought I was there with The Fairweather Term, but my publisher was not excited by it, so I was very grateful for my friend’s ‘Wildlife’ brainwave. I’ve been unsociable lately in the blog-zone, but just popped over then to see what you have been up to. Omigod! You sound to be having the most wonderful holiday. And I love your tag line in the most recent post from Greece. Very funny.

  3. Anne Pitt says:

    Hi Fiona,

    I love your work. I am doing a PWE course at CAE and wanted to ask you some questions (I’m unsure if this is the right place to ask). Could you please tell me how you approach your work, what prepared you for this profession, what specific skills you required, what are your works greatest challenges and rewards (or where I can find all these answers)?

    With many thanks,

    • fiona says:

      Thanks for visiting the blog, and for your comments, Anne. Very briefly – I approach my work with hope and tenacity. I write full time. I write slowly. I rewrite heaps. What prepared me for work as a writer of fiction is a combination of a lifetime love of reading, studying english at university, more than ten years of writing for television, and having a naturally curious, dreamy disposition – but even with that helpful combination of interest, study, work experience, and inclination to snoop and imagine, I still find the work very challenging, and that’s one of the reasons I love it and never find it boring, although it’s often frustrating. The skill you need – the ability to write – ranges from the general areas of creating story and characters, and place, and exploring themes, to more detailed craft areas such as writing dialogue and editing and constructing fresh sentences. The greatest challenges are working alone, and finding the motivation to keep rewriting till it’s right. The greatest reward without a doubt is connecting with readers – hearing that my book gave pleasure or comfort to a reader. I hope that is helpful, and I’m also putting some links here to a few interviews that may give you some extra information. Enjoy your studies!

  4. Matt Armstrong says:

    Hi Fiona,

    Did you ever write an episode for All Saints or Blue Heelers? Would you have liked to?


    • fiona says:

      Hi Matt, I did not write for either of those shows. I did sit in on a Blue Heelers story day once when I was studying screenwriting. It’s always a great idea to that if you get the chance. You get to hear how an episode is plotted, and how writers and editors go about solving story problems. Would I have liked to? I can’t say either show was a particular favourite, but I can’t imagine I would have turned down the work if it had been offered.

  5. Hi Fiona,

    Just wondering something. I’m on holidays and I was hoping you could look over one of my scripts I’ve written lately (if you have time). I’ve asked Louise Crane-Bowes, however even though she would love to, she couldn’t receive unsolicited scripts. Any chance you could read over it for me? You don’t have to, though.


    • fiona says:

      Hi there, Matt,

      I’m sorry but due to time constraints (ie my own work is NEVER finished) I have a policy of not reading students’ work. But I thought I might share with you some thoughts on your pursuit of professional TV scriptwriting. I’m going to suggest it might be a good idea to reallocate this from short-term goal to medium- or long-term goal. My reasons for saying this is that I’m almost certain that no TV show will hire someone to write scripts while they are still at school. Probably the biggest reason for this is that one of essential requirements for writing is some life experience. A tertiary qualification is often helpful too.

      Now, I’m definitely not saying you should stop writing TV scripts for your own interest and to hone your craft. In fact your motivation and enthusiasm and dedication will mean that when you are old enough to start doing this work, if you are still interested in it at that time, you will be well ahead of the game. And there’s no doubt that the more you write the better you get, so do keep writing!

      Maybe it would be a good idea for you to form a writing group where you and some friends can look at each other’s writing. You might even ask an english or drama teacher, or librarian at school next year if they know of any other students who share your interest in writing for performance. This can often be a great cross-age activity. If you have a group in place you can then broaden your writing outlook and, for instance, you might film short performances or readings either of stuff you write yourselves, or, say, selected scenes from plays you are studying, or film scripts you like.

      Also – keep a look out for any opportunities for student workshops on TV skills such as dialogue writing.

      The other things that occurs to me is that you might also like to look at something like short-story writing. The narrative and character creation skills needed for this will be of tremendous use to you in future TV writing. But it is a much simpler thing to achieve! All you need is your ideas, and a computer. If you decide this is of interest to you, the other good thing about it is that there are lots of opportunities specifically for school-aged writers. I know there is, for example, a John Marsden writing competition each year. An internet search will probably throw up plenty more.

      Finally, if there is a youth theatre group in your area, it might be a good idea to look into joining that. This also relates directly to your interest in TV in that it involves looking at performance, and with any luck, writing for performance. Here in Melbourne we have St Martins Theatre and Arena Theatre, but I’m not sure if there is anything similar in your region.

      I hope this gives you some food for thought and some avenues for further enjoyment of writing. Once again, congratulations on your focus and motivation.

      ps. I think your last message might have disappeared in a techno-glitch, but you mentioned liking Lisa MCune’s work, so I thought I would let you know that I met Lisa at a Reef Doctors story meeting, and she is just as lovely in real life as she seems to be when you see her acting. You are probably going to ask when the show is going to air, and I don’t know, but I think it’s sometime in 2013.

  6. Hi, Fiona.

    The ‘Reef Doctors’ wikipedia page ( was updated today and I’m glad to see your name on there. Really looking forward to it.

    PS. Are there episode titles or are they called Episode One, Episode Two etc.?

    • fiona says:

      Hi Matt,

      You know more than I do! I’m pretty sure we were just using numbers, but they may have titled them since they were written. I wrote the second, and the second last.

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