V Commentary: Titles

In Chapter V. The Plan Professor Akayama, currently called Nakayama, the Heart of the Mountain, reveals an element of her plan which warps our understanding of the earliest sections of the story. She anoints the first man Nemo with a new title: Anihilato, King of Dust. His incomplete understanding of Akayama’s intent led Nemo to eat his followers’ fingers until society rejected him. The centipede-person who ejected Dan from the afterlife is all that remains of Akayama’s humble servant after he absorbs all Earthly disobedience.

An important notion in Akayama DanJay is that titles don’t make someone who they are. Dan turns into Jillian turns into Jay (and briefly into Jadie and Leo). Leo is Henry. Nemo is Virgil Blue and Anihilato, King of Dust. Akayama/Nakayama is the Biggest Bird and Heart of the Mountain. While names might change how characters interpret one another, they don’t change the characters themselves.

On a related note, I’d like to talk about the title of my story.

What’s a story’s title supposed to do? There are loads of listicles on the subject, and for the most part, they highlight these values:

  • A title should be memorable and catchy
  • A title should interest readers by telling them what the story’s about
  • A title’s acronym should be distinct and attractive in case people use the acronym to discuss the story online

Currently the title is Akayama DanJay. It’d be tough to change that now, so late in the game, as I’d have to get a new website and make new art. But if I compiled a final draft I could totally change the title, and I probably should.

As the working title for a passion project, Akayama DanJay is acceptable. Personally I think it’s catchy, but for anyone who speaks no Japanese, it can be intimidating and hard to remember. I like how the only vowel is “a.” The title doesn’t convey anything initially, but over the course of the story it should dawn on the reader that the double-character DanJay emerges from Akayama’s machinations. The acronym, ADJ, is nice and striking.

When I first conceived of the narrative, the working title was Whence Came Jay. It’s more explanatory, telling potential readers that this is the story of a person named Jay discovering their origin and their destiny, but Whence is a clunky word. Its acronym, WCJ, has a W in it, and W is equally clunky. It’s the only multi-syllable English letter! I don’t like it.

At the moment my idea for a final-draft title is either Bright Mountain DanJay or Red Mountain DanJay. Either way this is more memorable for English speakers (my goal is to limit myself to Japanese words which dweebs have gleaned from anime). It more clearly declares the story to be the tale of DanJay, a person from the Mountain. If you don’t realize DanJay is a person’s name, you at least understand the Mountain part of the title. The acronym, either BMDJ or RMDJ, is pretty good, although BMDJ sounds like a scatological techno artist.

Regardless, I’ve got time to think about it. I’ll tell you if I come up with something better.

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