As anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter knows, I've been struggling for some time with the title for Lizzy Ballard Book 3.
My husband came up with the title of Book 1, Rock Paper Scissors, based on a plot line revolving around the question of one power besting another. I loved it not only because the name was perfect for the story, but also because it provided a theme for the titles of the other books in the series.
For Book 2, I knew that snakes would be a key plot component and chose the name of an ancient Indian board game: Snakes and Ladders. It represented a person's virtues as ladders and their vices as snakes, and the course of their life was dependent on the virtuous or vicious choices they made.
When I needed a break from working on Book 3, I would peruse Wikipedia's list of traditional children's names for ideas (Buck Buck? High Cockalorum?). I wanted the title to match an emerging theme of the book, which was the enlistment of people to support a goal. For Lizzy's allies (although not always for Lizzy herself), the goal is to keep Lizzy safe. Book 3's new villain is recruiting accomplices to support a more nefarious goal.
I looked for games that require cooperation between people, and thought of the string games I played as a child. That metaphor had the added appeal of suggesting not only the tight cooperation needed to attain the desired goal, but also the tangled mess left if one participant doesn't do his or her part.
As I zeroed in on string games, one jumped out at me: Cat's Cradle.
It struck me not only as appealingly poetic, but also faintly ominous. Despite a fellow author's caution about giving my book the same title as a Kurt Vonnegut novel, I decided on the name and got the book cover designed.
Here's a prototype of the original cover from my fabulous cover designer, Juan Padron. I loved the use of the cat's cradle string game as a subtle design element!
However, as the novel took shape, I began to realize the difficulties of Cat's Cradle as a title. To continue the pattern of the earlier books, I wanted the title concept to be referenced explicitly in the dialogue, specifically by the villain. As his character developed, he struck me less and less as the type of person who would have indulged in a string game as a child, or used it as a metaphor as an adult.
More importantly, the book's theme shifted away from the recruitment of allies in pursuit of a common goal and toward the idea of prize versus punishment. And I ended up finding the precise metaphor I was seeking in my favorite book of all time.
Within the next few weeks I'll be revealing the title and cover of Lizzy Ballard Book 3 on Facebook; make sure you're following me there to be the first to find out!