Guest blog post: Michael Patrick Hicks

What’s in a Title?

Coming up with a title can be a tricky business. You want it to be evocative and attention-grabbing. Maybe the title comes from a catchy phrase within the book, or maybe they’re just a word or two that cut straight to the heart of the thematic elements of the book itself.

My titles tend toward this latter style. I like a title that is brief and punchy, but also illustrative of the work as a whole and the various themes and layers of the story. To me, a title needs to have meaning. With my debut novel, Convergence, I had a title that worked on multiple levels. Convergence is a near-future cyberpunk thriller. Cybernetics are a daily part of life, memory theft is a thing, the past and the present are beginning to meet in a post-war setting. In short, all kinds of things are…well, converging.

Broken Shells, my latest, has a title that works in similar ways. In this subterranean horror novella, we have a bunch of strange cryptid creatures dwelling underground, but the title does not refer only to the broken shells from which they emerge. Antoine, a down on his luck fellow, lives in a decrepit apartment in a rundown, abandoned and neglected city. The dreams of his youth have been shattered, he has lost his job, and his personal life largely brings him only dissatisfaction. He is a broken shell living within a broken shell. Jon Dangle, on the other hand, is a successful businessman, a keeper of secrets of the dark and mysterious variety. I’ll let you figure out how exactly Dangle fits into the title, but suffice to say, he’s a broken shell in his own way, too.

As a title, the words “broken shells” represent the characters, the creatures, and the state of the world they all inhabit. It’s a title that has various shades of meaning and relevance, and one that I hope catches a reader’s eye, makes them curious, and intrigues them enough to draw them in. Although Broken Shells is a novella, I believe there’s a few things for readers to work on unpacking from the book’s themes well after they turn the last page (and hopefully they’ll share with me some of their own interpretations on these broken shells!). But I will give you fair warning now – some of those things within this book? They bite, and they bite hard, and with very sharp teeth. They are out there, in the dark, and deep beneath the soil, because this world itself is a broken shell, and there are some truly scary things still hidden inside it.

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of a number of speculative fiction titles. His debut novel, Convergence, was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist. His latest release is the subterranean horror novella, Broken Shells.
He has written for the Audiobook Reviewer and Graphic Novel Reporter websites, in addition to working as a freelance journalist and news photographer.
In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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