The Importance of Titles

If judging a book by a cover is bad, then judging a book by its title must surely be worse. After all, covers are pictures, pictures are worth a thousand words, and titles are usually a mere phrase.

But it’s not that simple. Titles name a book, and names are important. A good name can make or break you.

Take, for example, the case of Ziz. Poor sad Ziz, of whom you have NEVER heard.

You see, there was once this trio of awesome creatures. All three were in the Bible [oops, see the update below], rocking out with special dispensations from Yahweh and generally kicking young earth ass. Three unbeatable giant beasties, one of the water, one of the land, and one of the air . . .

Leviathan, Behemoth, and, um, Ziz.


How bad is it to have a lame name? Well, thousands of years after their cameos in the Bible, Leviathan and Behemoth are still both famous. Their names are words in modern English, both meaning, “stuff that is big and awesome and/or scary.”

The word “Leviathan” appears in Moby-Dick, is the title of a famous work of philosophy and a movie, not to mention a record company and a comic strip.

“Behemoth” is equally culture-spanning, including this delightful Polish metal band. (Warning: high-volume flash intro Not Safe For School.)

But Ziz? Ziz has a crappy name, so the creature itself wound up fading into obscurity.

So if names are this important, surely titles are too.

Titles bring the reader into the world of the book. They set them up for what’s coming: comedy, tragedy, farce, or all three. They create inevitabilities (Death of a Salesman) and anticipations (The Year of Living Dangerously), or intensify the poetry of a key phrase (Dude, Where’s My Car?).

Even punctuation can be key. I mean, what if James Kelman’s classic novel How Late It Was, How Late, had been titled “How Late? It Was How Late?”

Totally different story, man.

Which brings us to my next trilogy, the first two books of which are called Leviathan and Behemoth. But seriously, can I call the third book, um, Ziz?

What do you guys think?

As CosmicDog points out in the delicious and insightful comments below, Ziz is not actually in the Bible, but is a part of Jewish folklore. Behemoth and Leviathan are both in the Book of Job (and Leviathan other places), so that part’s right. I got confused because they are frequently pictured together.

Does this mean my point fails? Or does this mean that Ziz has been double-dissed! First by being left out of the Bible, then by being generally forgotten!

116 thoughts on “The Importance of Titles

  1. I’m not gunna say your idea to name the third book Ziz is a bad one, but if your first two were two names that were fairly intimidating from the Bible then maybe you should stick to intimidating names from the Bible, may I suggest the name for the third book be the Goliath or another name that is actually in the Bible
    But if you’re to use Ziz you shouldn’t modify it because that would take away from the value of the name, take it’s meaning away, so for the name Ziz you should definitely leave it the same
    Btw I love your books, and may I be so bold as to say Leviathan is one of your better works of literature

  2. Perhaps continue to use a biblical (or Torah) reference that also is synonomous with size such as Ziggurat or Nebuchadnezzar. While Nebuchadnezzar might be a bit too generic or overused (the name of the ship in the Matrix), if perhaps you use it to reference some sort of flying machine, Ziggurat would be completely relevant biblically. In the biblical story of the tower of Babel (which is widely also known as the Ziggurat of Babylon), God smote his people for reaching too high in the heavens for their own glory. There are many ways you could tie in a title like that I think….

  3. Okay, I can totally get where you’re coming from, when I first stumbled across the trio, I was underwhelmed by Ziz to. (And please excuse my terrible english)


    I personally would LOVE to see Ziz as the last title. I feel that there’s a lot of really awsome Jewish mythology out there, and frankly, no one really uses it. Would anyone write “Percy Jackson and the Rabi Loew?” No. Jewish mythology is REALLY COOL and REALLY UNDERREPRESENTED. Go for Ziz, dude, stick with the cohesivness, and bring some new cultures into the limelight.

    If to you Ziz is termanally lame (I could totally understand that), the only other thing I can come up with is the name Simurgh, which is a Russian name for a Ziz-like monster.

    Just my 2 cents.

  4. Why not go with a shortened version of a scientific name? Like “Kraken” has already been done in Leviathan, so using it as a proper noun wouldn’t break any new ground. But a kraken is a cephalopod…so how about “Cephalos”? That sounds awesome.

  5. Even though the name Ziz has been obscure during the last few thousand years if it returns it will be a household name, And will be much more fearsome.

    Goliath even though in the bible is not a beast, your book must be named after a beast and a flying one at that.

    So I vote Phoenix.

  6. Sir, On wikipedia It says that Ziz is comparable to a persian monster called Simurgh. I don’t know about you but to me Simurgh sounds pretty badass. Even More badass than goliath.

  7. YAY whoever wrote Goliath before, thats what the name is gonna be! Thats what I love about Scott-he ACTUALLY TAKES FEEDBACK FROM HIS READERS! yay how refreshing! oh, and although I feel sorry for ziz, and it sounds cool, I hate it as a title. Its a horrible match for Aleks and Deryns story, which is not very silly.

  8. Man… I am so annoyed that it wasn’t named Ziz. I mean, how can you not complete the trio? It’d be perfect, and would bring out more awareness on the guy.

    I mean, the Leviathan is the ruler of the seas, the Behemoth is the ruler of the lands, so obviously the last one’s going to be the ruler of the air, right? Right? Nope, just a random dude (sure, a big dude, but he can’t really compare).

    “sigh” I know it’s silly to get so upset over a name, but it just doesn’t feel right at all.

  9. I think you should call it “Ziz” just as ’tis. I say so for a number of reasons.
    1.) it reinforces the theme of the previous iterations
    2.) One word titles are hot right now (to be colloquial for a moment)
    3.) ‘His’ name is not ‘Zizagon’ or ‘Zizael’ but ‘Ziz’, your previous monsters got to keep their names.
    4. and this is the big one) You could be the person that makes the name demonstrable (keypart ‘monstr’) by demonstrating it. Things only sound “cool” as they are used by people. ‘Ziz’ does not have to inspire a sense of heaviness and size as ‘Behemoth’ does, nor does it have to inspire mysterious and massive unknown power, as ‘Leviathan’ does. These are just sounds formed by our tongues anyway. in Korea for example, the term for a legendary bird not dissimilar from our’ Phoenix is ‘Bonghwang’
    While the Korean name may sound like a drug reference/sexual innuendo to Westerners, it sounds like an awesome mythological figure to Koreans. Use Ziz, paint him as the ethereal, ephemeral, zephyr-monster that he is. Thusly will the character of the thing defined inform the language. This is the nature of language and always has been. ‘Groovy’ and ‘Cool’ both came into being around the same time, one is now considered stupid, the other is commonplace. It is our associations that shape our language, which then, in turn, shapes further language. Even ‘Groovy’ is making a comeback in some circles.

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