Eenie Meenie Miney...no

I have a very specific question. I hope it is not presumptious to ask something so narrow.

An agent, in rejecting my partial, said the VP was not likeable, and a protagonist should be likeable. Fine, except the VP is the ANTAGONIST. I am afraid my title might have caused confusion. Would you please vote on one of the following titles? Or suggest a new one, of course.

The story concerns a female Vice President who wishes to assassinate the President, and the female White House staffer who wishes to stop her. I picture George Clooney as the President and Killer Yapp as the staffer when the film comes out. The VP role is still open, if you are interested.

The working title is "Madame Veep." Two other titles under consideration are "Killing the President" and "Hell to the Chief."

Do you like any of these?

Miss Snark has a hard enough time picking out a frock for the annual Snarktown Stomp, let alone picking titles. I'll leave this question up to the devotion of Snarklings who think up all sorts of things.


Feisty said...

I'm going to go with Hell to the Chief. It has a really nice ring to it and seriously portrays the action of the story. I picture a cover with red flames and the President walking down that long white tunnel into the inferno.

Unless, of course, your title is only figurative, in which case you can skip the flames and the tunnel and just put a map on the front cover with a big X where the body was found, kind of like in the New York Post.

Christine said...

I like Hell to the Chief myself. Kinda quirky, but stays with you. Madame Veep seems a little cheesy for a murder story.

Well, at least the agent didn't like the antagonist... that says you at least wrote her well, even if you didn't quite define her clearly.

Brady Westwater said...

Murder At The White House

Susanne said...

Hell to the Chief, hands down. I'd forget the flames on the cover, but I think the title is catchy and captures the spirit of the story as you've described it.

Anonymous said...

Definitely Hell to The Chief

Anonymous said...

I believe your working title is the reason the agent thought the VP is the protagonist. Calling a novel "Madame Veep" begs people to think she is the character they'll be rooting for.
Judith in Iowa

Dhewco said...

We need some info first, does the president die? Is the VP in league with the devil?

If neither is true, 'Hell to the Chief' doesn't work for me. In fact, I think you need to rethink all the titles.

If the Prez is beloved, you could always go with 'Saving President Ryan'. LOL.

Titles have always been hard for me. Miss Snark, how important is the working title for an agent? Won't the publisher probably change it anyway?



Brady Westwater said...

Did title search and in 1980 Margaret Truman published 'Murder In The White House' but could not find any 'Murder At The White House' which, to me, sounds a lot better. Is that kosher?

Don't know protocol on these things; but if that title is deemed unacceptable, some combination of Murder and White House seems to me the best way to instantly communicate what your book is about.

Bernita said...

How about opening it up?
Something like "Clever, Evil Bitches"
The "To Hell..." is better,
"Madam Veep" sounds like a biography.

Suzanne Rorhus said...

Thanks, everybody, for your comments so far. The president does not actually die, and there is no supernatural element like the Devil. It's a thriller where the protagonist races to reveal the plot before the VP manages to kill him. Since it's a thriller, not a murder mystery, I worry about having "Murder" in the title. What do y'all think?

harridan said...

Ack, without more info, its impossible to even suggest a title.

Madam Veep did make it seem as if she was the heroine.

Hell to the chief is catchy, and may work based on story content.

At the moment, as I'm trying to budget christmas gifts, I can't even provide a pithy takeoff of another title. LOL

Don't you just love holidays?

Ahavah said...

A viewpoint character should be sympathetic whether it's an antagonist or a protagonist, right? No one (ok, politicians, I know...) should be completely unlikeable.

That said, I sort of agree with David. Hell to the Chief has the nicest ring, but it needs to fit well with the story. It makes me think pranormal, ghosts and whatnot. If the VP was slowly and meticulously driving the Pres insane, that would fit better.

Or why not choose a good line from the tale itself? Like if your VP was killing the Pres by slipping him a burrito laced with anthrax, you could call it Beans, Tomato, and Death Wrapped in a Flour Tortilla -- Extra Spicy. A cursory glance shows no listing in Amazon.

Dulcie said...

If the agent mistook the antagonist for the protagonist, even in a partial, this Snarkling wonders if there may be more to scrutinize in the ms. than just the title.

As "anonymous" said, the working title "Madame Veep" puts the emphasis on the antagonist--maybe not what the author intended. This Snarkling suggests a title that at least highlights the dramatic premise or clarifies the roles of the veep and the staffer, i.e. "In Death We Trust", "Absolute Power" or whatever.

Looking ahead (way ahead), why not cast Killer Yapp as the villain? That cute little face contrasted with those tiny sharp teeth make him a natural. As a bonus, Miss S. then gets the "George Clooney throws himself at her feet in gratitude" role.

~Dulcie Anne, admirer of all things Snark

vandræðiskáld said...

oh, I like Hell to the Chief, too. Very witty, Wilde!

Sal said...

"Faithful Execution"

a nod to

"I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Anonymous said...

Skirt Murder...
Undress Redress...
Panyhose Party Pooper...
Deadly Pink at the White House...

Anonymous said...

There must be some way to play off the word "Vice" in Vice-President... The Vices of the Veep... the vices of the vice president... OK, those are terrible, but you see what I'm getting at...

Quasipsyco said...

Murder in/at the White House is a better title.

One thing though, in any book, the POV character does need to be likable since that is who the reader is stuck with throughout the book.
If the reader doesn't like the POV character they will not read it. Either you need to better define the POV character (since everyone has something likable) or you need a different POV.
It is very fun, if done correctly, to have the POV or main character being a bad guy/girl. The reader must love or at least sympathize with the character and then as they go along they realize the person they are cheering for is bad. Another way to have the antagonist as the POV is similar to how Devils Rejects was done, the opposition was as bad/worse than the main characters. Again though, you must make the character likable enough to be cheered on even though the reader knows they are a bad guy.

CA McGee said...

It's a little hard to tell from what you've said about the story, but if I understand correctly, then the title is somewhat secondary, because the VP is the protagonist.

A protagonist is the central character of a story, whose point of view informs the story choices and whose dramatic choices are the plot's central action. The antagonist is the person/force that opposes the protagonist. Despite the fact that the vast majority of stories have "good guys" as their protagonists, these terms can't always be defined in terms of external good/evil or morality/immorality, the characters are defined in terms of the story.

There have been plenty of books where the protagonist/POV character is evil or immoral. Think of Lolita, where the main character is a pedophile. Even though Humbert is morally repulsive, many readers (who never have the urge to follow his path) connect with him because of the way he's portrayed.

In cases like this, what you have to do is make the character sympathetic from her own perspective. Allow readers to understand why she's undertaking these actions.

I think it's possible that what the agent meant was that the story didn't offer the insight needed to allow readers to relate to the VP. I would suggest asking yourself if it's the best choice to have the central character in the story be someone who the audience is predisposed to dislike. It's certainly a valid choice in many cases, but it's not something that should be done arbitrarily.

Heather said...

I loved Hell to the Chief! That title would make me buy the book.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I don't have an opinion as to what the title should be, but I don have an opinion as to what it should not be:

If the VP isn't your main character, then I don't think the title should have VP in it, because it unconsciously draws you focus to her (that's why the agent thought she was the main character.

And unless the President is such a scoundrel that he deserves to go to hell, I wouldn't send him there in the title, especially if he isn't going to die!

But that's just my opinion, I think you have to go with what makes you happy!

kitty said...

I vote for Hell to The Chief, but don't overlook Sal's Faithful Execution.

Your description sounds great! Keep us updated.

Anonymous said...

"Hell to the Chief". Then we can ride around with little, obnoxious "H" stickers on the back of our SUVs.

Linda said...

I think the "Hell to the Chief" title is very clever, but it sounds more like the title for a humorous cozy. I like Sal's recommendation of "Faithful Execution." Thrillers tend to have short, punchy titles like this. Other possibilities: "Executive Target" or "Executioner's Fiat."

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Does it have to have the pres or veep in it? There are still a whole lot of White House clich... uh, titles that haven't been used yet.

"A Dance In The Rose Garden"

"A Sure and Orderly Succession"

or, my favorite...

"You Sure Haven't Seen This On C-Span!"


Brady Westwater said...

Whose POV is the story told through? The VP - or the female staffer? The point about confusion as to whom the antagonist is, is well taken.And even if a murder is NOT committed - the story still is about an attempted murder and then the title refers to the generic (not quite the right word... but you get the idea) subject of murder at the White House.

And does anyone die? Then - 'Death At The White House' - works; you know someone will die - the question is - who?

Christine said...

I like Faithful Execution too.

Murder at the White House makes me think of that Wesley Snipe movie... Murder at 1600

I know I've read a book or two where the POV character (the antagonist) is actually the 'bad guy'... but I can't think of a single one right now. Good way to be different though.

Anne Merril said...

No more updates?

Please, Miss Snark, I'm dying. The office is being dismantled around me and I require an injection of sanity!

I'm not kidding aboutt he office either; we are moving the Wednesday after next, and the office admin, in her wisdom, has decided to get rid of all the furniture...now. I came in last week to find all my desk drawers gone and my stuff packed into boxes. Today I came in and the printers were on the floor, because she's given away the desks.

Please, post some witty, pithy and erudite dissection of some clueless person's publishing follies, or I shall go mad! I shall!

Oh, the humanity!

(And if you know where that quote came from, I will immortalise Killer Yap in filk.)

Aurora said...

"Veep" is a funny sounding word so it makes me think of a comedy. "Hell to the Chief" is better.

"Faithful Execution" sounds like a thriller title. That's good.

My suggestion: "Turncoat."

Miss Snark said...

I vote for Faithful Execution

Ig said...

How about "Presidential Vices"?

Or, alternately, "How to Kill the President in Six Easy Steps"

KillerYapp said...

Origin of "oh the humanity"


Now, fork over.

PS what is filik and I hope it tastes good.

Suzanne Rorhus said...

I gotta say, I like Faithful Execution too. Thanks to Sal for that one. I was also intrigued by Linda's Executive Target. Did anyone like Killing the President? At least that is what the protagonist (the white house staffer) is trying to prevent. The POV is with the staffer 50% of the time, and goes between four other people, both good and evil, the rest of the time.

Miss Snark, thanks for bringing together such a creative and generous group of people. I am touched by the number of people willing to respond to this dilemma. May the Muse take up residence in each of your homes.

Harry Connolly said...

FAITHFUL EXECUTION is the best title so far, but you might to find something better if you keep looking.

I'd also suggest you remember two things: First, the POV character only has to hold the reader's interest. Being likable or sympathetic is only the most common (and safest) way to do this.

Second, it's just the opinion of one agent. If you think the criticism has merit, great, but don't let one person's comment knock you out of the box. There's nothing wrong titling a book after the antagonist.

Janet McConnaughey said...

Of your three, I'd go with Hell to the Chief.

I donno that any of these is any better, but ...

The Vice is Ripe
The Blair House Plots (Blair House being the vice-presidential residence)
Planned Obsolescence (sp?)
The Presidential Steal
Aid and Deliver

For that matter, is there a key phrase somewhere in the book that would work as a title?

Kimi said...


" I will immortalise Killer Yap in filk.)"

Since I know Miss Snark sometimes like to divert her attention from the slush pile I'll do my "LINK" thing and give you this and she can explain it to you: http://www.filk.com/filk101.htm

Honestly Yapp....I don't think you'll like it. :)

Anonymous said...

How about just "Vice"? (borrowed from Maureen Dowd's preferred nickname for Dick Cheney.)

Darby said...

Madame Antagonist