One thing I find difficult to show when I’m writing is the power of body language. A written scene full of description generally isn’t one of action, yet sometimes there’s a lot of action, or a lot of information passed on, without a single word being spoken. I went to a marriage equality rally a while ago and observed this silent exchange. The words are mine, deduced solely from the body language. I think it shows how important body language is in communication, and also how important it is to try to show it in writing.
Scene: in a park amongst a building crowd, getting ready for the rally.
A: Pulls out two rainbow t-shirts from small bag, hands bag to B. “Hold this while I change?”
B: Takes bag and one of the t-shirts. Lifts collar to check size. “Are you sure you have yours?”
A: Raises eyebrows at B. “Of course this is mine. I checked.” A pulls shirt off over head and hands it to B. “Here, hold this while I put the other one on.”
B: Takes shirt and looks at A. “Are you sure you need to change?” Rubs hand down his own chest. “Do I need to as well or can I put my shirt over this one?”
A: Shakes his head. “You know they fit too well to look good over another shirt.” Tugs new t-shirt into place then reaches out for his original one. “I’ll just fold this then you can change too.” Folds t-shirt, places it in bag. Takes bag back from B.
B: Takes shirt off and hands to A. Puts new shirt on then reaches for original t-shirt. A hands him the bag instead.
A: “I’ll just fold this to go in the bag.”
B: Reaches for shirt. “I can do it.”
A: Holds shirt out of reach as he folds it. “You know you can’t fold worth a damn. I’m nearly done.” Takes bag and puts folded shirt into it.
B: Rubs A on shoulder blade. “Thanks, babe.”
A: Smiles up at B then slides gaze down his chest. “Damn you look hot in that shirt.”
They grin at each other then turn to the friends waiting nearby and begin a verbal conversation with them.
I find titles incredibly difficult to choose—or incredibly easy. I like to have a title that has some relevance to the story and resonates with it or me. I’m a character-driven writer and my titles reflect that. Generally, my titles reflect something about the character’s life or the core of their personality. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it very wrong.
For example, by historical stories were very difficult to come up with the right title.
Between Love and Honor began life as My Heart is Broken. That wouldn’t have been a good start for a reader, so it was quickly changed.
The Courage to Love had a working title of Over There. I hated it the whole time but was into the third round of edits before I thought of the best title for the book. It had to reflect David’s struggle with his past and gradual acceptance that he could move forward with Bernard.
Other title come more easily. The Just Life series never had any title other than the ones they were published with. I had the characters in my head but, in some ways, the titles wrote the stories. The stories had to match the titles.
Ordinary People, as a title, came to me within the first paragraph of writing. It had no other incarnations. Vinnie is such an ordinary person that you’d never think there’d be anything extraordinary about his life. He’s a study in contrasts from macro to micro, and I like that the title foreshadows the contrasts. It’s a good title and I can’t think of another one that would work better, but it would also be a good title for a series.
My science fiction and fantasy stories, The Planet Whisperer and Warrior Pledge, were written with the title formed from the very beginning. I’ve written a sequel to Warrior Pledge, Dragon God, that started life as something else entirely too incipid for what Fisher and Gaelan go through to find their own better place.
In Another Life was also an easy one to name. It was inspired by Katy Perry’s song One That Got Away. I deliberately didn’t watch the video of that song until after I’d finished the story. They’re nothing alike.
One of my disaster titles is What About Him. That’s the question that ran through my head the whole time I was writing the story but it stopped me thinking beyond that question when it came to choosing a title.
All this discussion on how my titles came about clouds the issue of the importance of titles for books. I firmly believe a good title is important but I also think a bad title can sell if the story is good enough. I also think the cover is more important than the title because it has more visual impact.
I made a decision recently to separate my two main characters so they could each do their thing before coming back together again. At the time, I thought it showed that each of them was an autonomous person who chose to be with another because they were better together than apart, but I’ve since read through those scenes again and the only real result of the separation has been to cool off the romance—something I definitely didn’t want to do.
So what do I do now?
I have to think about the two scenarios and see how I can make them work with the characters together. I’m going to lose some great scenes—Fisher in the sewers for one—because Gaelan is a dragon and can fly them wherever they want to go, but having them working together instead of apart should strengthen their relationship.
There are several instances throughout the story where the main character wanders off on his own to do his thing. I justified it while I was writing because Fisher is used to being independent; he doesn’t consider working in with others when he’s on a mission. That’s not totally correct though because he has worked in teams most of his adult life and knows the value of having backup. His emotional alone-ness hasn’t impacted on his organisational behaviours.
I need to get Fisher to realise that he doesn't have to remain emotional separate while working with the right person. That one thing will give the romance the boost it needs, right at the perfect place in the story.
There’s a lot more editing in my future. Now I just have to get my family life to settle long enough for my head to get back into the story.
E E Montgomery
About writing, life, and random thoughts.
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