The trend toward one-word titles and what I think about how short they are and what they mean

Tucked away in my little studio, writing away at a book that may be published in the future (note the insecurity), I begin to contemplate the title of said book. Yes, I’m that far along with it. And even though I know that publishers usually end up scrapping the original title and stamping their own without a second thought, I want to make as little work as possible for them so they have more time to sell, sell, sell.

So while I rack my brain trying to think of titles, I do a little research and find a fascinating phenomenon. One word. That’s it. Just one word is all I need. How did this trend happen and more importantly, where was I when that memo came out? Did Twilight start this mess, I asked myself? No. You have to go back even further (said a strange, whispering voice) to Jane Austen’s miserly use of words for Persuasion, Stevenson’s Kidnapped, or even Benchley’s pint-sized title with a punch, Jaws. Who needs pesky details in a title, right?

So even though these types of titles have been around for a long time, no other time is it as obvious a trend as today. Just look at a few of the titles out now: Defiance, Slammed, Thoughtless, Wings, Rapture, Predestined, Insurgent, Divergent, Forbidden, Devour, Touch, Twilight, Outpost, Boneshaker, Hemlock, and Room. Lovely words, yes? I’m not sure I know what any of these books are about, except for the few that I have read.

My question, and excuse me if I’m just not seeing it, is the relevance of these titles to the book. Does the title (word) tell you enough about the book to make you want to read it? Is that one word sufficient? In most cases, unless the book takes off and it doesn’t matter what you call it (like Twilight or Jaws), most books will be seen online or a store shelf and have about 5 seconds to grab the reader, intrigue him enough to read the blurb on the back cover or description and then decide to buy. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one word, don’t you think?

The present-day trend of one-word titles brings to mind beloved classics, and just what word would be used if they were being published today.

Farenheit 451 – Banned

The Catcher in the Rye – Defiance

Little Women – Loyalty

The Count of Monte Cristo – Revenge

Great Expectations – Prospects

Gone with the Wind – Avarice

The Great Gatsby – Regrets

The Cat in the Hat – Disillusion

Green Eggs and Ham – Resistance

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It all comes down to having a good story behind the title. People don’t say, “You should read this, it has a great title.”

I’m still thinking of a title that will knock the pencil right out of the publisher’s hand. Oh yeah, and a story to go with it.


Stepping into a new chapter, with a jungle-red prosthetic toenail

Each new chapter requires a step in a new direction. (Mine is the orange, in case you were wondering)

I left the doctor’s office this morning with a big smile on my face. When I walked in there I was in pain. When I walked out, I was missing a big toenail and a miracle had occurred.

Like everyone on this planet, I have had major changes in my life and major hurdles to overcome. And each time I had to “step” into a new chapter, my toe would become a problem. I even went to a spiritual healer (when a friend dragged me there) and he said that I was holding back on making changes in my life and I wasn’t able to “step” forward. Thus, the toe problem. Examples of this…In my early 20s I moved to New York with a boyfriend and it just wasn’t working. Should I leave? Should I stay? I developed a tumor on my toe. I had it removed and not long after that, he left me and I left New York.

Fast forward to my life in Florida. I was working a temp job, living with a friend in her mother’s condo. We were trying to decide if we should leave the state and start over. I wanted to leave but that would mean leaving my family and all my friends and starting over in a place where I had never been. The tumor returned. I had it removed and we left for Arizona without jobs or lodging set up. It worked out fine.

A few years later I met a wonderful guy. He wanted to marry me. I wanted to finish my college degree and write for a newspaper. What a change, what a new direction in life, you say? Right, and guess what returned once more? Seriously, what is the deal with this thing? I had it removed (and rather painfully I might add. A week on the couch this time). I got married. I finished my degree. I got a job at the largest newspaper in the state. We have two kids.

Our youngest is now finished with high school and has started college classes. She is still young, but already talking about moving out. When she’s gone, I have no more excuses. I need to get on with my writing life, I need to get published and stop messing around at this writing gig. Husband says, “Now you can support me with your best-selling novel.” No pressure, right honey? It’s a brand new world out there to call yourself a full-time writer/editor rather than a part-time editor and full-time parent. And guess who’s back? Yup. The pain was unbearable, the tumor had to go. But an accidental trauma to the toe caused major damage. And an accidental meeting with some fellow writers has led to wonderful encouragement and the courage to write without looking back.

And that brings me to the doctor this week and the miracle. I anticipated the need for surgery and bad news. The pain was worse than it had ever been. But things were different this time. “I don’t see any tumor,” she said. The toenail is gone and there is nothing underneath. The trauma had somehow removed the tumor.

Would you be happy if your toenail was gone? Probably not. But to me, this is a sign from the Gods of Change. Stepping into this new chapter will be easy. I have healed on my own, I have taken steps on my own toward happiness in a brand new way. Of course, I learned from all of those experiences that I couldn’t let anything stop me from stepping forward, even a cranky toe. This time, I’m moving ahead with a brand new toenail. (OK, I know this is TMI for some of you, but take it from me, this is really cool!)

The next chapter after this one? Who knows. But this much I’m sure of…I’ll be ready for it with a brand new toenail already painted jungle red.

For all of us whose fathers sucked

Daughter, Dad and Grandma working on a puzzle. It’s a beautiful sight.

Ahhh, Father’s Day. Facebook is filled with gushy, sweet odes to the wonderful man who took you bike riding, swung you by the arms and taught you to drive. Good for you and stop rubbing it in. I’ll bet he yelled at you when you came in late, and he may have even humiliated you for all time by walking into your sleepover wearing his favorite ripped Yankees T. But he was there, and how lucky you were.

My father never walked in on a sleepover, or taught me to drive. He chose to distance himself from my sister, brother and me when I was 4 years old. He decided he wanted a do-over. You know, like when you’re playing cards with your dad and you didn’t mean to put that card down and you say, “Can I have a do-over?” and he lets you. Or when you have three young children and a wife and you think, “Damn, I can do better than that,” and you dump them and get married again and have three more and you send them to college and take them to Europe on vacation. You know, do-overs.

So each year growing up, I would endure the sweet Father’s Day ads on TV and sad, “Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t have a father,” comments. My best friend invited me over for dinner because she felt sorry for me and thought that if I had dinner with her dad, or any dad, that would make me feel better. It was sweet, but ridiculous when I thought about it. Now I get to sit at your dinner table and see how awesome your dad is, and how funny he is when he shoots those peas at you across the table, and how he hugs your mom in the kitchen when he thinks nobody is looking. Then I go home and remember that my dad is in Europe with family #2, hasn’t called or sent child support in 8 years, and won’t take my brother’s phone calls.

But as I watch my husband all these years later with our daughters, I remember those stolen hugs in the kitchen years ago, and the peas shooting across the table. I remember how my friend’s father would hug me and even gave me a ride in his new Corvette. He yelled at me once (I’m sure I deserved it) and if he only knew how much I loved him for it. He was the model for what a father should be, for what I should expect my husband to be with my kids, and with me.

I see my husband and realize that not all fathers are asses who don’t take their responsibility seriously. If you have a father who’s an ass, you’re not alone. Go find one who isn’t and thank him. Oh, and thanks to Mr. Beakley for the ride and the hugs.