Considering What A Book’s Title Should Be Before Committing To Publishing It

Before SEETHINGS was finished, the novel tried on many other titles. That name didn’t appear until eight years later. During the book’s long development, alternates were applied to assist the author with writing its content. Few were considered to be permanent fixtures. None were planned to appear on any bookshelf.

There are fair and good reasons why a book starts with one title but finishes with another. In SEETHINGS’ case, I used one of my titles as a temporary label, sort of a mission statement, for the purposes of keeping me on track as I wrote the yet unknown story.

In the beginning…

This was SEETHINGS’ very first title and the story was always going to be about a storm. I love a good thunderstorm and wanted to write a great story about one. It was to take centre stage, but how that’d translate into an entertaining story was uncertain. I wrote Stormfront on a post-it note and then stuck it to my computer’s screen. That little yellow tag kept me on-task during the first draft (and it stayed around for another couple of rewrites).

Brrrr!

As is usually the case when I write, something else got added to the original draft. The story soon developed the nucleus of another plot. It paralleled the first one but, while the hot, summer rain dominated the core of the narrative, a chilly relationship story slithered right up against it. I saw the irony in this dichotomy and so I wrote a new title on a fresh post-it note and labelled it as Cold Climates.

Ick!

Attracted to that new second plot, I kept working on developing the chilly relationship between those two characters. My goal was to create six identifiable occasions in the story when the couple’s life soured and their bedroom turned icy. Thank goodness that title didn’t remain. Neither did those six occasions. The key ones stayed while the rest disappeared into oblivion.

SEETHINGS' test-drive title
Long enough for ya?

Stop laughing. This title will make perfect sense after I explain why I chose it. The process was getting really serious at this point. The book had been written ten times and it was due for some real-world testing. A beta-reader journey was the next step. Feedback mattered — not for the book’s title, but the story beyond the cover page that displayed it. I handed my readers the manuscript in a four ring-binder and said nothing of the narrative. This long title fronted it, acting as a type of synopsis and reader screener. If the reader didn’t like the sound of the title, they didn’t get to read the book (some people can’t abide violent stories no matter who writes them!). Those who tolerated the title got to read the story, and then I waited for their comments/reviews to return. The book was never going to be called Pink Tears In The Hot Rain And The Cold Stench Of Death. A real title would come much later.

With the last of the structural edits being finalised, four titles were selected for proofing (I can’t remember one of them — yes, these are mock-ups of the original mock-ups. Those files have gone astray). Each of these simple proofs was printed using the same image on the background, only their titles differed (even the font was the same). I shopped them around to friends, family, book club members, strangers, anyone keen enough to give me an opinion. I didn’t tell them what the story was about (the beta readers weren’t involved), I just wanted a new set of strangers to look at the mock-ups. “Which book title would make you stop and look twice?” I asked.

The votes came back and the book officially became SEETHINGS in mid-2012. Of course, it wasn’t yet ready for the reading market. Sorting out a title was just one step in many more to come. The next thing to consider was a suitable cover graphic (clearly, I didn’t go with the lightning bolt option) but that’s another post for another time.

Until then, enjoy your reading. Michael.

Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.

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Dungeon of Dark Fiction For Lovers of Creepy Writing

I’d like to welcome you to my pit of evil happenstance. This is where the most innocent of people are lured away from the light and taken deep into the dark recesses of a primeval mind. May your stay be deadly.

Y’know, this dungeon of dark fiction in which I dwell is actually part of a neurosis labyrinth. This is a quiet corner, far away from the prying eyes of the angel do-gooders, the politically correct and those who tch-tch at everything they see and hear. I apply a few sadistic keystrokes, and suddenly they are here with me, bound to my dungeon’s walls. Stripped of their dignity and clothes, I get to probe their flesh with shiny, metal objects and make their minds quiver with vile words. No one out there gets to hear their wonderful screams.

Dungeon of dark fiction - stories and ideas

There’s no romance here. No weddings. No love everlasting. Warm and fuzzy hero righteousness is banned. I provide no clichés. My happy ever after is to watch victims plead for mercy and then kill them regardless what they say. This version of a HEA is a refreshing change to the literary landscape, don’t you think?

Helpless victims and fictional manuscripts aside, churning out stories for dark fiction readers in my mind-dungeon comes with the same problems authors on the surface of the planet have to deal with. We can murder all we like, but we still need a special kind of electricity in the text to make the reader stay with the page. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And then there’s the marketing, advertising and finding our reading market in the first place. Self-publishing isn’t an easy road.

Somewhere between the creation of a phenomenal story and a reader’s inevitable enjoyment of it, is the editing process. It’s the single largest and most challenging part of any writing project. Watch the video below to meet me and see where the writing comes together.

Michael Forman

Creep you later,

Michael


“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.

Maxine Sewell Is A Brutal And Crass Woman. Here’s How I Dealt With A Female Narcissist.

Ugly. Inside and out. A nutshell. That’s Maxine. The pleasure I got from making such a repulsive character for my book was absolutely exquisite. It was a new and wonderful experience. I’d definitely do it again!

When it comes to writing novels, male characters fit ‘ugly’ much easier. And, as long as there’s a redeeming counter-force, readers don’t usually give Mr Ugly a second thought about his ‘ugliness’. He was made that way and it’s okay. Giving ‘ugly’ traits to a female character in modern fiction is risky. Many of us want to protect femininity at all costs. Putting a flawed female upfront defies logic. Women should be empowered. They are to be seen as an uplifting force in a world long fractured by outdated patriarchy. Vulgar female behavior doesn’t exist today and, if it does, it doesn’t need discussing.

Wrong. It does.

I’ve met vile females. They do exist. Regardless of what society thinks about the matter of bringing the bitch to the page, she is a very real person. She’s a shitty individual. The she-narcissist lives amongst us — and she’s definitely worth mentioning. I wrote Maxine until I birthed her into life, and then I wrote until she was dead and buried. As a nod to feminism, I conceded to one thing when writing about this obnoxious super bitch: Her name. When it’s shortened, a man appears in its place.

I don’t apologise for creating this royal pain in-the-ass. I’m just glad to have had so much fun making and breaking her, using her demise to take charge of a much larger story. Her corpse was used to lay an original path for readers to walk. Now tread slowly and read where it goes and why I set up Maxine up to fail.

-Michael Forman (Author – Dark, Adult Fiction)

Redeeming Evil Characters

When it comes to lovable evil characters, Hannibal Lector is one I’d like to give one big ‘ol squeeze.

You can’t help but fall in love with the good Doctor’s wit, intellect and sense of propriety. If it weren’t for the odd liver and fava-bean request, you’d be happy to have him over for dinner, to charm and entertain, right?

Writing evil into any narrative comes with certain perils. Some discerning readers can’t abide free-flowing, mindless slashing and burning without an opposing force of goodness to balance it out. To restore sanity, authors give their evil a redeeming quality.

Pure Evil and Kindness

Hannibal Lector is a good example. He has just enough niceness to keep most lovers of dark fiction in-the-room. There’s a despicable element, but it’s offset by bags of amiability. It’s just not right for a character to be bad from sun up to sun down. No one can be that sinister and not have a lovable side tucked away somewhere.

A creative writer adds something extra for their character — the villain commits murder but visits animal shelters to care for orphaned kittens. Suddenly our fiend is likeable, accessible. There’s hope for them after all.

Mitchell Felding has redeeming traits of his own.

No one dies unless there’s an extremely good reason for them to do so. In fact, when he’s not ending a life, he’s helping someone remain alive. In one instance, he rescues a family from a rampaging thunderstorm that annihilates their entire home.

Mitchell’s second redeeming trait is closer to his heart. He adores his wife Samantha. He’ll do anything for her. He’s especially mindful of Samantha’s religious beliefs. Furthermore, he was the one who remained celibate for her while they dated. It wasn’t an easy time, but he kept his promise just as he said he would.

‘Not until I’m married,’ she told him between kisses.

Seven years was too long, but Mitchell loved Samantha. It just so happens that a dark element was seeded into their relationship — and the abstinence continued long after their nuptials were exchanged. The darkness continued to grow with it.

Mitchell has tried everything to chip at the ice, but nothing works. Sam and Mitchell are like oil and water. And now Sam has told her best friend that she and Mitchell are trying for a baby. A child? How can conception occur without intimacy? How can a couple remain best friends when they should be lovers?

The lies to maintain order are just too to much to bear. Something in Mitchell snaps.

I'm going slightly mad!

At first, Mitchell cheats on Sam for immediate gratification. Bored women from emotionally stifling marriages fulfil a basic need. Secretive, curious wives make the best candidates of all. The women, eager to take a break their humdrum’s routine, are attracted to his sense of adventure and candidness. Each agree to trying out his kink.

But sex only begins the process. Mitchell’s darker side wants a different kind of action. The seethed that feeds it runs deep. Rain washes away the intention, and the evidence. That’s convenient — for a serial killer who hides in plain sight.

SEETHINGS is dark, sensual fiction with a few twists along the way. The last one is explosive.

Michael

Five Random Victims
Summer Thunderstorms
Charm Bracelet
Author: M.Forman
Avail: Kindle, Kobo, Etc

“Forman’s writing style is artful, with the protagonist Mitchell’s warped thought processes masterfully exposed. The author has a powerful and vivid command of language, and his word pictures are stark and disturbingly real.”

– Linda J Bettenay, author of ‘Secrets Mothers Keep’ and ‘Wishes For Starlight’.