Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Nephite Who Loved Me

by Sariah S. Wilson

I would like to take this opportunity to ask authors (aspiring or otherwise) to please stop doing some things:

1. If you give a character an obstacle, for the love of Mike, make sure you explain how it is overcome. I recently read a romance by one of THE romance authors (she started back in the 70s and was HUGE - many of her books are considered romance classics). In this historical, a woman marries a horrible man to save her family. Before her betrothal she meets a cutie at a feast, but he doesn't offer for her or try to court her. Luckily for her, the awful husband dies the night of their wedding and she inherits everything. Now a wealthy widow, said cutie comes back into her life and wants to marry her. She's understandably peeved that he didn't make a play for her when she was poor. So she keeps him at arm's length because she wants a husband who loves her, not her money. It's revealed later on that he has a gigantic fortune of his own, so he's not really after her money.

Okay. So...what was the hold up? Why not pursue the heroine? The author never tells us. I waited and waited and went through this book that I actually found a little dull to discover that...the author had no intention of telling me.


As Anton Chekov said, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." So if you're not going to fire the gun, don't put it in the book!

2) Please don't start a book with a lot of backstory or start off with an action scene that turns out to only be a dream. I know it makes agents highly ticked off when they pick up an exciting first chapter only to find out it's just a dream. Don't do that. Just don't. Stop it now.

3) When you do your historical research, I understand that you learn new words. It's fun to learn new (old?) slang. You can use it once. Maybe twice. But after that, don't do it anymore. I read a Regency not too long ago where the author had apparently learned that "toad-eater" meant someone who was a suck-up. There was a toad-eater reference from then on about every five pages (I am not exaggerating). It made my head hurt.

Sometimes you don't catch these repetitions until you hear a book on audio. Terry Brooks (a fantasy author) is fond of saying "like a wraith." There's lots of "like a wraith"s in his books. To the point that as my husband was listening to one of Brooks's books while I was writing my first novel, I put "like a wraith" in there just as an homage. (I also named a character Numa because we were constantly listening to "Dragostea din tei." I blame Matthew Buckley for introducing me to this clip in the first place.)

But now, for the part of the post that relates to "The Nephite Who Loved Me."

That was the original title of my third book (currently set to be released in July). I thought it was clever and a good title. First, because if I saw that title in an LDS bookstore I would stop and pick it up. Second, the heroine of the third book believes that Ammon is a spy. So it was a play on the James Bond title, and because I considered it to be a more "fun" title, I hoped it would convey that this book was much lighter and more playful than my previous books.

Alas, as is always the case with me and my poor taste in titles, my publisher didn't agree. "Servant to a King" will be the title. I asked my editor if I could go and beg the editorial board to keep my first title. I loved it a lot. He said I definitely shouldn't because it was not going to happen.

So I've had some people who had a very good reaction to the title, others who thought the title is highly stupid. What do you think?


At 5/11/2008 1:07 AM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

I like "Servant to a King" better than "The Nephite Who Loved Me" (Is your book written in first person?).

I remember going through the same thing--having titles I absolutely loved, only to have the publisher come up with something completely different. Oddly enough, other people liked the publisher's picks better.

Congrats on your upcoming book! Do you have a cover yet?

At 5/11/2008 1:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A part of me would like the total author control over a work, but the marketing is important too.

I love Nephites and I love James Bond but the title does come off like a parody and even with a lighter book (minus arms being cut off and in heaps) Im sure you don't want the book to be looked at as a parody.

So yea, Servant to the King is a better title

At 5/11/2008 2:28 AM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I have to agree -- the new title is going to be better. I'm sorry, Sariah! Plus, the first one reminds me of "The Spy Who Shagged Me."

At 5/11/2008 7:52 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

See? Everybody else does like it better. The publisher is right, as usual, and my streak in coming up with bad titles continues.

I told my editor I'm calling the next BoM one "From Zarahemla With Love."

I don't have a cover yet. For some reason it seems to take me longer than other authors to get covers. I'm sure it's some karmic thing for coming up with bad titles.

At 5/11/2008 11:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your book is a comedy. If its a paroday. If its melodramatic then The Nephite Who Love Me works just fine. First off, Nephites are dead people. Even though they did live at some time in the past, their society was obliterated and their remaining suvivors (of which there were likely thousands if not hundreds of thousands) mixed into the surrounding populations. But they ceased to exist so on first blush the Nephite Who Loved Anyone is, in some respects a dead issue, a non-persone, extinct. Interesting, but also a comdic sort of adventure.

The word Nephite is also a bit of a icon with sacred overtones. Regardless if they were wicked or righteous, culturally advanced or anthropologically hip, they are still iconically symbolic, to readers of the Book of Mormon, as a sacred group of people. Direct decendents of Nephi were their kings and much of what we know about them comes form Lineage or Sacred prophet history. We know Nephites through the eyes of either their royal line or their propehts.

There is an uncomfortable tension in your title when you try to mix the sacro-sanct word Nephite with the somewhat comedic phrase "Who Loved Me". You may like it. And despite it being a rather creative, alomst tongue in cheek attempt at humor, a lot of people will be uncomfortable with it and isntead of picking it up and reading it, they will likely move on to the next book on the shelf.

On this particular title your publisher is likely right. But then what do I know. Exepct that, lucky me, all of my titles have been used by my publisher. But then, I made the title of the book a major theme and what could they do but say, hey that works.

What's even funnier? The title I suggested for my first book was knocked down so I suggested the second title and they went with it. I haven't been rejected since. But when another almost identical submission was sent to the same publisher what title did they use for it? You guessed it, the one I suggested in the first place. Go figure.

At 5/12/2008 11:49 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I'm just glad there's another book to look forward to, regardless of the title!

At 5/13/2008 9:56 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

I'll be Miss Contrarian Cranky-Pants and say that I so totally would pick up and buy a book with the title of "The Nephite Who Loved Me."

But then, I'm a James Bond fan.


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