Friday, October 24, 2014

How the Novel Found its Name, Part 2

As I related in my last post, the phrase, "scent of geraniums," has long held a place in my mind... and I was pretty certain that someday I would write a book with just that title: The Scent of Geraniums.

Images usually come first for me when I'm thinking of a new story to write, and this time was no exception:

Geraniums, hanging on a white-beamed porch in the autumn sunlight.

Geraniums, nestled closely together on card-tables in an upstairs room - dark with books and dust.

A piano found its way into that room, as well.

And a dark-haired woman whose fingers danced across the keys as she played hymns.

Another woman, too, but this one entered the story via an old photograph from the 1930s - a bob-haired middle-aged woman, standing between two of her sons - poor, oh-so-very-poor... She could no longer remember a time of real happiness, though she had a worn-out smile pasted on her lips.

And a girl... a teenager wearing a tattered cardigan and flopping shoes... mesmerized by the geraniums on that dark-haired woman's porch.

So the images came together... The plot formed... And three-quarters of the way through, I wasn't quite sure that "The Scent of Geraniums" was the perfect title anymore.

The book had become about so much more, and I wanted the title to convey that, somehow.

So, I played around with words, writing down everything-everything-everything that had anything remotely to do with the book's story, theme, characters, etc.  I ended up with about two dozen real possibilities for a title. Yes, that's right: Two dozen.

After a couple of weeks of tossing the titles over and over, I gave the list to five people and asked them to circle the top three titles that captured their interest - without knowing what anyone else chose. I would pick whatever title rose to the top.

So I thought.

Turns out, when you give a list of two dozen titles to five people, you get very little agreement!

And the choice reverted to me again. I considered The Scent of Geraniums again as the title. But then two people told me it reminded them immediately of a strange movie by a similar name with a different object-of-the-preposition. :-)

Time for a synonym search: And there popped up "fragrance."

Hmm... And that reminded me so strongly of the passage in the Gospels in which the woman pours a jar of expensive perfume over Jesus' feet and wipes them with her hair. And it says, "The fragrance filled the room." {John 12}

And that's what The Fragrance of Geraniums is about: the grace of emptiness before a Lord who suffered in our stead... and the real hope with which He fills us.

So, "The Scent of Geraniums" became The Fragrance of Geraniums.

And I thank the Lord for providing such a fitting name for this story, in just the right time.

If you'd like to see more pictures that have guided/inspired my storytelling journey this time around, I invite you to check out my Pinterest board for The Fragrance of Geraniums... I'm still adding to it, so feel free to follow the board to keep up-to-date. :) Just click on the widget below, and you'll be taken there:

Grace and peace,

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