A Man Falls In the Woods
Working title candidates and a draft logline
In the four years I was writing the novel, I never had a working title I liked. First it was The Cowboy and the Fishing Fleet. Terrible. Then it was Corporate Mind, Cosmic Heart. Better, but still not great.
When people would ask me, with great excitement and curiosity, what was the title of the novel I was writing, I would tell them and these uninspired working titles and all the air would leave the room, leaving us in an awkward vacuum.
I never thought about the title too much. I thought it was the least important thing; I thought I would finish the manuscript, find an editor and publisher, and they would suggest a title. Or we would collaborate on it. But I didn’t see it as important. What changed my opinion was reading a popular screenwriting book last month.
As I have mentioned, I’ve been doing my first rewrite of my unpublished novel in three or four years, turning the novel into a screenplay to pare it back to its frame, to see if there’s a seaworthy story underneath all the barnacles and cruft. Plus, I live in Los Angeles now. It only seems appropriate.
So, as a guide in that process, I’m reading Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder, despite my reservations around reading yet another formulaic writing book. Right off the bat, this little book is lending quite a bit of clarity, helping me to tease out exactly what story I am telling and specifically what I was trying to say five years ago.
Before I tell you too much about what the story is, I want to run a few title candidates by you. Feel free to reply to, or comment on, this post with your favorites.
My current favorites title candidates:
The Odor of the Flesh
The Jealousy Release Ritual
A Man Falls In the Woods
Plummeting Toward Myranda
Kiss Me I’m His
In the Hearts of Men
The Golden Yoni
The One-Penis Policy
I Know You Are But Who Am I?
The Reluctant Secondary
I don’t want to say too much about each title idea. I want you to come to them cold, to get your unadulterated initial reaction. I have tested these with a few friends and everyone has their favorites.
What book or movie would you be most likely to read or watch without knowing anything more? Hit reply or comment and let me know.
The Pitch / Logline
Another thing Snyder has readers do is write what’s called in Hollywood a logline. It’s what they would call your elevator pitch in the business world (something you can communicate in the span of a short elevator ride).
Here’s my logline, as of today:
Wyatt, an uptight corporate lawyer living squarely in the societal box engineered and manufactured in 20th Century America, falls in love with a wild, polyamorous woman named Myranda who lures him down the rabbit hole of San Francisco subcultures, thereby prompting a spiritual and existential crisis for Wyatt as he falls more deeply. By the end, instead of “getting the girl,” he learns to “be the girl,” to love himself and become not the macho American Male he was raised as, nor the sensitive, New Age man that’s been the long-offered alternative, but a spiritual, noble, wild man, evolving not in reaction to anything but arising out of a still center.
Through the story the reader comes to understand that being authentic is an act of courage and revolution that’s not only accessible but vital.
I would love to hear your reaction to that as well. If you were an agent, publisher, or studio exec, would you greenlight that story, or at least read the manuscript?
I’ll have more to say about those character names in a future post.
The Poster / Book Cover
In Save the Cat, Snyder also has you imagine the movie poster (or book cover) to help focus the story. I found this exercise also helped provide not only focus but energy and excitement around the story I’m telling. In a way, the image (above), that I whipped up in Photoshop using a few stock images, says everything about the setup, even though I’m not sure it would work as an actual poster.
It feels good to see the tension I’ve been building into the story captured visually.
Would you read that book / see that movie? I invite your honest feedback.
Next time we return to the houseboat to see how it all started…