I had to rename the book.
The primary reason is that I came up with the title of the book when I was in seventh grade. While that might make a great story to tell on Oprah when she has me as her guest on the Book Club episode, it doesn’t warrant keeping the title.
It even sounds like a seventh grader wrote it: A Moment When the World is Silent.
The second reason is that the title was related to a comment made by Kacie, the narrator’s ex-girlfriend. She said he should write their story and call it A Moment When the World is Silent.
This is not their story.
I’ve played with a follow-up novel that tells their story. But this novel is not it.
The third reason is that I haven’t called this novel by its title in a long time. Since I really got back to it in 2012, 2013, and then revised it to its current state in 2014, I haven’t called it by even an acronym of its title.
The document file name is Silent. But I don’t think the book is silent. I think it has the same volume as a 90’s bar blasting Closing Time, as a group of drunks wailing American Pie, as a live band doing Dave Matthews Band covers.
As much as Brian might like to think of himself as someone who suffers silently, he’s anything but. He’s the guy that wraps his injury in an Ace bandage so that people will ask him what happened to his ankle.
So I needed a new title.
What is the book really about? What’s the real story here?
How is the story told?
What are the key elements of the story and the structure?
The book is told in days, beginning with Tuesday and ending on Sunday with an afterword taking place on 02/02/02. Could a day be the right way to title it?
But then I thought the story doesn’t support a cyclical approach like a weekday calendar title might suggest. The Monday Tony kills himself sets the events in motion, but having another Monday erodes his memory in some way.
I like the calendar, though, and Brian spends a lot of time comparing his circumstances in February with what things were like in December. While the calendar does provide a kind of cyclical feel, as in “just wait until next year, things will be different,” a year is a much longer elapse of time.
Also, the Counting Crows song A Long December figures prominently. So I went with December.
Because of December.
What happened After December?
It suggests the novel is some kind of aftermath, and it is. Brian left Virginia on January first and tried to forget everything that had happened before. In February, though, he’s forced to return and reconcile with the people he’d hurt.
The beginning of the novel, now a single page describing what happened on Tuesday in real time, says, “My confinement was over.” So we know on the first page that After December, Brian’s been in hiding. And now, he must come out of hiding and return to the scene of the crime.
I love everything about After December.
I like that it makes Brian’s perspective seem so immediate. He’s not concerned with what happened before December, all those months and years of all those transgressions. It’s only that single month, and really just that one week during which he’d been home.
Brian is exactly the kind of guy who ignores all the other plays in the game and focuses on the missed field goal. He is exactly the kind of guy who reduces all minor clues to insignificant in the shadow of one single reason.
His search for a reason for Tony’s suicide mirrors this tendency to want to simplify things, to want to locate a single motive for all occurrences. That life is complex and messy and that multiple factors affect singular outcomes is the supreme lesson of early adulthood.
Once I decided on After December, I went to the web to search for it. What other things are out there called After December. There’s a Christmas song called “After December Slips Away” which laments our inability to maintain the feeling of Christmas all year long.
There’s a Facebook page for a band called After December, but they haven’t posted since 2012. Irrelevant.
All the other hits were for news articles referring to events that have occurred in chronological sequence. So, the web search test worked out.
Then I went to Amazon and did a book search. No books. A couple of albums from bands I’ve never heard of, but no books. So, the book search test worked out.
I love everything about After December and the more I say it, the more I feel it was the right change to make to the novel. Thanks to Jodie and Preston, my loyal beta readers, for voting and for helping me see the wisdom of the choice.
I’m ready to query now. Ready to find the agent who will believe in After December and the merit of the writing, the structure, the characters, and the journey.
Wish me luck, loyal readers and random stoppers-by.