where the writers are
The Visual Thesaurus

As I continued my hunt for the perfect title, I paid a visit to my profile over at RedRoom.com.

Red Room is a great place to connect with authors, and my blog appears on my profile page over there as well as here on my website. Several people on Red Room offered title ideas for "the book formerly known as After the Storm," but what truly captivated me was one commenter's suggestion that I check out visualthesaurus.com.

If you've done any writing, you may be familiar with word maps, in which you start with one word and branch out from there, brainstorming other words as you go. The virtual thesaurus operates on that principle, although it has other features as well. I spent the better part of the afternoon playing with it, and even though I still don't have the title of my dreams, I've enjoyed exploring this new toy. (You can use it for free on a trial basis, but I immediately bought a subscription because I know it's going to be one of my new best friends in the writing world.) 

I do have one concern, though. When I teach fiction workshops, I focus on helping writers use their subconscious  as they create their characters and stories. Everyone's subconscious offer different and delicious experiences and ideas. So my only hesitation in using a tool like the virtual thesaurus is that it can suck that uniqueness out of a writer's voice by taking away the thoughts and words and concepts that are uniquely yours. In one of my first word maps, which I created as I wrote my second novel, Lovers and Strangers, I started with a character's name, Meg, in the center of the page. I simply wanted to get to know her character better. Then I set my mind free to surround her name with any other words than popped into my mind, uncensored. When you let ideas flow in this way, you'll be surprised by what you come up with! Very quickly, the words branched out from her name until I discovered that she was afraid. . . hungry. . . desperate. . . sick. . . and finally diabetic! I'd had no idea. That word map gave me not only insight into her character, but an entire subplot as well. Without setting my subconscious free, I might have written a very different book.

All that is to say I don't want to lose the brilliance of a "self-directed" word map by utilizing one generated by a computer, even if that computer-generated map has so far proven to be pretty phenomenal. I'm going to continue playing with the virtual thesaurus to see how it can enhance my usual word mapping process. In the meanwhile, I hope it comes up with a book title for me!