Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Power of THE Word

“In the beginning was the word…”

In this case, the word is “THE.” Yup, I know. I sound like that ‘who’s-on-first’ Vaudeville sketch. This is a different story, and it’s the story of the title for my upcoming book, a historic novel for middle grades. (And all ages, she said.)

This is a story of impending war, and two girls who listen, clandestinely, to a radio station broadcast by the enemy. The name of this station is The Voice of Thunder from Cairo. This part is not only historic, it’s true. In Israel just before the Six-Day War there was such a station and I did listen to it, much to my mother’s chagrin.

When I submitted my novel to the publisher, I titled it The Voice of Thunder. After the initial joy of acceptance, I noted that the editor referred to it as Voice of Thunder, minus one ‘the.’ There was nothing official about the change of title, the first word,‘the,’ just wasn’t there.

I know publishers often change titles. I was happy to have three-quarters of my title still there. I was happy, period.

Working with the editors has been eye-opening and mind-expanding. I’ve loved it. (I also shed a few tears, and produced some sweat, but no blood. It is called ‘work’ for a reason.) I did notice that my book got listed on the publisher’s site first as Voice of Thunder, then, inexplicably, as The Voice of Thunder, and back to Voice of Thunder.

Looking over the final line-edits, the first ‘THE’ was back. I mentioned to my editor that I still liked the original, and she concurred. The web-site still has the three-word title, the typeset book has the four-word title.

One poor THE is dangling. It knows not where its place is, or if it is.

This saga has got me thinking about writers’ tools. Paragraphs made of sentences made of words. Every word counts. Even a lowly ‘the.’

Because in all deference to John 1:1- not only the beginning, but the middle, the end and the title is the word.


  1. When I queried my last manuscript a good friend of mine mentioned that I should cut the 'the' in the title. Her reasoning was that her editor had nixed the 'the' in her title--that it was a matter of style. So I cut my 'the'. But it always bothered me.

    Without the 'the' it could easily be 'A' Voice of Thunder, which just isn't the same.

    As a side note, my father was a ham radio operator. I didn't hear a lot of his late night radio conversations, but every now and again he'd mention talking to people in places where normal communication didn't reach. It was pretty cool.

  2. I like The Voice of Thunder, for what it's worth. That's funny that your title keeps popping up with and without the The. Maybe it's a trial run LOL?

  3. It is amazing how every little word really does matter.
    Sometimes I will ask my daughter to read over a sentence that I'm working on to get just right. She will look at several versions and then look at me like I'm crazy because to her the difference seems unimportant. And I guess sometimes they are. But other times, even if there's no good reason for it, it just "feels" right one way or the other.

  4. Interesting. I can't wait to see if the "The" ends up in the title or not.

  5. "The" doesn't seem like a very important word--until it's taken away! I hope the "The" stays!

  6. Another vote for keeping the "The." I couldn't really tell you why, just like the feel of it. Can't wait to see what happens!

  7. I'll be very interested to see if "The" remains in the final title.

  8. I heard story of a PB that was in edit and the author was asked to cut one "the" for the illustrator. It was a battle hard faught. And I don't remember who won. But I still remember that one word made such a difference. Maybe instead of "The End" you could have closed with "End." Looking at it that way, it makes a HUGE difference. :)

  9. I think it sounds better with the "The." It will be interesting to see which title is the final one. (And to know their reasoning.)

  10. Latest word is the word THE stays. I just noticed on WiDo Publishing’s website a change to The Voice of Thunder.
    We'll be certain by fall, when the book is scheduled for release.

  11. See, now you have us all waiting to see the cover so we'll know for sure!