How My First Novel Got Its Name

I am currently going through the (self) publishing process and I’m pleased to see that it’s coming along nicely. But I’m one of those people who only believes they’ve achieved something when they can actually see it. For instance, I won’t believe I’m an author until I’m holding my book in my own hands, rather than just knowing it’s going to happen.

Hopefully in seven to seventeen days I will have that opportunity. I’m a bit giddy and in disbelief right now to fully acknowledge the reality.

But I figured, while I’m waiting, I could let you guys in on some pretty cool trivia. Now the book I’m working to publish right now is not my first ever novel, if you read my origin story on this blog. But it is the first novel I’ve completed, gone the whole way with (that’s not sexual in any way) and got to a point where I believed it’s ready for publication.

Today I wanted to discuss how this novel actually got its name.

The Sorrow. 

The inspiration for this book firstly goes back a long way. I sat and thought to myself at the time – and I still hold that same belief – that I’m not a good enough writer yet to do something totally new that hasn’t been done before and is genre-defining.

So I thought that rather than be over ambitious and frankly unrealistic, I could take inspiration from some of my favourite stories and develop my own; spin something fresh with it. That became the basis of my motivation. I wanted to make a compelling story that had familiar themes, but was all dressed up in some fresh and interesting ways.

I have learned an insane amount over the past year, and I currently sit with enough book ideas and story map-outs to go into double digits. But those are future Azhar’s problem. And here I am straying away from the point again as usual. I apologise.

My pivotal story of inspiration was the game series Max Payne. Not including that abomination Max Payne 3, mind you. The original two. The dark, rainy and gritty noir games that were brilliantly written and captivating. I wanted to write something within the same vein.

The name of my novel, however, kept eluding me. Throughout the writing and planning process, I always came back to one fundamental point: the book I was writing was about pain.

It was about pain, and the consequences of losing yourself to it.

I remember thinking back to my favourite video game in all of the universe. It’s a PS2 game called Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. One of the few games out there that I absolutely believe is perfect; without a single flaw. I’d even go as far as to say that my life improved after playing it.

Now, there is a particularly awesome villain in the game called – you guessed it – The Sorrow.

He was a sort of ghost entity, and I will never forget the iconic moment in the game where you’re walking through this swamp river and finally confront him. The word that best describes that scene is haunting. You walk through this foggy, depressing and eerie path of water and while you’re trudging along, The Sorrow is busy showing you hoards of the people you’ve killed throughout the game. Slit a few throats? Watch some ghost soldiers clutching their necks with blood spurting out as they try to reach you. Made a few headshots? You’ll get to see some zombie soldiers with bullet holes. Break a few necks? Well, that was awkward.

The beauty of that scene stuck with me all these years. I could just never forget it. Yes, beauty. Did I mention that I was a sociopath? Hi – that’s me.

And I just felt it – that scene was the kind of pain and hopelessness that I felt my book is about. Seeing your pain as something real. Not just feeling it, but actually seeing what it has done, what it has done to others and exploring the consequences of all that you’ve felt and acted on.

I returned to my cover page and just stuck “The Sorrow” as the title above the image. You see, I first get a cover image and working title because I feel these keep me focused and inspire me whenever I open my document and look at them. They keep me in line with the themes and the ideas and the overall vision. I had no working title for this book – I just had the cover image. It had always felt like something was missing. And then I slapped the title on, and it all just fit. It made sense. It was like the moment when you just figure out the solution to a problem you’ve been having for weeks in the blink of an eye. It just had to be that name then.

I think that played a big part in kick-starting me for the rest of the writing process. Maybe I’m over-thinking it, but that scene is exactly what inspired the name of my first novel, which you will hopefully be able to see soon enough.

But in the end, that’s how my first novel, a dark crime story, ended up being called The Sorrow.

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