Long before the appearance of modern-day romance novels, there was the romance magazine. This was the women’s version of pulp fiction, a monthly amalgam of PG-rated bodice ripping stories of passion, lust and heartbreak mixed in with ads for breast enhancements, crappy career colleges and cheap cosmetics. The most popular title was True Romance, and its success spawned the creation of a large handful of competitors.
One of my first jobs in publishing was working for one of those competitors, a company that put out a bunch of romance magazines, fan magazines, movie and TV magazines that appealed to the same type of reader: a young to middle aged woman, mostly poor and mostly rural. I started as the second in command, helping my boss, the editor, create the content for three of these magazines a month, True Secrets, Intimate Secrets and Intimate Romances.
Since the bulk of these magazines sales came from the newsstand, the most important ingredient for success was the cover. What made the cover sell was not so much the pretty, sexy-but- innocent looking girl that was featured, but the somewhat lurid and shocking story titles that surrounded her face.
Those titles had to come from somewhere. That job fell to me and my editor. So every month, we set aside one day to brainstorm ideas for titles. We would lock ourselves in our office, stare at the blank pieces of paper in our electric typewriters (these were the days before computers, after all), and not come out until we came up with several pages of plausible ideas. After we were finished, we culled through the lists to pick out a dozen or so of the best. These titles would then be assigned to writers who would flesh out these ideas into 5000 word fast-paced, heated tales of passion gone wrong or tear-inducing heartbreaking tales of love-inspired tragedy.
At first this was an alien concept to me. Not only was it critical to come up with a catchy title, but there was also usually a heading and subtitle that in total would create a tease designed to whet the appetite of the potential reader. I didn’t know how I was going to do it. This sort of mind thought went against everything that defined my life up to that point. I was a somewhat naive but healthy heterosexual woman, newly married and more into seeing love as full of red hearts, cherubic angels and happily ever after than any of those darker aspects. I wasn’t into adultery or incest or deception or any of those sordid ways of being that made great story titles.
But I did it. How? I didn’t understand that at the time, but looking back on it now, it’s all very clear. By sitting in that room with no way out, I was forcing my mind into intention. I was forcing myself to block out all other thoughts, so my brain would focus on the wordplay needed for success. It was, in effect, meditation’s evil twin. I was using all the same brain tools that foster meditation but without any of the positive life affirming results of that technique.
Yet it was effective. By focusing my intent on a desired goal, I achieved it. After hours of willing my brain cells to create catchy titles, I came up with such gems as the following:
MARRIED FIVE YEARS–
AND HE’S NEVER SEEN MY BODY
Not where it really counts…
I STOLE MY BOY FRIEND’S VIRGINITY!
What possessed me to do those horrible things to his body?
There’s something terribly wrong with my body
I CAN’T GET RID OF MY SHAMEFUL BEDROOM HABIT
It only happens when I make love with my husband
Every time I see her doing it, I just want to die
MY LITTLE GIRL’S SHOCKING SEX FETISH
God knows it isn’t normal…
MY DOCTOR MADE ME STERILE!
Dear God, I only wanted birth control
Am I proud of this show of creative effort? Not really. It was a job, I was good at it, and it served a need for the people who enjoyed reading this kind of disposable fiction. It’s a part of my past and I own it. At the time I even considered it a bit of social service as, as a result of readers’ letters, we included a column on sex education in each issue, realizing it might be the only place a lot of these women would ever be exposed to honest sex advice.
I bring it up now, however, as an unusual but true example of the power of intention. If I was able to get these results for something as crazy as creative story titles, what else is possible? Anything, really. Where intention flows, all possibilities are available. Today, my intention is focused on ways I can achieve positive results in my life.
Where does your intention lie?