for writers and readers….

Monday Creative Writing Exercise because it’s a good way to start the week TITLES

Titles are hard to get right.
The easy option is to go for a label – Sunday Afternoon, The Dream, A Walk in the Park and there are excellent precedents. The story that some critics have called the best ever written is James Joyce’s keynote short story of his collection The Dubliners and he called it The Dead.

Indeed when I was studying for a Masters in Creative Writing my tutor apologised for giving it as a set text as it was one of those passages of writing that make you feel that there isn’t much point in carrying on.

So, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong in using a label, but it is unlikely to be memorable and the chances are that you threading along a groove that’s already been well worn.

Novelist and prize winning short story writer Vanessa Gebbie in an essay on entering short story competitions in SHORT CIRCUIT suggest you Google your title and if numerous other stories appear change it for something more arresting.

If you are interested in entering creative writing competitions think about the team sorting through the entries. Vanessa goes on to say that:

“The reader (of a competition) might have 50 stories entitled ‘The Dream’, and one entitled ‘Why Cactuses Don’t Work.’ Which is going to intrigue more?”

The aim of this exercise is to send you off in new directions.

Choose TWO numbers between one and twelve. Don’t cheat and scroll down – it’s more fun if it is a lucky dip.


1)   rapid
2)   immature
3)   abundant
4)   empty
5)   harsh
6)   green
7)   countless
8)   deafening
9)   faint
10) ancient
11) intelligent
12) drowsy


 1)   days
2)   love
3)   lady
4)   clouds
5)   forest
6)   nightmare
7)   saga
8)   history
9)   hands
10) riches
11) salt
12) eyes

 Ok, now you have a thing and a word to describe it. Rapid Days. Intelligent Clouds. (What do they do?) Faint salt (old tears?) Go for it even if the combination is odd, especially if the combination is odd. Sometimes it is the lucky accidents, the unexpected way two words rub against each other, that can set the imagination alight.

But if you want something that really drags you away from the ordinary and marches to a different drum beat follow the example of the great sci fi writer Philip K Dick who created titles such as:
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
The Man Whose Teeth Were Exactly Alike
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (made into the film Bladerunner)

 To add an original twist this time choose a number between 1 and 6 for a line from literature that you can re-work in a Philip K Dick way.

1)   like a tree planted by the rivers of water
from Psalm 1

2)   with flattering lips and with a double heart
from Psalm 12

3)   And I watered it in fears,
from The Poison tree by William Blake

4)   And when so newly dead
from I want it by Emily Dickenson

5) freeze thou bitter sky
from Blow, blow thy winter wind by William Shakespeare

6) Millions on millions wait
from A New National Anthem by Shelley

 So if you chose 6 and 6 and 3 you might have something like

Green dreams watered in fear

 Hmmm perhaps a bit too ecological, and too wordy…..
I prefer

 Dreams watered in green


Watered Dreams

Forgetting the green altogether – this is a creative exercise, not an exam question.

Play with it.
Have fun, find something strange and quirky that no one has ever used as a title before and then write the story that goes with it.

8 comments on “Monday Creative Writing Exercise because it’s a good way to start the week TITLES

  1. creativityorcrazy
    January 21, 2013

    Thanks for the fun exercise. I think I’m going to have to go play with this one later. I like the first two I picked : abundant nightmares. Not pleasant, but interesting.

  2. bridget whelan
    January 21, 2013

    A horror story…perhaps someone scared to go to sleep….yes, it’s an idea with legs!

  3. Magz Radcliffe
    January 21, 2013

    Bridget, thank you so much for sharing this awesome exercise… always, you are my ten out of five stars mentor….hugz…..Magz:)

    • bridget whelan
      January 21, 2013

      Thanks Magz – give a go and come back and tell us how you got on

  4. EastEndLass
    January 21, 2013

    I got Empty Eyes. Sounds rather depressing 😀

  5. bridget whelan
    January 21, 2013

    But I rather like the alliteration and you could make it more Philip K Dick-esque if you added….

    With flattering lips and empty eyes.

    Now that is a character to write about.

  6. bridget whelan
    January 21, 2013

    Actually that isn’t a bit like PKD, is it? I see it more as an 17th century insult flung down by a caviler poet or decadent 1920s girl slinking around the corners of jazz night clubs….

  7. Vikki (The View Outside)
    January 22, 2013

    Great exercise Bridget! 🙂


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This entry was posted on January 21, 2013 by in Muse and tagged , , , .


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