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.
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…..
Dreams watered in green
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.