Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Simple Exercise Based on Titles

I have a lot of free time in between some of the classes I've been teaching, and I'm far enough away from home that I can't just go home to handle work and errands, which on some level is good. It gives me time to write, prepare lessons, and think. Yesterday I spent a little time lolling about in a bookstore, reading various books on creative writing where I found an exercise about titles. I think I'll get this book, which is called "Naming the World," and has a terrific essay by Tom Robbins on using envy to fuel your writing. I almost bought the book yesterday, but then realized I was in a big box store, and can order it from my friendly independent instead. So for now, I'll just hang out in the big box, review and read the books, sip tea, write and then order everything I like from Anthology.

The exercise went something like this:

Write a word you like just for the sound.
Write a word that conjures some negative memory.
Write a song or album title.
Write an adjective and a noun combination.
Write a question.
Write a word (or phrase) that conjures some happy childhood memory.

Once you have your list, you now have six titles. Write one page stories that go with those titles.

A simple exercise! And pretty damned inspiring. I had time to write my first story, which gets it's title from the first prompt.


A train takes off from the station, the metal fists between cars punch their curved sockets, trees blur in flashbacks and forwards. Passengers settle into their separate news sources - papers, wifi laptop versions of the New York Times, iPhone triangulation of final destination directions. A man in a camel colored coat burrows into a novel that his wife recommended, but can't get past the first few sentences. Two women speak in hushed tones about the role of Paul in the bible, one clears her throat over and over while trying to convince her friend about the wickedness of the world and her own transformation in the discovery of God. Her shiny purple eyeshadow migrates to her upper cheekbone each time she touches her face. The other woman's mind drifts from the conversation, spotlights her concerns with her waist. Her husband used to curve his arm around her to fall asleep, and now he prefers to stay awake with vodka and crosswords. The conductor walks the aisle, tears perforated tickets down the center, punches empty stars into the numbers for each stop. Lights wink off and the train floats on its tracks, guided by gravity's passive aggressive desires.

1 comment:

Indigo Bunting said...

I miss your flash fiction. Thanks for this fix.