Where a good story title comes from (and what to do when you find one)

Before anything, a writer would be wise to pick up a little oddity of a notebook–a diminutive leatherbound pad with small, square pages–or to dig up the one her loving family gave her when she first mustered the courage to let on that the reason she was absent at Christmas dinner last year is because she has chosen writing–that bizarre, late-night ritual carried out in little tweaker-pad apartments around the world–as her lifelong brain tenant, her mind marinade during the wee morning hours.

A vocation that so far does not pay well.

As a general rule, she should always carry this notebook along (a pen, too, though this implement is more easily procured on the spot); the times she is on the fence as to whether she will need her notebook, decides not to carry it with her, are precisely the times she will later wish she had it.

Because one day she will

book one-way airfare on a wide-body jetliner–a 777 or a 767 or a 787 Dreamliner–whose destination airport has a short runway (John Wayne Airport and Lindbergh Field come to mind), and find herself most alert when the thrust reversers are applied after touchdown–when that loud sound like just inside the eye of an Oklahoma cornfield tornado takes over the cabin and blows in through her head, windwhips her brain;

explain to a man named Gary on the #2 bus from downtown that she used to walk past Henry Horner Homes on her way to the United Center to see Michael Jordan when she was younger, and that those high rises have since been destroyed, the residents displaced;

remark to herself, while showering in the early morning without the lights on, that Mars Rover is taking selfies of itself on the fourth planet from the Sun, some 140,000,000 miles from where she stands in her own suds, which will inevitably lead into a self-directed interview of herself in which the questions (such as, “the Mars Rover is an integral vehicle, both literal and figurative, in your latest collection. Why Mars Rover?”) and answers (“Well, it’s curious, this obsession I have with that little spacecraft. It fascinates me to no end…”) she will deliver aloud, to no one;

review a map of the Czech Republic and laugh as she says aloud the names of certain cities whose names she can pronounce but does not understand. Humpolec. Postoloprty. Šumperk. She will remember Prague, wish she could be back under Žižkov Tower just after dawn on a crisp autumn morning, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee from a paper cup;

regard the boozy paraphernalia and chicken-scratch graffiti all over the bathroom wall while she washes her hands in a bar in a far away town, think maybe it is time for another frozen sgroppino, wonder if she will ever see any of these people again;

feel fatigued at her day job after having stayed up late researching Guatemalan coffee rust.

She will do these things

and want to make sure she is ready when the titles hiding within them emerge. Because when she finds that four-word bomb supercharged with mate de coca and a short fuse,  she will want to write it down. Even if she does not use it, she will be glad to have it tucked away somewhere. It might be of use later on. It might beget more titles.

She knows what happened to the scores of ideas she failed to write down in the past.

They were gone come morning.

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Filed under Featured Content, Readerly/Writerly, Writing

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