Writing Inspiration: Read short story titles!

Section of Jude’s short story book shelves

I’ve been with groups of writers many a time in a social situation when someone laughs and says, what you just said would make a great story title. Sometimes people do write the story that goes with what they said in conversation. Often they don’t. But as well as finding titles in conversations with friends, it is fun to read titles in published short story collections for inspiration.

In our house, we do not go in for Marie Kondo minimalism. Novels have several sets of shelves, short stories are alphabetically arranged by my husband on a whole wall in the living room, (see a section in the photograph) and flash fiction has several bookcases. Yes,I may be too old to read all those story collections, if I haven’t read them by now, but I can still dip in to many and I can read titles to help me write a story.

For example, I pluck off the shelf Without a Hero by T Coraghessan Boyle, a collection from 1988. The collection’s title is very good and another story, “The Hundred Faces of Death, Vol 1V’ is very intriguing to me. It makes me want to read the whole story.

Then there’s Robert Olen Butler’s 1993 Pullitzer Prize winning collection. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain. I really love that title. Within the book, there are simpler titles: ‘Open Arms’, ‘Mr Green’, ‘The American Couple’. The first couple of lines of those stories are so very compelling.

Robert Olen Butler has also written Where You Dream a fantastic guide to writing fiction. Highly recommended.

Finally, I pulled the 1997 classic collection, The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury from the shelves. More intriguing titles, for example: ‘The Other Foot’; ‘No Particular Night or Morning’; ‘The Fox and the Forest’.

You, too, could do this as an experiment. Find some collections on your shelves or online. Read all the titles then write a list of your own, maybe involving names of people, places, parts of the body, philosophical concepts. Then write that story! 2200 words maximum for our award which closes in just over four weeks on April 15th. Go!

BSSA team, March 12th