Sunday, March 27, 2011

Starting Your Story from the Title

Good Sunday to you! Today’s topic is one that continues various themes in several of my previous posts on how to spark your imagination, strengthen your creative muscle, and brew up a whirlwind of brainstorms.

Although I have several different writing exercises in my trusty writing toolbox (a box of never-ending ideas it seems), I really enjoy just coming up with a title that I think sounds “cool,” and then start writing a story from that point. If I see something during the week that forms a title in my mind, I keep a list on my iPhone as I think of them. Then, several times a week, I pick a title and start writing from that point. It’s possible I may have already put some thought into it back when I came up with the title, but usually very little. The point being that I do not create a title from a story idea, but create the story from the title I came up with.

During this exercise, what you write can either be a narrative outline - a description of what your story is about - or it can be the actual story. Don’t be afraid to stop and start, enter notes to yourself, or start something new as it pops into your imagination. The goal is to let it flow (be one with the keyboard). All of what you are writing is just the creative possibilities for a more collected, focused storyline. You are throwing out the seeds of creativity and seeing what grows.

If you REALLY want to stretch the brainstorm mechanics, come up with a title at the time you sit down to do this exercise and go from there. Case in point: This will be a real example - live as I am writing this blog entry. So, let’s see. Ah Ha! Let’s say, for example, that I just sat down (well I did) and came up with the title “Not My Reflection.” Boom! That’s it. That’s the title. Ready. Get set. Go! Where do I go from this point? Ok, title in place. Start typing…

“Not My Reflection” I see a middle-aged woman staring at her reflection in the mirror. “That’s not me,” she says. Her name is Lacy. She has tears running down her face. She is sad at the loss that she is feeling. It has been five weeks since she was told that her baby may or may not make it. It’s been touch and go. The doctors have been trying everything they know to bring this baby out into the world. Lacy and her husband already agreed on the name “Hope” for their daughter. They didn’t want to know the gender of the baby, but with the extent of the tests, there was no way to avoid it. Lacy and her husband pray that the Lord’s will be done, but they want the blessings of this baby in their lives...

Ok, back to my reality. This came from the first thirty seconds of my exercise. It came from the far realms of my imagination…I don’t know where…as I cannot think of anything in my life that resembles the chronicle of these events. As you can see, this is more about the story than the story itself. I came up with a story based on the title. But now, I have a story idea that I didn’t have before. Whether you write your story or write about your story, you will have new ideas.

There are many different variations of this exercise, but each one can offer you a new challenge every time. I find that listening to music helps this process, much like listening to music helps in your physical workout routine. Give it a try and report back and let us know how it went for you.


  1. Good post. At a writing conference I heard Lee Child say, "I don't know what's going to happen in the next paragraph...I don't even know what's going to happen in the next sentence."

    And with that writing style he produces bestsellers. Wow!

  2. Reminds me of a workshop at a writers' conference where the speaker pointed out that you can drive a hundred or more miles at night in the dark, but you can only see as far as your headlights for each bit of the trip. Your post about the title gives not only the starting point for the trip, but also the direction in which to point the car. Thanks!

  3. I just posted a blog on my site about how an idle musing started me off on a novel that is currently approaching 60,000 words. Take a look at

  4. I have a nice set of tools in my writer's toolbox, this is one of my favorite.

  5. I noticed the off-set font for my exercise didn't carry over from MS Word, so I set manually. Sorry if it made your eyes squint.