Monday, October 28, 2013

Except for This One

I have a penchant for coming up with titles. Often, before I write a blog post, before I write any of my fiction, I come up with its title.

Sometimes, while I'm thinking of the topic, a song may come into my head. Or some intertextual connection. From it, my title springs.

When I was in journalism school, the same was true. I would cover a story, and while I put it together, the headline came to life.

Sometimes, those headlines were to the point; other times, they were downright twisted.

As part of the journalism course, our teacher would have us practice press conferences. The teacher would begin by giving us basic details of a story, and then we would have an opportunity to ask questions for a couple of minutes. When the conference was over, we were to take the information we gleaned and craft a news story.

The one I remember the most was a story about a farmer who was killed accidentally when he fell into his hay thresher. We learned that he lost his balance as he was hoisting the hay onto the conveyer belt, fell onto it, and was pulled into the mechanism. It was a gruesome but quick death.

We asked our questions, getting the man's name, age, where his farm was located, whether anyone was with him when the accident occurred, and more.

As soon as I learned the man's name, I had my headline. I typed it at the top of the page before I started telling the story.

Of course, because this was an exercise for class only, and our teacher was only interested in whether we captured all of the details of the event and had it accurate, and wrote it into a good story, he wasn't focused on the headline. That detail, for many papers, was left to the editor.

When my teacher read the paper I handed him, he read the first line and looked up to me, a smile on his face, his head shaking as though he was saying, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

The victim of the unfortunate farming accident was Harvey Grunch.

My headline: Harvey Grunch becomes Harvest Crunch.

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