Can I Call it Untitled?

If an author can paint something and call it “Untitled,” why can’t an author do the same with a story?

I want to tell you about a short story that I wrote in college.  It is very unlike anything else I have ever written, and I am quite pleased with it overall.  (It does need some revision to get the writing quality up to my current standards, but that’s paragraph and sentence structure stuff and relatively easy to fix.)  Unfortunately, the story does not have a title, and I still have not found one that I like.

There are a few things to share about this story that are interesting from a writer’s perspective.  In order to explain these properly, I am going to tell you the story of the story, so to speak.

As I was walking across campus on my way to some evening thing (I can’t remember what and it doesn’t really matter) my occasionally twisted brain began to ponder what would happen if I was kidnapped on my way.  (The best answer I have for why my mind went there is that it happens occasionally.  Beyond that, I have no idea.)  Of course, my thought processes being as they are, I then began to wonder why someone would kidnap me.  From this, an entire story began to spin itself and “Untitled” was born.

The basic premise of the story is this: a wealthy man decides to “rescue” women who are in bad situations they can’t escape.  It starts with drug addicts, hookers, and other desperate women who come with him of their own accord.  He collects them individually and sets them up in suites (which are basically cages) and they are eternally grateful and do whatever he asks.  His ego then leads him to want to “rescue” women who he thinks are in bad situations, but who may not realize it.  He starts by kidnapping a college student who is studying in a field which will pay very little money and lead to (he thinks) a miserable life.  (There’s that original train of thought from my walk across campus.)

So, premise and beginning of plot in mind, I set out to write the story.  It began with the student being kidnapped and deposited into her suite at the wealthy man’s house, which were relatively easy to write.  I decided to create a character with the job of monitoring the collection via computer and closed-circuit cameras, in order to have another perspective for the story, and continued writing.  Then my plot fizzled.  Once I got the girl to the house, I had no idea what to do.  This had happened before, with other stories, and I had always stopped at this point.  This led to a collection of beginnings without any completed stories.

Here is where things got interesting.  For the first time (ever!) I had the writer’s experience of having a character talk to me.  It was an odd moment; I finally understood authors who said their characters told them what happened.  The tech guy who I created as a side character stepped up, said he was in love with the girl, and that I should tell his story.

It was perfect.  I re-wrote the story, now entirely from his point of view.  Not only was it from a male perspective, I put it in first person.  The reader only finds out what the tech guy knows.  This meant I had to create a situation in which he gets to meet her, which led to a whole plot unrolling before my eyes.  Through this new approach I actually finished the story.  I had to end it in a way that I didn’t particularly like (as a reader) but was the only satisfactory conclusion I could see (as a writer).  Another writer’s experience:  I ended a story the way it had to end.

Of course, I never did find a title for it.  I’ve also never published it, even online, and I’ve only shared it with a handful of people.  Perhaps with a good revision, I might use it in the gap between Butterflies-related stories on Serial Central.  If I can find a title, or call it Untitled.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. YerMom
    Dec 10, 2010 @ 11:14:59

    So I was curious and went to Amazon.com to see if there ever was a book titled “Untitled”. There are a couple but they have a colon: and then. . . .a title:) I would like to read your story, hope you decide to post it.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Steps to a Story: “Gilded Cage” « Butterflies and Dragons
  3. Trackback: NaNo is getting closer… « Butterflies and Dragons
  4. melanonce
    Sep 15, 2012 @ 08:17:12

    I literally just wrote a post about the teeth-pulling agony of picking titles and ran across this post in the process of seeing what other people had to say about it. Your story sounds fascinating! Anyway, here’s a few ideas for finding a title: http://inkedoutloud.wordpress.com/2012/09/14/titles-the-vital-first-impression/
    Hope something clicks for you! Good luck with NaNo this year.

    Reply

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