A few years ago I wrote a story titled On the Finding of Photographs of My Former Loves, which eventually found its way into Fantasy Magazine in 2008. About a year after that I wrote On the Destruction of Copenhagen by the War Machines of the Merfolk, which showed up in Strange Horizons in 2009 and then went on to be reprinted in a years best collection and pod-casted and other such things.
I didn’t write an On The… story in 2010, despite my best intentions to do so. This makes me a little sad, ’cause it’s one of those things that I meant to do and simply didn’t find the time for. In my head they’re part of an ongoing series, albeit a rather slow-moving one, and there’s a file on my computer where I put notes regarding possible titles. Every now and then I’d open the file, pick a title, and start writing, and somehow the story would always mutate and become something other than an On The… story.
I know this, because the series has unspoken rules. First person narration, for starters. Non-linear or fragmented narrative arcs. Stories about odd relationships, particularly once they’re over. Male protagonists who wish they were more heartbroken than they really are, ’cause really the entire series is me having a conversation with the concept of masculinity, and the interpersonal seems to be the site where rite-of-passage masculinity stories take place these days.
When I story doesn’t work out, I usually blame it on the title. The titles, after all, are the tricky bits.
Today I’m coming up with titles, trying to find something new that’ll work. On the Final Appearance of the Laundromat Fey. On the Week of Bad Dreams that Followed the Arrival of the Yeti. On the Arrival of Doctor Sabretooth in my Parents Downstair’s Flat. On the Discover of Certain Books in the Back of the Hallway Bookshelf. Thus far, none of them are working, but I’ll get there. All I have to do is keep verbing nouns until something sticks.