Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oops, Writing Too Tight

Cramming old magazines into shopping bags, buying an extra flashdrive, saving everything because one never knows when it will come in useful are hoarding traits we can practice or relate to, at least in a limited degree. Writers attempting to cram big thoughts into few words is a gargantuan task. I know. Been there; done that.

When newspaper copy editors do a wonderful job we seldom pause to admire, however, the reverse is a horse of a different color. After many years I can still recall trying to create a headline for a short story about Richard M. Nixon on vacation playing golf on several consecutive days. I came up with: Nixon Teed Off Fourth Day In Row. Of course, it was self-censored and not printed. Nevertheless, the task of headline writing has stuck all these many years.

All writers, journalists, fiction novelists, and jingle creators at times need to hone the craft. What is a headline if not the title of a book?

It's a serious undertaking and, if not done properly, the fodder for late night TV. Thus, headlines can be humorous, give the reader a chuckle in a bland boring day. So stop and think at the following examples. They give a hint at how singular words can have multiple meanings.

-- Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers      (What will happen on Election Day?)

-- Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over    (Guess more than his heart is in the right place.)

-- If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile  (Dah)

-- Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures  (Wasn't the hand close enough to the sun?)

-- Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half  (What the Dickens? Or, was Alice scared?)

-- Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors  (Did somebody step on somebody's toes?)

-- Miners Refuse to Work After Death   (No dedication?)

Attributes to the guilty have been left off. One has to have some compassion for other writers even in a time of whimsy. If you're writing anything short, inspect it at all angles and delve deep to expose all intended and unintended meanings. However, if the words sell your book, disregard all changes. And remember, when you're bending down to place that tee in the soft earth, it's not improper to say a prayer that you'll send the ball off into the distance, maybe 300 yards.

A Body To Bones - Donan Berg novel  Thanks to the shelving of A Body To Bones by Barton Library, El Dorado, Arkansas, and Seminole County Public Library System, Casselberry, FL.

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