[Write On Wednesday] Aphorisms Are Ace

Finding a topic for a story, then, needn’t be hard. Try your hand at this week’s prompt and remember to have fun (even if your story is dark and depressing): Use An Old Saying As A Title

Not every story has to be sparked by a deep desire you need to share with the world.

the first rays
Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining! Photo by: Richard West

Sometimes we write for fun. Most people read to be entertained.

Finding a topic for a story, then, needn’t be hard. Try your hand at this week’s prompt and remember to have fun (even if your story is dark and depressing).

The Prompt

Use An Aphorism As A Title


  • Here are some aphorisms to pick from: Look Before You Leap; Good Things Come In Small Packages; Every Could Has A Silver Lining; A Bad Penny Always Turns Up; A Little Learning Is A Dangerous Thing; Two Heads Are Better Than One (I’m seeing a futuristic, head-grafting story here…).
  • You can use the whole saying, or the opening of it, or the ending of it (it’s quite common to use just the first half, for example, Mary Robinette Kowal’s Hugo nominated short story “For Want Of A Nail” leaves off the “a kingdom was lost” part. But, for readers who know the original saying, the title provides a hint of what’s at stake, before they even read the story. You could use “As You Sow, So Shall You Reap”, but omit the first three words. Or “It’s The Squeaky Wheel That Gets The Grease” could become simply “The Squeaky Wheel”.
  • Sometimes it’s fun to switch out the words so the rhythm and meaning of the aphorism plants an idea in the reader’s head, but you change the specifics to fit your story. For example: The Early Crook Gets The Loot; Let Sleeping ____ Lie (I’ve seen this used with “Vets” and “Freshmen”, to head up very different stories!); Try it yourself: A Watched ___ Never ____ (maybe you could write A Watched Earl Never Marries, if you’re into historical romance);  It Takes A ____ To Catch A _____; Leave No ____ Unturned; Just try to keep the balance of the aphorism the same (e.g. The Early Bird Gets The Worm, becomes The Early Crook Gets The Loot, but it falls flat if you tried to say The Early Crook Gets Caught First)
  • If none of my examples grab you, try browsing this list for more aphorisms to steal. Beware though: sometimes too much choice can a terrible thing. (after all, “A man with one clock knows what time it is. A man with two clocks is never sure.”)
  • Remember to have fun with this. Don’t worry about writing deathless prose or think about who might publish this story. Write lightly, as if your story were origami: worthwhile and disposable.
  • Write something complete today. Write something that entertains you, and that might entertain your perfect reader.


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