Sunday, May 5, 2013

My explosive headline

I was in a college editing class many years ago, and our teacher had an exercise for us. He read a fictitious story, and we had to write a three-column, 36-point headline. I wrote eight headlines, but one of them still stands out.

This guy decides to commit suicide, so he shuts the windows and puts blankets around the base of the door to keep air out. He turns on the gas, lies down and awaits the long goodbye.

A half hour later, he wakes up and realizes the gas has gone out and air is getting into his apartment. It's a sign, he decides, so he opens the windows. He walks toward the plate-glass sliding doors and, in celebration of life, lights a cigarette...

And the explosion blows him through the glass. He has cuts all over his body, plus broken arms and legs, but, fortunately, the explosion is so powerful that it draws attention, and paramedics save him.

Most of my headlines were safe, and I don't remember any of them. One or two of them were clever. Then there was the big one.

Suicide Attempt Backfires

I've never had the nerve to see if it'd actually fit a 36-point, three-column hole, and I doubt any managing editor in the country would use it. (I hope not.)

I've written dozens of better headlines over the years, but that one sticks in my mind.

If you want a cold, funny and accurate headline, that one fits.

Put out that cigarette. Boom.


(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

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