Short Story Titles for Contests and Competitions

First Impressions for Short Story Competition
by Hugh Wilson

As a reader, what is the first thing you look at in a short story? The title. Does it appeal to you? Does it arouse your curiosity enough to want to read the opening lines? If the title doesn’t grab you, you’ll look for something more interesting.

Short story contest judges are readers, too. The title is the first indication of your skill and creativity so choose one that will attract the judges – one that will make them want to read it again. The title is important in a short story competition. Here are some pointers:

Make it Short and Fitting

Make it easy to remember, not more than four or five words. It should give the reader a clue about the tone and mood. For instance, it’s obvious that Dial M for Murder is going to be something creepy involving murder and a telephone, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover revolves around another man.

Not too revealing

But a short story title shouldn’t give away too much, especially the ending. For example, Crime Doesn’t Pay tells the reader that the bad guy gets his comeuppance in the end, so why bother to read the story?

Re-cycle existing phrases

Well known literary works can provide memorable titles. Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises stem from the Bible.

British author H.E. Bates’, The Darling Buds of May, (a line from a Shakespeare sonnet), evokes inviting images of life in the countryside.

Another method is to twist well-known phrases or sayings such as Live and Let Die, and You Only Live Twice.

• Just names

Some short story titles use names of people or places, so let’s make up a couple. Deborah’s Secret would surely make you rub your hands in anticipation, while Florida Frolics might suggest a lighthearted tale of fun and games on vacation in the Everglades.

Let the Short Story Name Itself

A short story can name itself by extracting dialogue, a memorable line, or a couple of words that capture the mood. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins are such titles.

Research Your Title for Short Story Competition

There is no copyright on titles, but it’s worth a quick search to make sure yours is not identical to a well-known story or one that has recently won a short story contest. If it is, change it slightly.

These are just a few ideas to get your mind thinking of different ways to dream up a short story title.

Study the titles that have won recent contests and, of course, read the stories to see what made them stand out from the rest. You might be the next short story contest winner.

Please click on “Share This” and “Like” below to help us spread the word.

More great writing tips and short story contest rules at Ends October 20, 2011. Hurry! First place wins a $$$ price (or) FREE writing course.


4 thoughts on “Short Story Titles for Contests and Competitions

  1. My name is Samantha Winters and, I am a 64 year old female
    I sent a short story to Debora Owen called The Last Tattoo, for an

    evaluation of my writing skills. She replied with a thorough 8 page review

    analysis of::

    First Impression: Good or Bad

    1 Setting or Imagery of the story

    2. Setting the hook

    3 Dialogue and Identifying the Speaker

    4. Inappropriate Tense Changes

    5. Verbiage

    6. Believable

    7. Resolutions

    8. Climax

    9. Conflict

    10. Theme

    11. Punctuation

    12. Spell Check

    13. Sentence Structure

    14. Show, Don’ t Tell

    15 Characterization

    16. Verb Usage

    17. Passive Voice

    18. Strong Point

    19. Weak Point

    20. Recommendations

    Deborah’s evaluation encouraged me to keep on writing,

    I wrote a lot of poetry and thought that I would venture out into another

    branch of writing, and this is the first fiction short story that I have written.

    She also suggested that I take the Short Story Safari class,

    I would like to be a professional fiction short story writer and plan on taking

    the class as soon as I can.

    Thank you Deborah for your encouraging review

    Samantha Winters (Lee) Please use my review as needed.


    1. Hi Samantha. Thank you for the kind letter. We specialize in encouraging writers, but we don’t do it by giving false hopes. We tell it straight from the shoulder, picking out both the good and bad points. Your story was a delight to read. We have an inexpensive payment plan and we don’t charge anything extra for it. There is an option to pay $50 every other week and your lessons will release weekly, just as if you paid ahead.

      Please feel free to write any time. By all means… keep writing! Persistence is the key. If you have persistence and you write by the rules, you’ll make it. Best, Deb


  2. great post, Deb! And so important. The title can turn the reader/judge off as easily as it can get him/her excited to read the story


    1. Thanks for stopping by Janie. We’re excited about our contest. Not very many beginning writer contests out there. Wish I had found something like this years ago when I was just starting competition.


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