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