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Short Story Right
by Kristy Taylor
No matter how fantastic the short story you have written
may be, without a catchy title the chances are good that
an editor will not read it. The title is the most
important part of the story as this is what first
captures the reader's attention.
A good title should grab the reader and make them wonder
what the story is about. A bad title will probably cause
the reader to skip the story altogether. This holds true
when submitting your stories for publication. Editors are
busy people and will pass on the story, often without
reading the first sentence, if your title doesn't capture
The title of your story will tell the editor a lot about
your creativity. If your title is strong, an editor will
be more likely to look at your story with a positive
So how do you come up with a good title? Below is a small
list of tips to help you come up with an attention
1. Keep it short, no
more than four or five words. Even two or three word
titles are generally more than enough. If you can come up
with a single word that conveys something about your
story, even better.
2. Avoid boring
titles. Don't name your story something like 'The
Monster' or 'The Sea' as these are dull and boring, and
too generalized. Instead, try for something that evokes
emotion. 'Under the Bed' would be a good title for a
scary story and 'High Tides' works better for a story
based on the ocean.
3. Make sure your
title fits your genre. Don't name a whodunit with a title
that could be confused with a romance story.
4. Make your title
easy to remember. This is another reason to keep the
title short. Use your creativity to come up with
something catchy that relates to the theme, the action,
or the characters of the story. A memorable title allows
your readers to recommend your story to others.
5. Research the title
you come up with. Although titles are not copyrighted,
you don't want your story confused with another story of
the same name. They can be similar without being exact.
So how do you spark your creativity to come up with the
perfect title for your story? The following are a handful
of ways to awaken your muse.
a. A short line of
dialogue or a memorable sentence from your story can
sometimes be the right choice.
b. A common phrase or
expression can often be found that sums up the theme of
your story. Or use a play on words, where only one
element of the phrase is changed.
Borrow a line from an established work. Look at
Shakespeare, the Bible or other well known book, song or
Use one your main characters' names. Think
along the lines of 'Tom Sawyer' or Stephen King's
e. Likewise, your
title can be your setting. Think of Brokeback Mountain,
Lost in Space, etc...
f. A good title can convey the main idea of
your story. 'Misery' or 'Legends of the Fall' are good
g. Use word
association to link together elements of the story.
h. Allow the action
to determine the name. By adding an 'ing' to the first
word, you can come up with a catchy title. Some examples
of this could be Chasing Rainbows or Dreaming Life Away.
Often, you can spend hours coming up with a title only to
have the editor change it after accepting the story for
publication. Sometimes the new title will make little
sense to you. While you may think your title is perfect,
the editor knows the publication's readers well and may
think the alternative is a better choice. And while this
may irk your ego, knowing the story will be published is
its own reward.
However you come up with the title to your short story,
remember it is the first impression the editor will have
about your writing abilities. Like the logline to a
screenplay or the first paragraph of a novel, the title
should represent the story they are about to read. At the
end of the day, you want the editor to remember your
story and place it in the 'accepted for publication'
stack on their desk.
Kristy Taylor is a syndicated freelance journalist with
articles and short stories strewn across all forms of
media. She has written and published numerous books, and
is the executive editor of KT Publishing. For free
listings of short story competitions visit www.shortstorycompetitions.com .
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