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Tantalizing Titles
by Shaunna Privratsky

The title of your manuscript is the first thing an editor sees, whether you send it "snail-mail" or through increasingly popular e-mail. Think of your title as your moment to shine, to get your foot in the door, to pique the interest of the editor enough to open and read your story. Tempt them with a tantalizing title, and then let your words serve up a satisfying read.

Imagine that you are an over-worked, under-paid editor. Your desk is piled high with a zillion manuscripts that you must search through for that elusive gold straw in the haystack of mediocre writing and terrible syntax. You pick up the next two manuscripts and glance at the titles.

Would you rather read: "Untitled, A Story by A. Scribbler" or "Wild and Wacky Weekends with Wilma by F. Amos Author?"

Perhaps you do most of your work on a computer. Would you bother opening a subject line with the title "The Story of my Mother’s Death?" "The Silk Robe" leaves more to the imagination and is much more likely to get noticed.

How do I choose titles? Sometimes the story will suggest the title, other times I try several before hitting on one that flawlessly portrays the piece. "Blood Relative" tells the tale of a possibly murdered young woman. Her brother’s ghost returns to give her the second chance he was never given. Thus, the title suggests that perhaps the ties of blood are stronger than the grave. Another example is "Rain on Vacation," a poem about the adventures of a little girl and a tiny frog. Calling it "The Frog" would give away the surprise.

Alliteration has proven highly effective for me. I choose words with the same beginning letters or sounds, especially for articles such as: "Garage Sale Guru," "Confessions of a Coupon Queen" or "Kudos to Kindergarten."

Other titles are a play on words, like "The Purr-fect Pussycat," "Oops! My Dot-com is Showing!," or "The Write Path." Your spell-checker might tell you it’s wrong, but sometimes ya just gotta break da rules.

On occasion, a great title will pop into my head before the story. Then I try to devise a story around it. This happened with "Broken Hearts and Falling City-Girls," a variation on a line I heard in a song about broken hearts and falling stars. Another title was "Shadow Illusions," which Dark Angel Rising recently accepted. This story started out as a definition in my Roget’s Super Thesaurus. [The phrase it defined is just as beguiling: Spectre of the Brokken]

If you are lucky or poetic enough, rhyming your title is a sure attention-grabber. My article about finding an inexpensive wedding dress is titled "Spend Less on Your Dress."

By choosing a crackerjack title, you are increasing the chances that you’ll sell your manuscript. Lots of practice and following these hints will hone your skill at inventing titles. A story with a tantalizing title will definitely stand out in the sea of submissions and with a bit of luck, earn you a sale.

© Copyright 2003, Shaunna Privratsky

Shaunna Privratsky writes fulltime from North Dakota, in between shoveling snow. Please visit The Writer Within at http://shaunna67.tripod.com. We are looking for new writers and we are a paying market.

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