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John Howard Reid

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5 Quick Ways To Catch a Contest Judge's Eye
by John Howard Reid   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, February 19, 2009
Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2009

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Contest judges are speed readers, so never underestimate the importance of your title, your pen-name (if such is permissible), and your opening stanza or paragraph.

 

5 Quick Ways To Catch a Contest Judge’s Eye

 

1.      An unusual, intriguing, interest-arousing title. If the contest permits pen-names, you could follow this with an equally potent pen-name. You can often adapt titles from lists of old, long-forgotten movies and find plenty of evocative names among their players and technicians. Beware, however, of re-using familiar titles from famous authors (even if you employ only some of the words) unless you are trying to be provocvative or amusing. For instance, Kipling’s "The Man Who Would Be King" is out; but "The Man Who Would Be a Clown" is good.

2.      A powerful, attention-grabbing opening line. Another tip is to make your first paragraph or stanza short. No more than 3 or 4 lines! If writing a sonnet, it is permissible to divide the sonnet into 4 stanzas, comprising 3 of 4 lines each and then a couplet for the final stanza.

3.      Dialogue in a story should be short and MUST be characterized. In other words, every character must have such a distinctive style that it’s possible for the reader to know instantly who is speaking without descriptive phrases like "said Tom", "recalled Jane", "contradicted Tim". On the other hand, such phrases should not be eliminated completely, but used with discretion.

4.      Your final paragraph or stanza is as equally important as your first. It must provide a logical, satisfying conclusion to the story, or a neat summary of the mood, intent and/or imagery of your poem.

5.      Originality. What quality does your story or essay or poem have that is peculiarly your own? What insight have you provided that is entirely you, and not copied or borrowed from other compositions? And in this connection, when writing prose, avoid too many unoriginal "was…was" sentences, even if you are trying to be funny. For example: "Mary was a little lamb. Her fleece was white as snow. Her name was Mirabel. She was two feet tall and her tail was curly." This can be amusing for a short stretch, but the judge’s interest will start to pall after 2 or 3 such stanzas or paragraphs.

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