The Story Title: Shakespeare was wrong or was he?

Poster for a performance
Image via Wikipedia

Juliet

            What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

            By any other name would smell as sweet.

 

While you are working on the story a “working title” suffices. But while theoretically a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a script title needs to perform three important functions when it comes to selling your script:

 

  • Encapsulate what the film is about, especially imply the genre.
  • Suggest the concept, especially high concept, of the story.
  • Evoke a positive emotional reaction.

 

An implied genre alerts the reader/audience what to expect from genre traditions: get ready to laugh or be scared or travel the future, and the like. Is it a drama or a comedy?

 

The concept alerts them to the type of genre; for example slapstick, traditional farce, high Comedy.

 

The positive emotional reaction is definitely up to you and more elusive but it is a terrific selling point because it immediately evokes interest.

 

Be careful about being “clever” with your title because it can lead people astray. For example, I did not see Usual Suspects for a long time because I thought it was a comedy spin off of Casablanca.

 

Shakespeare announced up front what to expect from his plays: The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, The Tragedy of Hamlet: Prince of Denmark. Modern audiences want more subtlety but they do want to know what type of story it is.

 

Make your title a strong selling tool evoking emotional response and interest.

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