Monday, April 7, 2008

Let's Talk Titles...

Titles are a tricky thing--how's that for a mouthful of "T's" --

Whether you're naming a manuscript, song, movie, or play--I find that titles are akin to petting a cat or petting a lion. And you're never sure which one you're going to get.

My first manuscript, The Cinderella Haters, was an easy one. (And I confess I just really love the title!) It's still in the waiting game stage and may see the light of publication one day. But every agent and editor who saw it, even those who said the storyline wasn't for them, complimented the title and it grabbed their attention.

This one was easy, and popped into my head without reason or method. I was walking across a movie theatre lobby, and within the time it took to walk from the auditorium door to the refreshment stand, I knew the title, the beginning, and the ending scenes. All I had to do was fill in the middle (no easy task, I discovered).

My current WIP has a title related to themes throughout the book, but I'm still not sold on whether it's the right one. ( sharing it here yet! Work in progress items are a delicate thing!)

I wonder if filmmakers struggle with titles too. My favorite ones are those which don't beat the viewer over the head with the title, but aren't so subtle that the viewer misses it. I suppose some can't help but be the obvious title for marketing reasons. "Jaws" comes to mind. But it's not like there was a great deal of internal conflict going on there either. Big shark. People. Beach. There you go.

But I get a delighted feeling when a scene unfolds which reveals why the artist used a particular title. A wonderful Indie film, one of my favorites, called "Box of Moonlight" comes to mind. I happened to catch this on IFC late one night, and forced myself to stay awake because the story intrigued me. It's by the brilliant Tom DiCillo, one of my favorite filmmakers. The reason for this title isn't shared until a good way into the film, but it's at the perfect moment. Sharing it earlier would be trite and contrived. Sharing it later wouldn't allow for the story to progress as it does.

Was it Mark Twain who said if a gun is on the mantle in acts one and two, it had better go off in act three? By the same token, if a gun goes off in act three, it had better be on the mantel in acts one and two.

Nobody uses that logic anymore, and I wish they would...

More later! Happy Monday.

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