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A killer title must have irony and tell a tale

Save the cat

In his well-known book on screenwriting, Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, Blake Snyder explained that the title of your screenplay (or novel) is an important component of your logline (for a novel, think of the logline as your one sentence pitch).

A killer title, he wrote, must have irony and tell the tale of the story. One of his favorite movie titles was, “Legally Blonde,” because it encompassed the essence of the story and was unexpectedly humorous.  On the other hand, he felt the movie title, “For Love or Money,” was a horrible title because it was too vague. (There’s even been four different movies with that title, none of them memorable).

Snyder’s advice on titles can apply to any writing project–even poetry or short stories. He made me realize that the working title for my current project had to go because it met none of his criteria for a good title–it didn’t show what the novel was about, it wasn’t unusual or ironic, and it didn’t hook the reader. In fact, the old title probably got in the way of my writing. Yikes! I may change the title again in the future but at least my new working title is pointing me in the right direction–the direction my story wants to go in.

Snyder passed away suddenly in 2009 but left behind some of the best, straightforward screenwriting lessons in the industry. You don’t have to be a screenwriter to benefit from his wisdom. Writers of all genres can learn from him. Check out his website and the upcoming events based on his work.

For more tips on choosing just the right title for your writing projects see Carly’s post Pick a Winning Title for your Novel, Memoir or Screenplay.

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