Classroom Exercise Playwriting

Playwriting Exercise: The Name Game

Use this exercise to practice creating titles based on a picture.

  • Find a photograph. A great source for public domain photos is
  • Take a few moments and study the photograph. Look at it carefully, with the eye of a writer. What is going on? Who is in the photo? Who is in the foreground? Who’s in the back ground? What is the landscape? What might be happening out side the frame?
  • Title One: Come up with a title that you think best describes the picture.
  • Title Two: Come up with a title that defines the dominant emotion in the picture.
  • Title Three: Come up with a title that is inspired from a line of poetry.
  • Title Four: Come up with a title that rhymes.
  • Title Five: Come up with a title that is just one word. What is the one word that captures this picture?
  • Title Six: Come up with a title that has a symbolic connection to the picture rather than a direct connection.
  • Title Seven: Come up with what you think would be the absolute worst title for this picture.
  • Title Eight: Come up with a title that describes the emotional state of the person taking the picture.
  • Title Nine: Come up with a title that hints to an upcoming action of the person taking the picture.
  • Title Ten: Come up with a comedic title for this picture.
  • Title Eleven: Come up with an absurd title for this picture.
  • Title Twelve: Come up with a tragic title for this picture.
  • Title Thirteen: Come up with a title that includes the name of the picture location.

Part Two of this exercise is something that can be done with a class. After everyone has come up with their titles, have them choose a couple, write them on slips of paper and put them into a hat. Then, everyone chooses a slip of paper and based on the title they receive writes a brief description of the play they think fits that title. It’s an exercise in how easy a title is to visualize as a full work.

And another: Hand out brief descriptions of movies or plays. I would suggest choosing from older words that your class wouldn’t necessarily know. Based on the description, have students create titles. Then share the real title. is a good place to get short concise movie descriptions, for example:

  • A lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice. (To Kill A Mockingbird)
  • Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. (The Shawshank Redemption)
  • A small time boxer gets a once in a lifetime chance to fight the heavyweight champ in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect. (Rocky)

About the author

Lindsay Price