Playwriting

Title Exercise: Name Game

Written by Lindsay Price

Do your students have trouble coming up with titles for their work?

A title is an important part of the writing process. The title acts as a doorway into the piece – be it a movie, a novel or a play. A bad title can drive an audience away from your work, or give the wrong impression of your work. On the other hand, pick the right title and your audience could march right through the door.

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

June 20 picture

Part One

  1. Find a photograph. A great source for public domain photos is flickr.com/commons. Distribute copies of the picture to your students or show the photograph on a smart board or projection.
  2. Have students take a few moments and study the photograph. Encourage them to analyze every inch of the photograph. 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 outside the frame?
  3. They are now going to come up with a variety of titles. All the titles will have a different focus, and but use the same picture as source material.
  • Title One: Come up with a title that you think best describes the picture.
  • Title Two: Create a title that defines the dominant emotion in the picture.
  • Title Three: Use a line of poetry, or a song lyric as inspiration for this title.
  • Title Four: Write a title that rhymes.
  • Title Five: What is the one word that captures this picture? Come up with a title that is just one word.
  • Title Six: Create a title that has a symbolic connection to the picture rather than a direct connection.
  • Title Seven: Create the absolute worst title for this picture.
  • Title Eight: Think about the person taking the picture. Come up with a title that describes the emotional state of that person.
  • Title Nine: Think about the person taking the picture. Come up with a title that hints to an upcoming action of that person.
  • Title Ten: This piece is a comedy. Create a comedic title for this picture.
  • Title Eleven: This piece is absurd. Create 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

Do this with the whole class. After everyone has come up with their titles, have each choose one. They are to write that title on a slip of paper. Everyone puts their slip of paper into a hat. Everyone then chooses a slip of paper out of the hat. Based on the title they receive they are to write a brief description of the play they think fits that title. Is the title easy to visualize? How easy or difficult is it to describe a situation based on the title?

Alternative Exercise

Hand out brief descriptions of movies or plays. Chose older works, you’re looking for movie descriptions that your class wouldn’t be able to identify immediately. Based on the description, have students create a title for that movie. Then share the real title. IMDB.com 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)
Click here to download a PDF version of the Title Exercise!

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Lindsay Price

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