There's been a lot of chit-chat about titles on this blog recently, particularly about duplicate titles with regards to the BSSC and whether people's scripts are the same ones listed on those that made it through the first round; Oli too mentioned a script called WHALE FARTS had made it through the Quarter Finals of Scriptapolooza and I entreated bloggers and writers not to call their scripts TEENAGE KICKS 'cos I must get three or four a year.
So well done to Anya who spotted that the BSSC does in fact have some duplicate titles: there are apparently two called CRISPS and even weirder, two called SIX BULLETS (what happens for TWO writers to choose the number six there? What are the odds?). There are also two called THE VISIT. If you have nothing better to do today, let's see if we can find anymore (who said this blog wasn't educational, hey?).
Anyway, Anya asks if there are any titles, besides TEENAGE KICKS that crop up again and again. The answer: oh yes. It would seem people underestimate the power of the title: when we talk about "Beating the Reader", it's a question of psychology. You want them to pick up your script from that very first page and WANT to read it. A title that's been used before, for me anyway, is kinda deflating.
A good title *can* be your key to getting read in full. I recall working with one lass who would attack her massive pile by dividing those scripts with dull titles to those scripts with interesting ones. Really. When faced with a pile of scripts that come in at the same time for a course or initiative (so have the same deadline), I always choose the script with the most interesting title first: if I'm "fresher" (in that it's my first read), does this mean that script with the best title gets preferential treatment? I'd like to think no, but at the end of the day - who knows?
And every Reader remembers the good ones or the ones which seem alluring, full of intrigue. I always remember the titles that seem interesting, even if I don't recall the writers' names or even what the plot is about. If a title is good, interesting or weird, then it will get remembered; the number of times someone has said to me at seminars, book fairs etc, "I wrote a script called ____" and I immediately say, "I know that one! I read it through..." Uncountable.
One or two words is great; names - not so great I think, though if you get it right, plus your protagonist is amazing, then this can be fabulous. The simpler the better, but if you're going for a fancy title, make it as fancy as possible. Who doesn't remember THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU'RE DEAD, even if you haven't actually watched it? Or, TO WONG FOO, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING - JULIE NEWMAR?
The biggest turn-offs? Song titles. I am SO BORED of song titles. And the titles of books (when it's NOT an adaptation, I should add). Yargh. I always think, this is YOUR script, a new thing, YOUR story, why saddle it with someone else's words and the inevitable assumptions that will go with it? The one exception to this is the notion of irony. Using a song title as a little aside or joke in this manner will raise a smile with me, yet often there is no real discernible connection between why the song title has been used and the script. I suspect it's because it "sounds cool" or because the writer got the idea for the script whilst listening to the song... And it's since undergone so many drafts that it no longer bears any connection.
So, in response to Anya, who asked my "top 5" most-repeated script titles (minus TK), here you go... I've looked through all my records, starting in 2001 for these; some of them have come through lit agents, some through writing initiatives and indie prodcos, some through Bang2write, some through ALL FOUR. Enjoy!
5. Happy New Year. I actually really do get most of these in January, though I only got one this year. Last year, I got four. Examples I've got of genres with this title include, "rites of passage"-style dramas, thrillers and action-adventures and once, a time travel.
4. Daddy Dearest. It seems more people have troubles with their father than their mother, though from time to time it'll say "Mummy Dearest" instead. Usually dramas, though once a comedy.
3. In The Name Of The Father. What's weird about this one is often it has no religious connection, so why is part of The Lord's Prayer the title? Often foxes me. Usually thrillers though once, a horror.
2. Happy Birthday/Many Happy Returns. Nearly always comedies and nearly always centering around a birthday, though twice - not! Which was strange.
1. In The Name of Love. U2 anyone? I was actually suprised to see this one clocks in more than Teenage Kicks each year, so perhaps missing out the word "Pride" makes a difference. This one has no particular fave genre it seems; looking at my desktop I see all sorts, from Rom Com to period drama to kitchen sink drama to thriller, which is why it may have slipped under my radar. But now I'm aware of it, PLEASE STOP! Though I must admit to writing a script of this title back in the mists of time. It was a short and someone was in love, but that's all I recall. Probably just as well!
Spot any of your titles there?