Saturday, August 27, 2005

What makes a great title?

Books and movies benefit from great titles, but jobs don’t. Really.

The movie title, Traffic, worked because that one word has multiple meanings and provokes differing emotional reactions. Single word titles are often strong and resonate well. Other single word movie titles include Hitch, Jaws, and even Airport. Novelists have used single word titles just as effectively. Carl Sagan used the title Contact for a book, which later became a movie. Susan Grant used it again for a futuristic romance. Even ordinary words become extraordinary when used by a masterful writer. Remember Stephen King’s It?

Meaningful phrases work well as titles, of course, and some have become part of our cultural heritage. Gone With the Wind evokes images in the minds of people who have neither read the novel nor seen the movie. That holds true for many titles, from A Tale of Two Cities to Easy Rider.

On the other hand, increasingly people who have ordinary jobs seem to want extraordinary titles. In federal government the highest ranking member of the President’s cabinet is called the Secretary of State. In most small companies that title was viewed as so lowly that the job title changed to office manager, which then evolved to administrative assistant, and now the same job is administrative professional. Impressed yet? If not, don’t worry about it, because that job title will no doubt grow again, in a quest for more significance. The same thing goes for repairmen who become maintenance technicians and so forth. As for doctors who haven’t graduated from a medical school...they are not even worthy of comment.

Writers, however, still understand that a brief, strong title works best. Need another example? How about the television show Lost? The same show could have been entitled Otherworldly Happenings in an Exotic Locale After an Airliner’s Unexpected Decent, but I doubt it would have generated the same interest in the viewing public.

Labels: , , , ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home