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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tag Lines to Hook a Reader

Tag line or Logline?

A logline tells you what a movie or book will be about—the main conflict, the main character, and the stakes.

 A tag line is a catch phrase. It doesn’t tell you anything specific about the story, but it does give you a feel for it in a way that a logline can’t. A tag line is what you see on movie posters.

What I want to talk about are tag lines. What constitutes a good one for a novel? In my way of thinking, which I admit has always been a little off step, is to summarize the story idea in a single sentence. Write a catch phrase—a hook—that makes people want to pick up the book and read it.

Author Stacey Nash describes a tag line for books as “a one-sentence summary of your story. Its goal is to intrigue and make the person that you are delivering it to want to read the story. The most important thing about the tag line is that it needs to be high concept. It should sum up the entire plot in one quick compelling sentence.”

In my debut novel, my tag line is: With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel. That tells you in one sentence of 15 words exactly what you're going to get in the book: a lighthearted read, with a heroine who is always in the middle of trouble, and there's a friend involved.

Rose McCauley worked on hers for a book placed in Perfect, Kentucky. She sent me what she had but wanted to shorten it. Her original was something like: "In Perfect, Kentucky, not much happens that isn't perfect until she discover whatever-it-was." I can't remember the last part. What I saw, reading that, was this: Perfect, Kentucky isn't always. Four words tell it all.

Randy Ingermanson, the Snowflake guy, says to keep it under 20 words. I agree but always try for the fewest possible. In my opinion, some examples of excellent tag lines are:

Secrets can be funny things ~ Secrets over Sweet Tea, by Denise Hildreth Jones. It gives
a hint of the style, written with some humor, and that secrets are involved. That tag line made me buy the book.

One ring to rule them all ~ Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien

What if she never came home . . . ? ~ The Face of the Earth, by Deborah Raney

Life's a journey. Midlife's an adventure. ~ RV There Yet? By Diann Hunt

Behind every broken vow lies a broken heart. ~ Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes

Your day starts by being jilted at the altar. It's about to get a lot worse. ~ Keeper of the Bride by Tess Gerritsen

When they came for him, it was time to run. ~ Don't Leave Me by James Scott Bell

Nice guys finish last. Meet the winners. ~ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Okay it's a movie but that's a great tag line. The thing is, we can take the idea, the layout from these and create good ones of our own.

So, what tag lines have you found irresistible or written yourself? I'd love to see them.

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. Her debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, is due out in 2014. She's a three-time Genesis finalist, a humor columnist for the ACFW Journal, and a multi-published playwright. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and two very large dogs. 


Nicole said...

Good post, Ane. And good lines.

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks, Nicole. I love playing with tag lines ... But then I loved to diagram sentences when I was a kid. LOL

Cathy Gohlke said...

Diagraming sentences--yikes! This must be why I find writing tag lines so challenging. I understand they take diligence, but I'm also thinking that writing good tag lines requires a little bit of genius. Thank you for sharing yours, Ane, and for the good pointers. I'm saving this post.

Jennifer said...

Jaws-just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. :)

Normandie Ward Fischer said...

Great lines. I can't write them to save my life. I'll flag you on the next go-round!

~sharyn said...

A few years ago I directed The Butler Did It at the community theatre & came up with the tagline: "Murder is one thing. But spoiling a party is quite another." That was a fun one.

Ane Mulligan said...

LOL Thanks, Cathy. I love to play with these, so holler if I can ever help.

Ane Mulligan said...

LOVE that one, Jennifer.

Ane Mulligan said...

You got it, girlfriend!

Ane Mulligan said...

That's a great tagline, and I'm a founder of the Sugar Hill Players Guild I'm going to look up that play! :)

Sandra Stiles said...

For my book Steps to Courage - Courage always begins with the first step.

Berks1964 said...

Here's mine from my novel about the Amish and baseball, The Fastnacht League, - "In a timeless game, time is running out."

Jennifer Major said...

What if your greatest fear is your only salvation?

From my MS, The Secret Keepers.
I didn't write that, it's courtesy of Beth Vogt.

Ane Mulligan said...

That's a very good one, Sandra!

Ane Mulligan said...

I love that! I have one that is "Her dream job has a Catch 22 and time is running out. :)

Ane Mulligan said...

And it's a great one! Chilling!

sally apokedak said...

Great post. These few words are sooooo important.

Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks, Sally. They really are!

Greg Miller said...

Glad you like it- thanks for the positive feedback.