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
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.