Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Taglines, Loglines, Blurbs...How Do I Write Them?

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends. This week we're going to talk about those nasty one-liners we have to write for our proposals and pitches. Enjoy!

…Teasers, One-liners. Whatever you call them, those teenie little summaries requested by editors add up to a big bunch of “no fun.” You mean I have to condense my whole story into one catchy line? Yuck! I just want to write my book.
But if I must create a tagline, I may as well make it the snappiest, most-informative, enticing blurb as possible. While figuring out how to do this, I learned something surprising about those pesky one-liners—but I’ll save that till the end. First, the nuts and bolts.

Goin’ on a Blurb Hunt
            I had such fun searching for taglines. Here are a couple favorites.

The land of reindeer, Finnish saunas, and starry, starry nights holds infinite promise for free-flying sisterchicks who feel their hearts fill with a new zest for living…and a fresh view of the One who flung the galaxies across the heavens.
Sisterchicks on the Loose by Robin Jones Gunn

            Here’s another one.

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.
From Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

I scanned taglines from back covers and found heaps of variety—some were short and snappy. Others long and descriptive. A few were even sarcastic or humorous. I paid attention to which ones drew me in or left me flat. Which ones attracted me, or failed to spark my interest. And, of course, I analyzed why.

Think Hollywood
            Why not check out the loglines from movies?  I googled “logline” and came up with great advice for screenwriters that we can use too. One site explained a logline as including hero, flaw, life-changing event, opponent, ally, and battle.1  Here’s an example from Star Wars A New Hope.

A naïve (flaw) farmer’s nephew (hero) leaves his home planet, (life-changing event) teams up with other rebels (allies), and tries to save the princess (battle) from the evil clutches of a dark lord (opponent).

Try these steps:
Ø      Apply each element to your story. Who’s my hero? What’s his flaw? Etc.
Ø      Using a logline that's already been written as a template, plug in your story's elements. To apply the Star Wars example, instead of “A naïve farmer’s nephew,” you could put, “An incompetent sea captain,” (or whoever your main character is and his flaw). Instead of, “leaves his home planet,” you could put, “sails from his home port” … You get the idea.
Ø      Now that you have a well-written and structured tagline, is it zippy enough? It may not be. But once you have all the elements to play with, you can decide how best to fine tune it into a real grabber.

I Promise
            Another ingredient for a great tagline is the promise. This concept is used in web advertising. One way to persuade consumers to click on a link is to promise them something. How would this work for a novel? Think about what you’re “gifting” your reader. Take a look at Breach of Promise by James Scott Bell.

How far will a father go to get back his only daughter? And how will he survive in a legal system that crushes those who can’t afford to fight back?

            This blurb promises: A missing daughter. A father willing to risk everything to get her back. A twisty drama with a “little guy” taking on the legal system. And the tone suggests fast-paced suspense. All those promises in one little blurb.

The tale of one woman’s fight to claim her independence and self respect in a society that has no place for her.

            What does this line from Jane Eyre promise? A character-driven novel with a strong female protagonist. A fresh look at English society. A story of overcoming the odds.
            What would you like your book to give readers? Once you know, you can decide how to promise it in your blurb.

These suggestions should give you a solid start for writing a selling tagline (logline, blurb, one-liner…).

Oh! Almost forgot the surprise. What else can writing these nasty things do (besides appeasing an acquisitions editor)? I discovered that a well-framed tagline can actually make my novel better. If I'm stumbling over creating a tagline, chances are something’s wrong with my plot or characters. A concise logline can actually diagnose a problem. How cool is that? Plus, writing it first (before I start page one) will clarify my story so it can flow into a tightly written novel. How’s that for a surprise?
So, I guess I have to stop whining and instead embrace my one-liner as an essential tool to enhance my story. 

Have you written loglines for your stories? I'd love to see them. And feel free to add your tips for writing an awesome tagline. 

Happy writing and God bless!