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
. 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
. 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
if she
came home . . . ?
~ The
Face of the Earth,
by Deborah Raney
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
When they came for him, it was time to run. ~ Don’t Leave
by James Scott Bell
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. 

What do you mean “Find Your Voice?”

Fiction writers
are told to find their voice. Well, what is voice, and for that matter, how do
you find it?
I mastered the
mechanics of good writing by learning and following the guidelines or … stay
with me here … the rules. Then, I began to understand when and how to break
them to turn my manuscript into a symphony or a dance of words.
About that same
time, I started a new series, and when I sent my critique partners the first
chapter, they told me I’d found my voice. Cool. I didn’t know I’d lost it. I
mean, I didn’t have laryngitis or even a sore throat.
Okay, I’m being
silly and probably not that funny, so you can stop rolling your eyes. In truth,
I’d been working on voice. I read Les Edgerton’s book Finding Your Voice. I highly recommend it if you’re still looking
for yours.
In Edgerton’s
book, he said go back and look at letters you’d written when you were young or
at least before you began to write. There was your voice.
As I thought
about that, I remembered how our friends always told me they loved my Christmas
letters. Mine were the ones they actually read and looked forward to. When I
was late with it one year, I received a few “Where is it?” emails.
Instead of a
travelogue or a report on the kiddos’ doings, I made up stories about the major
events of the past year, poking fun at us and liberally adding embellishments.
I pulled out
those past Christmas letters and studied them. I noticed the cadence, the
style, and the sound of them. That’s what I wanted to get in my fiction.
I then tried a
new game of “Name that Author.”
First, I went to
a multi-author blog—it doesn’t work on any other type. (NOTE: This needs to be
a blog of authors well known to you.) I chose Girls Write Out. Before I
looked at the signature or by-line, I tried to guess who wrote it. 
Between the post
and their fiction, I could see the similarity in the “voice.” It was
natural and organic to the author. While some may have similarities, especially
if they write in the same genre, each author does have a unique voice.
If you’re still
developing your voice, read … a lot. Don’t copy another writer, but rather
study what they do and how they do it. Then look at
something you wrote before you started perusing a writing career. Forget the
mechanics for a moment. What did the writing sound like? That’s most likely your voice.
Try it for a
while and see what happens.