Friday, March 6, 2009

I Wish Taglines Were This Easy…

I looked up at the store’s green awning then down at the slip of paper in my hand. This had to be the place, but the store seemed deserted and I couldn’t see through the blackened windows. Well, I hadn’t come all this way to admire the façade. I squared my shoulders and opened the door.

Black was the color of choice. The walls, the floor, the ceiling, and not a stick of furniture, but then I wasn’t shopping for a couch. "Hello?" The word hit the walls and echoed back to me. My confidence level plummeted.

"Yes? What do you want?"

A voice surrounded me in a blanket of velvet. I spun around, glanced up, but there was no one in the room. I swallowed. "I thought I could purchase a tagline here?"

"Taglines R Us, you’ve come to the right place. Tell me about yourself."

"Well, I’m a writer trying to find an agent and then publish my first novel."

"A middle aged writer discovers joy in the written word, but finding others who feel the same takes a toll on her mental health."

"Hey!" I didn’t know if I should be offended at the middle age comment or the fact this voice thought I was cracking under the pressure. Of course, both were true, but really. "I don’t need a tagline for myself. I need one for my manuscript."

"Oh. I apologize. What genre?"

The apology didn’t sound sincere. I glanced at the door then decided to give it another chance. "Medieval romance."

"White knight rescues damsel in distress –"

"Whoa! My hero is not a white knight."

A heavy sigh settled over me. Surround sound at its best, with a voice of liquid silver – this should be going better than me standing in a dark room wondering if the first tagline artist in the phonebook had been a wise choice. "He’s a man who marries a stranger in order to keep his shameful past a secret."

"A man’s marriage to a stranger may not guarantee his past remain a secret."

"I could have come up with that."

"Yet you didn’t."

I clenched my fists. "Do you get a lot of repeat business?"

"Fine. Tell me about your heroine."

"She likes to eavesdrop."

"And the title of your masterpiece?"

I chose to ignore the sarcasm. "The Seduction of Lady Bells."

"The Seduction of Lady Bells pits a man with a shameful past against a woman with an insatiable desire to know everything."

That was better. I repeated the sentence in my head, liking the word ‘pits’, but I would never remember it so I dug in my purse for the tattered notebook I carried everywhere.

"So you’re going with my first attempt?"

I glanced up. "That was like your third, not counting the derogatory tagline about my life."


I scribbled down the tagline and shoved the notebook back in my purse.

"Who has the most to lose?"

I hesitated. I had my tagline, but the question intrigued me. Perhaps there was a better one-sentence summary. "My heroine, Lady Bells."


"Because she falls in love,"

"With the hero?"

"No, with the stable boy."

"Funny. Why does she fall in love with him? Is this where the seduction comes into play?"

"Yes." I jumped at the opportunity to talk about my manuscript; most of my friends and family refused to listen to me anymore. "As he decides to seduce her into the marriage bed, she’s a little timid, he discovers that his attention keeps her from pursuing the mystery of his past."

"So he tricks her."

"But his seduction backfires because he falls in love, too."

"So how does she find out about his past?"

"A visitor arrives and she listens in on a private conversation. She learns –"

"Don’t tell me. You never want to reveal the ending in your tagline. You want to leave the reader wanting more so that they either request the material or they buy the book."

"Oh." Maybe the voice was a professional after all. "Do you need to know anything else?"

"Seduction overcomes curiosity until a secret is revealed and a heart is broken."

I didn’t move. The sultry tone of the voice washed over me. I pictured Hugh and Mena in their bedchamber, arguing over the decisions each of them had made. Both of them holding fast to their beliefs – Hugh refusing to live his past over, Mena knowing that his past will always divide them. The point of no return! Goose bumps pebbled my skin. This was good.

The black wall at the back of the shop parted and a little motorized robot zipped toward me. He held a tray and when I bent down to inspect the contents I saw my tagline typed on a strip of paper. I took it. The robot beeped and I glanced back down. Also on the tray was my bill.
"You don’t come cheap, do you?"

"Bet you’re glad you didn’t go with that first attempt. The robot will swipe your credit card or issue you change. We don’t take cheques."

After clearing up my account, I left. But the voice echoed behind me…
"Middle age writer pays for a tagline with no guarantee that it will help to sell her book leading her further into mental instability."

The door slammed behind me. I looked at the slip of paper. Maybe this was not the best? Maybe I could do better? I glanced over my shoulder – maybe I was losing my mind.
Janet (who is still working on her tagline)


Tara Maya said...

LOL. Is the store part of a chain?

Janet C. said...

Hey, Tara - I wish. Maybe I need to look at opening a franchise (that is if I could write taglines)

Glad you enjoyed it :)


Lu said...

Janet, you are brilliant!!! Can I borrow that first one about the middle aged writer? Fits me to a T. LOL Well done. Hope to see you in chat this weekend!!

Captain Hook said...

Oh my! I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants!!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Oh, that's precious, Janet.

I can't wait to read your book.

Karen said...

Hilarious, Janet. I'm thinking of taglines. My post one later.

Janet C. said...

Thanks, Lu. And the middle age tagline? I'm actually thinking it will make a beautiful description for my personal blog/website when I get around to doing that.

Missed you guys in chat - I've been so busy this past week. Hope to stop by this weekend - keep a seat free for me :)


Janet C. said...

Hey, haven't seen you for a while, Cap't. Glad you enjoyed my little story.

Do you have any taglines you'd like to share? In fact, does anyone? We should post them here in the comments.


Janet C. said...

Thanks, Anita and Karen.

Yes, please, post your taglines and we'll have a discussion. Maybe that would be a good exercise over on the SRW blog?


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, it's funny because I was wondering why do didn't ask for taglines at the end of your post. But now that you've asked...

I'll admit, taglines are not my forte, but here's the one I use (so far) for When You Least Expect It which is the mss I blogged about yesterday:

They moved to another state to get away from trouble, but trouble had the same idea.

Captain Hook said...

Sheesh! Asking us for our taglines is just cruel :( I completely stink at them and have hated every one I've ever come up with. Here are a few though:

The Demon Priest - A young novitiate struggles to control his incubus nature that demands he break his vow of celibacy.

A Day With Death - Death, wearing Armani and a Glock, comes to bargain with a suicidal young girl.

Absolutely Livid - Driven by her tortured past, Olivia will go to any lengths to rid the city of the evil that preys on children.

Those are the only ones that have taglines that I'm (sorta) happy with.

Captain Hook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hayley E. Lavik said...

Maybe it's because I don't need to come up with pitches, synopses, and taglines right now, but I find them a lot of fun to play around with. It's something I'm planning to blog about in a couple weeks, actually. I get a kick out of twisting things around to see how they turn out.

I really enjoyed watching your tagline build throughout the post, and god what a creative approach to it! Had to make sure no laughing out loud in class ;) Very intrigued to read Lady Bells.

Janet C. said...

Good tag, Anita. Tell me, did you use that in a query letter? How about in your one-page? I'm curious as to when to use the tagline (or if I should use one at all - see Janet Reid's blog post today I've been trying to incorporate my tagline (and I've had a few, let me tell you) into the first paragraph, with the genre, title, word count information. Anyone want to weigh in on this?

And the reason there were no questions at the end of my post was because I felt I had already gone long. So I left out the final "People of Blogland" paragraph.


Janet C. said...

I'm sorry, Cap't. I didn't mean to be cruel. But I think it's a good exercise to write taglines (summing up in one sentence allows you to really explore your manuscript - dig down to the core of what it's about - and you wouldn't believe how much I learned just writing this little story).

Thanks for sharing. I really like the A Day with Death - you've summed up the characters beautifully, and your voice is evident. I so struggle with voice.


Janet C. said...

Thanks for the compliment, Hayley. I had a lot of fun writing the story. I wanted to approach it in a different manner - my last couple of posts have been very serious and I try not to be serious every day out of the week.

Looking forward to your post on taglines. And do you have one that you've played with - want to share it here?


Karen said...

Okay, I'm back with the worst tagline ever!

When denial and temptation end up neighbors, passion explodes.

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Janet, I haven't spent as much time playing with the one-liners for my novel as of yet, but everything sort of spans off the summary I gave in a meeting earlier this year: when a thief tries to break ties with her guild, she gets into far more than she bargained for.

It's not something I'm happy with, but it's a good jumping-off point. I hope to pick at it -- and other forms of synopsis and pitch -- over the months, and chronicle it on my blog. Feedback is good, and it's an efficient way to offer info/help and also convey the gist of the book to those who don't know. Probably more interesting than a self-absorbed post babbling about plot, character, theme. All that fun stuff!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Janet, it's never 'too long' for questions when you've kept us enthralled with your words.

To answer your question, yes, I used my tagline on my one sheet. Because my heroine owns a cafe, I gave the one-sheet the look of a vintage menu and it started this way:

Love and trouble. You can run but you can’t hide.

When You Least Expect It

They moved to another state to get away from trouble, but trouble had the same idea.

I realize I could put more in the tagline about their professions or the fact they didn't know each other when they moved, etc but this was the only thing that felt right.

Janet C. said...

That's a good start, Karen - knowing what I know about your manuscript. The bolded words in my story are things you need to think about when creating a tagline - things I've been struggling with for way too long.

I think this would be a good exercise for a meeting.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karen, I like your tagline.

It's so... you! :)

Janet C. said...

You're right, Hayley - a good jumping off point. You should see my early attempts (totally cringe-worthy). I found the more I played with the words I wanted to use, the more I thought in logline language. Have you seen the movie The Holiday? I love Cameron Diaz' role as a movie trailer producer. She hears loglines in her head - based on her pathetic life. When I started *talking* like that (in relation to my manuscript, not my life - although that happens, too), I was able to get a clearer picture of what I needed for my tagline. Not scientific, but if it gets me closer to satisfaction, I'll take it.

Like I said before, looking forward to reading your journey on Eventide Unmasked.


Janet C. said...

Anita - two great taglines framing your title - well done. You will be our "Go To Girl" when we get to our meeting on one pagers. And using a vintage menu as the page, very creative. Looking forward to hearing what you have to share in April :)


Suse said...

Wow, Janet! That's quite the discussion you generated today. I really like when you tell a little story to make your point. You always do it so well. Love the humor.

I've only worked on one tag line to date, and I can't even remember it. In fact I created it so long ago, it's probably on a floppy disk somewhere. Anyway this week has been too busy and my brain is too fried, so can't come up with even a glimmer of anything.

I liked the tag line you "bought" - "Seduction overcomes curiosity until a secret is revealed and a heart is broken." Very intriguing.

Now I'm off to check out

Have a great weekend.

Janet C. said...

Thanks, Suse - and great to *see* you. Aren't taglines hard - so much thought goes into them.

Hope you have a peaceful and relaxing weekend :)


Chiron said...

Oh my Goddess, that's hilarious, Janet! You are amazing. *bows in awe*

Your book sounds fabulous! Although, now I'd like an extension of this story too! *heh-heh*


Janet C. said...

Thanks, Chiron - coming from you, I am humbled :)

Hopefully, you'll be able to read my book, The Seduction of Lady Bells, soon. I'm working on that eventuality!


Captain Hook said...

Janet, this post just came in very handy. A friend of mine is trying to enter a logline contest over at and has been having a horrible time trying to come up with one. I shared this post with her and now she's having much better success.