Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tag Lines by Ane Mulligan

Does your tag line hook?
Guest post by Ane Mulligan

In preparation for the upcoming ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers') conference, I labored over the tag line for my latest manuscript. It was not cooperating. Instead, it was stubborn and elusive, which frustrated the fire out of me.

Normally, I can pin down a tag line in five minutes. Especially for someone else.

I did what any self-respecting writer would do. I whined to my critique partners. We began a brainstorm session that finally resulted in my tag line. And it's a good one. It reflects the tone of the story.

So what goes into a tag line?

First and foremost, it should hook the agent or editor. It needs be a king-salmon-sized hook, strong enough so the agent/editor can't slip the away. After all, they're a wiggly breed.

A tag line should be short, the shorter, the better. Try to keep it under twenty words. Okay, no one will shoot you if it's twenty-one. But aim for short. One of my favorites is one I helped do for a brainstorm buddy. Will her escape be her prison? Six words that open a world of possibility.

For the first book in my current series I'm writing, the tag line is: With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel. Fifteen words that tell a story.

The tag line doesn't have to reveal the plot. It's a hook. It needs to make the agent/editor want to know more. Don't give into detail. State the backbone of the story. If possible, add a one-word description of the character's job: a crazed physicist, a driven attorney, a dyslexic librarian, a superhero wannbe, an anorexic chef. Okay maybe not that last one.

Don't worry about names. This is the one-liner you give when someone says, "What's your book about?"

One of mine is: "Her dream job has a Catch 22 and time is running out." Twelve words. The story is about a lobbyist who has to lobby for an issue that will stop her from reaching her story goal. Can you say conflict?

Here's a few from published novels:

Is there really a fountain of youth in Paradise? Blame it on the Mistletoe, Joyce Magnin

Past promises will be tested as new ones are given..., A Texan's Promise, Shelly Gray

How can she love a man she's never seen face-to-face? Playing by Heart, Deborah Raney

There's a fine line between ambitious and crazy. Swinging on a Star, Janice Thompson

Behind every broken heart lies a broken promise. Dry as Rain, Gina Holmes

Savannah expected to receive a new heart...but she didn't expect to lose her faith. The Heart of Memory, Alison Strobel

Oh, the one I struggled with? Well, I laid out the main conflict points and it sprang from there. Only mine took twelve people and twenty-four hours. But I'm happy with it. You sure you want to see it? Okay ...

An invasion of tourists, a scalawag mayor, and her son's mail order bride propel Claire onto a merry-go-round of trouble.

Thank goodness hyphenated words count as one.

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, she's worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), business manager, drama director and writer. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She's a humor columnist for ACFW's e-zine Afictionado and a syndicated blogger on V.P. and Senior Editor of the award-winning website, Novel Rocket, she's published dozens of plays and numerous articles and won several awards in contests for unpublished novels, including a three-time Genesis finalist. A past Board member of ACFW, she's mom, a grandmom, and resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband and one very large dog.


Ane Mulligan said...

Thanks for letting me stop by, Lisa. It was fun. :)

Lisa Buffaloe said...

Thank you Ane, love the post and love the photo! Thank you for blessing Fliterary.

A kick-up-the-heels high swing for you!