Monday, January 25, 2010

Writing Genre Fiction: Taglines


That's Adrian Rawlings and Lee Blakemore in a scene from Charly Cantor's Blood (1999), a film that Fantasia Magazine called "one of the most intriguing films ever made on the subject of addiction." It was Cantor's second film, and would have marked the beginning of an impressive career had he not fallen ill shortly after its completion. He died a few years later, leaving the world with two films, a few unproduced screenplays, and a sense of what might have been.

One of those as yet unproduced films is This Way to Egress. He finished the screenplay shortly before his death. Last week I filled you in on the origin of the title. Today I'd like to talk about taglines.

You know what a tagline is, right? It's that little phrase or clause that sometimes appears on a book cover or movie poster, an aphorism designed to attract attention, induce interest. Want some examples? Check these out:

When you can live forever, what do you live for.

Jaws 2
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

In space, no one can hear you scream.

Long a staple in film marketing, taglines have become increasingly visible on book covers. But I never gave them much thought until Charly and I had that conversation about the title of Egress. (See last week's blogs for more details.) That was the night that he also shared the tagline for the screenplay. It was simple, concise, and dead-on perfect for the story:

Reality is a contract we make with ourselves.

I thought it was an intriguing way of conceptualizing the story. More than the title. Not quite a summary.

Although tagline development has traditionally been the job of publishers and ad departments, it doesn't hurt to try coming up with a good one on your own. If nothing else, it might verify the marketability of your work in progress. It might also serve you well in a pitch session. Moreover, in this age of short-staffed publishers, the tag you come up with might well appear on your book.

And so we arrive at this week's question.

Do you have any advice on how to come up with tags for your book? How do you identify the most important ideas to represent and condense them down to a phrase?

We'll consider that tomorrow.

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