Straplines first (that’s the UK term, the American’s call them loglines). Use only 25 – 30 words in no more than two sentences. The descriptor needs three components: the protagonist, the antagonist and the goal. Don’t use names, use adjectives and descriptors, and make them strong, colourful and emotive. The stronger the better.
That was Alan B Gibson @gibsonauthor advice at his how-to workshop on how to pin these pesky things down into a killer hook.
He gave us a fill-in-the-spaces exercise: When [inciting incident], a [protagonist] must or else [stakes/antagonist] or In a [setting] a [protagonist] has a [problem] caused by [antagonist] and [faces conflict]
This last week I dusted down my notes and threw out attempts at the brainstorming session. This is definitely easier said than done. After pages of new drafts I’ve ended up with a new draft to work on: “Passionate 1920’s feminist seeks fame beyond the grave after war-hero husband kills the nanny thinking she was a leopard”
The catch phrase that goes on the front of the cover under the title like ‘One Ring to Rule them all’, ‘In space no one can hear you scream’. These are so good it’s not necessary to give the name of the book. I love them but I can’t write them. Nothing yet distils the essence of Emilie May’s story, or finds the emotion at the heart of it. That killer catch phrase is so far eluding me.
One thing is sure is that every book needs both a strapline (or logline) and a tagline. If you are grappling with the same problem, I would love to hear from you.