Taglines, part 1

The second Tuesday of the month at the Rubyslipperedsisterhood blog will be about taglines and blurbs. We’re going to start off with a two month practice on taglines, so save what you do for our second half on October 8.

Taglines are those little descriptions that you see in the TV section of the paper or the guide on your TV. For example: On Downton Abbey, Lady Edith shoots Lady Mary, Anna slaps Bates, and the earl runs off with Thomas. Okay, that was a terrible example, but you get the idea.

What you are trying to do is distill the essence of your story – plot, characters, and theme – in one sentence. This is difficult, or at least I think so. What we’re going to do this month is try to get to the heart of our story in 30 words or less. It doesn’t have to be perfect. We’re going to attack our results this month so when we meet here next month, we’ll be able to refine our efforts and shorten them even more.

Use your current work in progress and try to give the feeling of the story, the core if you will, in 30 words or less. Or a story you’re thinking about writing. This method can help you distill the essence of your story, making it easier to write with focus.

Here is mine, for an example. It is for the upcoming Murder at the Marlowe Club.  Finding the body of a nearly nude aristocrat in the park leads Emily to travel from the highest levels of Edwardian society to a notorious club where everything is for sale. 

Okay, that’s 31 words. Just do your best, and we’ll all help each other.

I’m looking forward to seeing yours. Put them up in the comments boxes and we’ll give each other a hand.

The Murder at the Marlowe Club will be Kate Parker’s twelfth historical mystery. This fall, the sixth Christmas Revels Regency anthology will also appear with another regency novella from Kate. All of her stories involve murder, mayhem, and love.  

59 responses to “Taglines, part 1”

  1. Heather McCollum says:

    I hate tag lines. There I said it. I can write a 100K word book with less stress than cutting it down to 30 words. But I have to do it for every one of my books for Marketing. So here are two for my October release:

    Taken from a Samhain Festival by the chief of the Sinclairs, Alana Campbell makes a deal to help keep a baby alive in return for help freeing her mother from the dungeons of Edinburgh.

    Dodging assassins determined to kill the English babe in his care, Shaw Sinclair kidnaps Alana Campbell to help keep the babe alive while carrying it safely to St. Andrews to sail to France.

    I know they are a few words over 30. My under 30 ones are terrible. Sigh…

  2. Kate, This is a great subject and I too hate thinking about writing taglines. But we’ve got to, right?

    I also think your line is perfect! I definitely want to read more.

    I’m just beginning a new romantic mystery, so below is the tag line I just wrote this morning. I know it needs work, so much work. So have at it.

    Jilted love is the unknown reason a psychopath seeks revenge against a federal judge’s family, hurling U.S. Marshal Aden Nash into a case that could cost him his heart’s desire.

    • Kate Parker says:

      US Marshall Aden Nash battles a psychopath bent on destroying a Federal judges family when what they both want is love.

      It’s not great. Sorry

      • I like this, Kate! You have a great start, Autumn. Like Kate, I’m not sure the jilted love is that important at this point. How about:

        When a psychopath seeks revenge against a federal judge’s family, US Marshal Aden Nash takes the case that could cost him not only his heart’s desire, but both of their lives.


        When a jilted psychopath…

        Still could be better, but it’s a process, right??? hehe

    • Lydia Stevens says:

      Hey Autumn,

      How about:

      A psychopath and jilted lover threatens a judge and Marshal Aden Nash must choose between the cost of his heart’s desire and the safety of the judge and his family.

  3. Tamara Hogan says:

    NEARLY nude? How intriguing! Now I’m curious about what the victim was wearing when they were discovered. 🙂

  4. Lydia Stevens says:

    Here is mine. It’s from the third book in my Hell Fire Series. The series premise is Catriona is a demon mercenary working to atone for her sins. She collects the marked souls of the damned in exchange for atonement. She has been thrust into the position of ruling Hell when Satan is on sabbatical.

    Book 3 line:

    Trina, Hell’s co-ruler, races to save the damned from destroying one another in the name of love when Casonova, casts a spell making Hell go head over heels.

    • Kate Parker says:

      Wow. I really like that. It gives us clear characters, tension, plot. Very good.

    • Okay, Lydia, you had me right here:

      She collects the marked souls of the damned in exchange for atonement.

      And then the next line happened. Love it! And your tagline is great! It sounds adorable and fun.

    • I like this a lot!

      This is just me. I have a pet peeve about action before reaction, so I tweaked it a little. I also the ending words have a little more punch and tells the reader what is at stake. Again, II don’t know your story so maybe this won’t work. Take what you want. WINK

      When Casonova casts a spell causing Hell’s citizens to go head over heels in love, Trina, Satan’s co-ruler, races to save the damned souls from destruction and Heaven rules.

    • Lizzie Shane says:

      I love this! I do agree with Autumn that I had to read it multiple times because the effect comes before the cause and that slowed me down. Just flipping the two clauses solves that. Such a great premise!

  5. Lydia Stevens says:

    Thank you !

  6. Kim Law says:

    Kate, you’re taken on a task that I couldn’t do! Taglines are the hardest!!! I don’t have one for the book I’m currently working on, but here’s the one for the book that released last month. I have no idea if it’s any good at all.

    A secret that could destroy his family . . . and that’s even before he falls for his brother’s ex. But what if neither is within his control?

  7. OMG I love your tagline, Kate! It’s perfect! Here is mine from my upcoming release, A Bad Day for Sunshine:

    A missing girl, a flasher named Doug, and an old flame that refuses to burn out. What else could go wrong on newly-sworn-in sheriff Sunshine Vicram’s first day?

  8. Liz Talley says:

    Oh the dreaded longline. I’m better at writing others than my own. Great post. I need to think about mine. I just started a brand new book. Perhaps I need a guiding longline to help me along 🙂

  9. Kate Parker says:

    Someone who will remain nameless didn’t see anything odd about having Wordsmith Wednesday on a Tuesday. Starting next month, this will be on Wednesday, including next month on Wednesday October 9


  10. Page Pennington says:

    A former male underwear model shows a burn victim that real beauty is more than skin deep.

  11. Lizzie Shane says:

    Kate, your book sounds so interesting! So your tagline is clearly doing its job and intriguing this reader. 🙂

    I’m always nervous about talking about my books while I’m writing first drafts (as if my mojo will vanish if I say too much) but I can talk about my book that just came out. In A Royal Christmas Wish…

    Jenny makes a wish for a “fairy tale Christmas” and wakes up married to a prince – but can she make the enchantment last when she realizes she’s falling for him?

    • Good tagline, Vivi. The last few words didn’t hook me because I wondered why she won’t want to fall for him. I tweaked it a little. What are you’re thoughts.

      Jenny makes a wish for a “fairy tale Christmas” and wakes up married to a prince – but will the enchantment last when reality sets in?

  12. Lenee Anderson says:

    He is my first attempt ever at a tagline:

    In debt, grieving and plagued by an intrusive older brother, Major David Royce is commanded by the Duke of York to discover who murdered the regiment’s farrier before regiment is disgraced and the Lt. Colonel sent to the gallows.

    How unbelievably boring. What about–I just thought of this one:

    When the Lt. Colonel is accused of murdering the a farrier in his regiment, Major David Royce, plagued with personal problems of his own, is commanded by the Duke of York to discover the real killer before the regiment is publicly disgraced.

    • Good start. I liked the second on too and played with it. I’m wondering if David’s problems are the heart of your story and the murder is subplot. What is at stake for David?

      When Lt. Colonel is accused of cold-blooded murder of his regiment’s farrier, Major David Royce is ordered by the Duke of York to find the real killer before the regiment is publicly disgraced.

    • Darynda Jones says:

      This is great, Lenee, especially for a first attempt. Wow.

      I’m wondering if the stakes can be raised for the major? The regiment being publicly disgraced is dire, but it doesn’t really scream “this must be solved or the world is going to end!” You want the stakes to affect your hero on a very personal level. Maybe the Lt. Colonel is his best friend? Or his brother? Or maybe that is not even the heart of the case. Maybe he has to solve the case to help him overcome his past?

      IDK, something to think about. It sounds really interesting!

      • Lenee Anderson says:

        The murderer is David’s best friend. I’m concerned if I said something along the lines of David discovering the murderer is closer to him than he suspects, it’ll give the whole thing away! If that makes sense. The theme is brotherhood, and I’m not sure how much theme plays into a tagline.


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