Monday, April 13, 2009

Creating a Tagline...with Two Protags!

Janet Reid clued me in to this blog, and boy am I glad she did!

See, I'm about halfway into my new WIP (and still madly in love with it, btw), but I am already worrying about the query and tagline development. I've got two protagonists and a super complicated way to tie them together--after all, it's taking me a novel to get their story right.

Then I found this.

Editor Rent suggests to make a list of features about your book:

The protagonist: ________________
(Use an adjective plus a common noun rather than his name. "Laidback wanderer" tells me more than "Bob Gomez.")
(Romance writers need to do this twice, once for the hero and once for the heroine.)

The goal/reward: ________________
(What's the best, biggest thing the protagonist wants to happen? Aim for something tangible. "Find true love" is less compelling than "convert her garage into mother-in-law quarters.")

The obstacle(s): __________________
(Again, be concrete and specific. "She needs $10,000." Not, "she has low self-esteem and is afraid to love.")

The antagonist: __________________
(Doesn't have to be a person. Should be tangible. Snidely Whiplash or a blizzard.)

Consequence of failure: ___________
(If she doesn't get ten grand to build separate quarters for her mother-in-law, then That Woman will be in her house. All. The. Time.)

Motive: ________________________
(This can be a bit more abstract. Motives are often based in emotions.)

Challenge to self-image: __________
(How does all this make your character question his character? Put another way, fill in this blank: "Until this all happened, my character used to think he was______.")

Inciting Event: ___________________
(The first event that kicks everything off. Nursing home kicks m-i-l out because she keeps stealing the other patients' candy.)

Ticking Clock: ____________________
(What do you mean, your character doesn't have a deadline? Give her one.)

Important steps taken: ____________
(Three things the protagonist does to achieve her goal. Take out a bank loan, hire a contractor, pick out appliances.)

Final reversal : __________________
(The last bad thing that happens before everything flips around and becomes happy again. Sometimes referred to as the black moment.)

Outcome: __________________________
(What does your protagonist get in the end? Might not be what she wants. Scarlett wanted Ashley for like eleven thousand pages, but in the end, she wanted Rhett.)

And then put them all together.

So here's mine:

The protagonist (1): A boy born on a generation space ship, already pegged to be the future leader of the ship

The protagonist (2): A girl from Earth who has been cyrogenically frozen and is supposed to wake up when the ship lands on a new planet

The goal/reward: For both of them: find a home, a place to belong. (But this does go against the idea of finding something tangible. OK, focus, Beth.) (Upon further reflection: I think a lot of my original problem was the order of events--I had a hard time coming up with the goal/reward before I thought of the problem/consequences--so I'm moving this one down the ladder a bit.)

I added this one--because my character's problems come from outside sources happening to them, not an internal desire they cannot achieve. Anyway, Problem: Someone is killing the cryogenically frozen people on ship.

Inciting Event: The girl is "unplugged" from her sleep--although she is almost killed, she survives--and now is awake fifty years before the ship is scheduled to land.

The goal/reward: If they discover the murderer, they will prevent more people from dying--such as the girl's parents, who are still frozen.

The obstacle(s): There are a limited number of people on board the ship who even know about the cryogenically frozen people, and of those who do, it seems impossible that any of them are the murderer.

The antagonist: The murderer!

Ticking Clock: If they don't find the murderer soon, he could kill the girl's parents.

Consequence of failure: Dead parents!

Motive: Motive for girl: save parents. Motive for boy: help girl cuz he's in lurve. Motive for murderer: it's a sekkrit.

Challenge to self-image: When, in solving the mystery, the two discover a terrible secret on the ship, they must decide whether it is better to bring the truth to light, or let the others live in happy ignorance.

Important steps taken: Boy: sekkrit thing not revealed till end, challenges his current leader, confesses sekkrit thing. Girl:
(Three things the protagonist does to achieve her goal. Take out a bank loan, hire a contractor, pick out appliances.)

Final reversal : A side character will do something really dark that will affect the two MCs...but this isn't something I think I should reveal in a tagline.

Outcome: Boy and girl find a way to turn where they are living into home.

SO....putting these all together, what do I get?

According to Editor Rent, here's the purpose of doing the list:
Now, here's what you do. Pick any two or three items on the list, and mash them together into a single sentence. Then pick a different two or three items, and mash those. Lather. Rinse. Repeat until you hit on a combo that sizzles. And there's your log line. Lead off a pitch with a sizzling, story-specific log line, and whoever is listening will have a "hook" to hang the rest of the pitch on. ...

Added bonus: You can use the rest of the worksheet to draft the rest of your pitch.

  • After a teen girl who's been cyrogenically frozen on a generation space ship is woken up fifty years before the ship's due to land on a new planet, she must work with the future leader of the ship to find the person who is unplugging (and thereby killing) the other cryogenically frozen people...before her parents are unplugged.
  • When a boy born on a space ship desitined for a new Earth discovers a hidden level of the ship filled with cryogenically frozen people, he must adjust what he previously thought to be true after one of the people wakes up early.
  • After two teens on a generation space ship discover a plot to kill the cryogenically frozen people on board, they also discover a terrible secret about the ship, and must decide whether it's better to tell the truth or let everyone else live in happy ignorance.
Hmm....I'm leaning towards the first and third tagline. What do you think? And what are your taglines?


Anonymous said...

LOVE this post!

PJ Hoover said...

Wow. When can I read this? I am already chomping at the bit.

Plus, I love this exercise and plan to use it myself! Thanks!

Marian Perera said...

Hi Beth,

I like the first tagline, though I'd rearrange the start: "After a teen girl who's been cyrogenically frozen on a generation space ship is woken up". There's too much between "After a teen girl" and "is woken up", and that threw me off at first. But I think this came off as more vivid and tense than the other two.

You could also add that the unknown perp is systematically killing people - serial killer on generation ship is definitely one I haven't seen before.

And thanks for the great ideas for generating my own hooks!

Davin Malasarn said...

Yeah, this is really great. I can't wait to do it with my book! Thanks, Beth!

Keri Mikulski said...

Interesting.. I want to try this out. Thanks, Beth! ;)

Traci said...

Loving that! :-) Soooo going to use it! :-)

Corey Schwartz said...

Great post. I think your third one is the easiest to follow.

Christina Farley said...

first of all, your story sounds crazy fun. I can't wait to read it! And I love this formula. It really helps put all the pieces together.

My favorites are 1 and 3. I like one better but I think 3 reads better if that makes any sense.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Oh, wow!!!! GREAT IDEAS! Thank you! I'm printing this out to put up by my computer. :D

Vivian Mahoney said...

I must try this! And I like 2 the best--have both protagonists in the tagline. Nice job!

Crittias said...

Nice job! I'm glad to see your tagline got some attention over on edittorrent.

Which brings me to a question: how did you send your tagline to them? I can't find a way to submit anything to them...

Unknown said...

Crittias: I just emailed them--I actually emailed a couple weeks ago, and then got an email yesterday saying they were going to post mine. Sometime in April they called for submissions, and that's when I emailed mine--but they're very nice; you might want to try emailing and see if they're still open to new submissions.

Crittias said...

I would love to email them...but I can't seem to find an email address anywhere on their blog space. Am I missing something obvious?

Unknown said...

I used