Okay, how many of you don’t know the difference between a logline and a tag line? *raises hand* Yeah, me too. But lucky for us my friend Marcy Kennedy is here to explain. And wow, there is a BIG difference!
As writers, we hear about loglines all the time—how to write them, why we need them, when to use them. And so, when we hear about this thing called a tag line, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking tag line is just another name for a logline.
It’s not and we need both because the tagline is what goes on your book cover.
A logline tells you what a movie or book will be about—the main conflict, the main character, and the stakes.
A tag line is a catch phrase. It doesn’t tell you anything specific about the story, but it does give you a feel for it in a way that a logline can’t. A tag line is what you see on movie posters.
To help you see the difference between a logline and a tag line, let’s go through examples of both.
Lord of the Rings
Logline: A young hobbit needs to destroy an ancient, powerful ring before the evil overload consumes the world in everlasting darkness.
Tag Line: One ring to rule them all.
The LOTR logline gives you the main character (a hobbit), the main conflict (the hobbit wants to destroy the ring and the evil overlord wants to keep the ring), and the stakes (all the good in the world will be destroyed).
The tag line gives you the emotional feel of the book. It will be dark and serious. You could probably even guess that it will be an epic fantasy.
Logline: A sheriff must find and kill a man-eating and frighteningly intelligent shark before it murders again and scares away all the tourists who support his beach-front community.
Tag Line: Don’t go into the water.
Do you see how the tag line doesn’t really tell you anything about the movie? Based on just the tag line, Jaws could be about poisonous jelly fish or a deadly current. It’s not meant to tell you the plot. It’s meant to evoke emotion. It sets the tone for a story that’s going to scare you. You know it’s going to be either horror or a thriller.
When you’re writing your tag line, ask yourself what tone you want to set for your book. What emotions do you want to evoke?
Now brainstorm 5-10 possible tag lines, trying to keep them under 10 words each. If you want, share your attempts in the comments, and give feedback on the attempts of someone else!
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Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy) is a speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com.