A tagline is a single sentence that describes a film or book in a defining way. Choosing a tagline early can help you write your story with the proper tone.
When writing a screenplay or a book, one of the first things that a writer may do is create a tagline. This is a single line that describes the work, defining it in some way, and is usually used in advertising a film.
For example, in the classic movie Alien, the tagline was “In space, no one can hear you scream.” The line was used for advertising on the movie poster, and it incorporates three elements: “In space” lets the audience know that this is a futuristic setting in space. “No one can hear you” emphasizes the idea that the protagonist is utterly alone, beyond the reach of help, and the word “scream” tells us that this is horror.
Examples of Taglines from Movies:
“Who you gonna call?” – Ghostbusters
“There can be only one.” – Highlander
“One ring to rule them all.” – The Lord of the Rings
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” – Love Story
“To boldly go where no man has gone before” – Star Trek
“The truth is out there.” – The X-Files
“Why So Serious?” – The Dark Knight
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” – Jaws 2
“Nothing on earth could come between them.” – Titanic
“Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas.” – Army of Darkness
“Some houses are born bad.” -The Haunting
“It knows what scares you.” -Poltergeist
“You will believe.” -Ghost
But a tagline can be useful for other things.
Using a Tagline as a Touchstone
As a writer, you can consider your tagline to be a touchstone. It may define certain elements of your story, things that you dare not vary. For example, let’s say that you chose that Alien tagline—“In space no one can hear you scream.” You begin writing, and as you’re halfway through the screenplay you decide that your heroine, Ripley, really needs a love life. So you create a nice male character whom you decide will survive to the end of the story. Maybe she’ll save him from the aliens, or maybe he’ll save her.
If you’re a wise writer, you will realize that “Hey, I just violated my promise to the audience. I wrote a tagline that emphasized loneliness.” Well, if that’s the goal, you’ve got only one choice: the aliens have got to kill that love interest.
In short, a tagline is more than just an advertising slogan, it can be a guiding element, promising information about the setting, the character, the plot, and the emotional tone of your story.
Sometimes a tagline will come to you only at the end of a novel or screenplay, but at others it will hit you like a bolt from the blue, almost demanding that you go out and write a tale. So learn to love them, and use them. Begin paying attention to them now, critiquing them, so that you learn to craft them well.
TONIGHT FOR APEX’S STRATEGY MEETING – 11/21/22 at 5:30 pm MT
Brenden Pugh, the creator of the YouTube Channel Writing Quest, will be teaching how to organize and keep track of all your story ideas through a program called Notion, an easy-to-use but highly adaptable software for outlining. Currently, his planned fantasy series sits at thirteen novels in various stages of outlining and writing, all of which he is working on simultaneously to produce a large body of work perfectly woven together.
Come join us and learn the tools that will help you prep your stories!
TONIGHT ON APEX’S MASTERMIND CALL – 11/21/22 at 7:00 pm MT
A six-time winner of Biggest Liar contests, George McEwan is a husband, father, soldier, pilot, inventor, politician, and international traveler–so he has more than a few stories to share. He is a multiple award-winning speaker and storyteller with appearances on National Public Radio, BYU Radio, and TEDx Salt Lake City.
He will be talking about storytelling and also taking any questions.
Come prepared to learn about his storytelling methods!
WEDNESDAY ON APEX’S ACCELERATOR CALL – 11/23/22 at 7:00 pm MT
Forrest Wolverton uses NLP and other tools for the mind to motivate and help you get past the obstacles in the way of your writing. He will help you become the best writer you can be. Apex is one of the few writing groups with our own world-class and expert motivational speaker.
To join any of Apex’s calls, simply sign up at apex-writers.com; once you become a member, click on “Upcoming Events” for the call links.