I am having a difficult time learning the new literary vocabulary. I know what a character arc is and understand denouement, although I don’t see that term used much any more, having been replaced by tipping point and realization. I understand summary and outline, motif and theme. But when I was asked to provide a tagline for a novel, I drew a blank.
Yep, that was new to me. So is meme, logline, and trope. Where do these words come from and why do they matter to the writer?
Meme is the word I can’t quite assimilate. It comes from the Greek mimema, or something imitated. Urban Dictionary says it is an “idea, belief or belief system…that spreads throughout a culture…by peers, information media, and entertainment media.”
As far as I can tell, a meme is like one of those snarky cartoons that are all over Facebook, via re-posting and re-sharing. Or, as UD calls it, a virus. Writers hope their book trailers or blurbs will become a meme. However, there is no way to guarantee this as the cultural phenomenon appears to be entirely random.
Taglines are branding slogans. “Good to the very last drop,” or “Just do it!” instantly conjure a mental image of coffee or athletic shoes. As an author, you need a tagline to describe your book in the fewest possible words. A reviewer for my novel, “The Lunch Club” described the book as “Murder She Wrote & Desperate Housewives Meet the Golden Girls.” A little long, but catchy.
A logline is similar to a tagline, but is more of a summary than a catch phrase. A tagline arouses curiosity or fixes the product (your book) in someone’s mind. A logline gives a quick summary of the book. It is very much like an elevator pitch. You have to “sell” the book in one or two sentences.
I know now what an elevator pitch is, but it was new to me when I first heard it. You imagine you are at a convention and find yourself in an elevator with an agent who asks what you write. You have to tell her before the elevators stops at her floor.
This is much harder to do than it sounds, by the way. Classes are offered in how to perfect your pitch. And once you have your book distilled to the bare minimum, you have to memorize it so that it comes out smoothly and not a series of “Uhs.”
To writers, a trope describes literary and rhetorical devices, motifs or cliches. There is a list of examples in Wikipedia: allegory, antanaclasis, irony, metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche. Actually, these are just big words for actions we use all the time, essentially different plays on words such as puns or descriptions by comparison.
And that’s what authors do — play with words.