Sunday, November 11, 2012

What's love got to do with it? An argument with Zelda

My inner critic, Zelda, and I have been at it again. We argue over all sorts of things: whether it’s okay to write about the guy with no teeth and his pants down low enough to show backside, whether it’s dumb to say dumby dumb dumb dumb.
            Lately, Zelda and I have been tussling over taglines. Taglines are those lines that authors use as a signature. It’s helpful to have one—you can attach it to e-mail, put it up on your web site, and make business cards using taglines. Taglines define your brand, boiling down what you write into a single pithy phrase. Some writers are great at coming up with taglines. Sadly, I am not one of them.

I began creating a tagline by thinking about myself. I’m pretty average—married, mother of two, house in a nice middle class suburban neighborhood. Not much there to work with, but I tried. I came up with “nothing much ever happens here” and immediately crossed it out. Maybe true of life, but hopefully not true of my books. I had moved on to ‘plain vanilla’ when Zelda began tisk tisking.
 “What?” I said. “It’s ironic. It’s very hip in an ironical way.”
“It’s pathetic,” Zelda said. “In a very pathetical way.”

I may not always like what Zelda has to say, but this go-round she was on the money. I thought some more. I came up with “Live, Love, Laugh”, a play on the popular book “Eat, Love, Pray”. Zelda said “Eh”  which is about as close to a seal of approval as I’ll ever get from her. I began to use it. Then I spotted it being used by someone else.
“Not so original after all,” quipped Zelda.
I might have argued that we couldn’t be sure who had come up with it first, but Zelda, again, was right. I was nothing if I could not be original. So I searched my brain some more. I came upon “Grace Happens” on a bumper sticker and as an e-mail signature line. I liked it and thought I could use it. So I began using “Love Happens”.  Zelda, up until now, had been ‘eh okay’ with it. Lately, though, she’s begun to second guess me again.
“You know the Love Happens thing?” she said the other day. “I think we can do better.”
I sighed deeply and sank back in my computer chair. Zelda was not at all deterred. “I mean really,” she continued, “what’s love got to do with it?”
I sang a couple of bars of the old Tina Turner song. “What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second hand emotion?
Zelda pulled off her reading glasses and pursed her lips. “Get serious. Please.”
"All of the books I’ve written revolve around love in one way or another. You could say love happens in all of them,” I raised my eyebrows in mock seriousness.
Zelda began pacing. Pacing is a bad sign. “True, but ‘Love Happens’ is flat. It’s mundane. It’s downright quotidian.” She loves the word quotidian because she knows I had to look it up the first time I heard it.
I hate the word quotidian for the same reason. “What do you suggest?”
“You’re the writer.” Typical Zelda response. Critique she’s good at. Suggestions, not so much.
“Reviewers have said I write great characters,” I said thinking aloud.”Maybe I could go with ‘Got Character?’” Zelda snorted. “What?” I asked. “It’s a play on got milk. It’s cute.”
“It sounds like you’re accusing the reader of not having any scruples,” Zelda answered.
“You’re right. Got character sucks.”
"Characters that don’t suck,” she said, “could work unless you start writing about vampires.” She chuckled at her own joke. I rolled my eyes at her. “Eye rolling is so cliché,” she said.
I’m going to make a list, do some brainstorming. Maybe this time I’ll come up with something Zelda will say more than ‘eh’ about. Maybe this time she’ll say “wowie zowie that’s fantastic!” Who am I kidding? Whatever I come up with, I can rest assured that Zelda won’t like it. Maybe I should just stick to Love Happens.

Coming in January!


Big Mike said...

Before I write the first word in a story, I create the tagline so that by the end all threads in the intrigue tree converge to confirm that tagline. Helps to jell the scenes together start to end.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Steve Finnell said...

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