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Using Story One-Liners to Set Tone and Reveal Tropes

By Cheryl Wyatt

Writers excel at wrangling words. For most of us, condensing the gist of our story into one line proves challenging.

However, we need to be able to say in one sentence the plot summary of our story, the hook that sets the book apart, and provide potential readers (editors and agents included) a picture of who the characters are, what they want and what will impede their progress.

Because this is literally one line, every word counts. I’d like today’s post to show how one-word or phrase changes or establishes tone or trope.

I’ve heard this sentence called a hook, blurb, tagline, and a trillion other things.

No matter what you call it, call it important.

This one-liner can also be used as your elevator pitch. If you have a really fast elevator. Ha! You may only have two conference hotel floors and one ding to get the guts of your story out. Another great place to insert your teaser sentence is in the beginning of your synopsis. Some authors ask a question, some simply state the scenario in a creative way.

Let’s start with a fairly neutral sentence that encapsulates the emotional pull of a story.

A woman who’s felt invisible all her life MEETS a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

See how adding or altering [ONE WORD OR PHRASE] at a time changes story tone (lighthearted, suspenseful, humorous, other-worldly, romantic, etc.)? It reveals genre/plot/tropes/ensuing conflict, and gives glimpses of character career, etc.

A woman who’s felt invisible all her life RUNS OVER a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

A woman who’s felt invisible all her life DEFENDS a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

A woman who’s felt invisible all her life ARRESTS a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

A woman who’s felt invisible all her life SUMMONS TO HER PLANET a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

A woman who’s felt invisible all her life INVESTIGATES a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

ORIGINAL LINE: A woman who’s felt invisible all her life [MEETS] a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

Insert the below word or phrase into the brackets/replacing “meets” for more examples:

FREES
TRACKS WITH HER SNIPER SCOPE
CREATES
SAVES THE LIFE OF
AIDS AND ABETS
STALKS
SPILLS COFFEE ON
HIDES FROM OUTLAWS
KNIGHTS
ACCIDENTALLY SHOOTS
CHALLENGES TO A DUEL
INVITES TO HER MANSION

See how altering one word or phrase unfolds a completely different conflict, tone and even genre of your story? Now, have fun with that sentence and replace “meets” with your own word or phrase. 🙂

For more fun, “switch” a word in the title to my current book (example: “serving”) to something of your choosing. Example: Scaring Up a Sweetheart. 🙂

ORIGINAL LINE: A woman who’s felt invisible all her life [INSERT YOUR EXAMPLE] a man determined to show her she’s unforgettable.

Share in comments!

Serving Up a SweetheartUSA Today bestselling author and RN Cheryl Wyatt writes romance with virtue themed with rescue. She’s grateful to be a mom, wife, orphan/troop advocate, worshipper of Jesus plus wrangler of words and spoiled Yorkies. She loves readers and cherishes interaction at: https://www.facebook.com/CherylWyattAuthor. View booklist and join her newsletter at: https://www.cherylwyatt.com. Her recent release is Serving Up a Sweetheart.

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4 Responses to Using Story One-Liners to Set Tone and Reveal Tropes

  1. Great post – and exercise. Thanks, Cheryl.

  2. DiAnn Mills says:

    Outstanding information! Thank you!

  3. Cheryl, great information, and very useful. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Cheryl Wyatt says:

    Awww, thanks guys! Glad you found it useful.

    Blessings for stopping by,
    Cheryl