When the words won’t come, what does a writer do? Consult with other writers, of course.
For days I’d been trying to come up with a one-sentence tag line, preferably ten words or less for If You Dare. Below is the working blurb:
For Doug Winston the choice is clear: remain the pompous ass he’s always been or shoot for Father of the Year.
The first time Doug Winston looks into his newborn daughter’s eyes he makes a vow. He will become the kind of man and father worthy of her. But in order to do that, he must first navigate the mess he’s made of his life.
Doug’s wife left him for a retired porn actress, and his teenage son hates him. When his lover dies after giving birth, her sister threatens to sue him for custody of the baby. The father Doug once worshipped disowns him, and an angry child Doug never knew about arrives on his doorstep.
As Doug embarks on his quest to live authentically, to make amends where he can and build relationships with his children, he discovers something amiss with the father for whom he was never good enough.
But how far can Doug evolve? Can he become the kind of man who will protect his family at all costs? Will he do the right thing even if it means the destruction of the father he once idolized?
I wanted my tag line to convey how everything Doug has done up to this point in his life has been wrong because it’s been based on pleasing his unpleasable father. A father who withheld his love, approval and respect for his son, all things Doug craved. I’d played around with this:
It’s all wrong. Now he’s got one chance to make it right.
Everything he’s done is wrong. He’s done everything wrong.
He’s got one chance to make it right.
But it wasn’t conveying what I thought was the theme of the story.
The Sidestreet Coffee & Quill Writer’s Group to the rescue. Writers’ group attendance varies, and I lucked out. Two of the best wordsmiths I know were there. After I gave them the blurb to read and explained what I wanted, they went to work. Carol felt the blurb indicated that Doug’s relationship with his baby daughter was most important. While I argued that wasn’t the gist of the story, but that the baby is the catalyst for much that happens later. She represents the third chance her mother wouldn’t give Doug.
While we continued to talk and moved onto other things, I continued to scribble ideas and possibilities. That line I needed was buried in the writing I’d already done and things Carol and Donna had already said. I just needed to pull it out.
Finally I had it!
Is his newborn daughter his last chance for redemption?
This is what it looks like. You keep working with words and phrases until you have it.
And it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of wordsmithy friends there to help.