Taglines Make Characters Memorable

by Dax MacGregor
Taglines or catch phrases make it easy for readers to remember a character. When they are done right, even years later, we recall the character with clarity.

Taglines or catch phrases make it easy for readers to remember a character.  That’s because repetition creates lasting memories.

Allow me to convince you of the effectiveness of this writing technique by playing a game.  I’ll list a catch phrase, you guess the character. (I know some are from television — and some from movies that were never books; but the same principle applies.)

I'll be back.

The Terminator in The Terminator

Shaken, not stirred.

James Bond


Vizzini in The Princess Bride

Scotty, beam me up.

Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek series.

I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.

HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Show me the money.

Rod Tidwell in Jerry Maguire. I’ll bet you named the movie (and probably the actor, Cuba Gooding, Jr.) but not the character on this one.

My precious.

Gollum (aka Sméagol) in The Lord of the Rings series.

You killed my father. Prepare to die!

Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. “Foul!” I hear you cry. “That’s two from the same movie.” Yes, you are correct. But it’s my all-time favorite movie. And, yes, I have the abridged book by William Goldman, and it is good, but it is not my favorite book.

So how do you invent taglines for your story’s characters. And, once you do, how do you insert them into dialogue without sounding contrived?

Well, that’s the art.

If you have ideas or techniques to share, please tell us in the comment section below.

Oh, and just for the fun of it, I’m sure I missed some of your favorite characters’ taglines. If so, list them below.


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