Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Solidifying a Logline

By Lea Schizas

Now what the blazes is a logline? Simple…a logline is your story’s heart and soul summarized in one or two sentences when asked, “So, what’s your story all about?”

Writers sometimes have a hard time pinpointing the core of the story and end up rambling on and on…a logline will help perfect the answer to the question above. Although loglines are usually associated with screenplays, even novelists will find them a tremendous help in sharpening their response.

Pinning your story down to only a line or two is not easy but with practice you will be able to give your reader a true account on what your book entails. Think of loglines as flash fiction: a need to pick and choose words carefully to give a complete picture.

In order to figure out the elements to place in a logline think of your book separated into three scenes: the beginning, the middle, and the end. From each scene take the essence, or high point, and write it down. When this exercise is done look over your ‘scenes’ and simplify them by somehow combining them into one or two cliff-hanging sentences.

For example, let’s take Harry Potter:

Beginning: Harry Potter discovers he has magical powers and receives an invite to enhance these powers to a school he’s never heard of.
Middle: He discovers his parents were killed and he is in the path of Voldemort’s anger. He befriends two students who become his sidekicks.
End: With the help of his two best friends they riddle out the puzzle of the Stone and Harry faces Voldemort for possession of the Stone.

Now let’s place the above info into a ‘hooking’ logline:

A young teen’s world is turned upside down when a seemingly innocent invitation to a school soon reveals a magical world possessed with a dark force waiting to take revenge on him.

You’ll note I didn’t mention the best friends since they are secondary to the plot and not as crucial to entice a reader. Voldemort’s name and the Stone were also omitted but given a darker overall image by placing ‘a magical world possessed with a dark force’. Also, by seeding ‘the revenge’ into a reader it ups his curiosity to find out what will happen and how the teen will deal with it.

Here is a basic and simple outline to follow what a logline should contain:

Who your protagonist is, which will also answer the question who the story is about
His goal, what he/she is striving to achieve
Who/what stands in his/her way

A logline won’t explain the whole storyline nor any of its subplots but will give a good impression of its genre and what the main character’s strive is all about.

When setting up a logline instead of giving a name give the descriptive detail of your character, for example:

John Smith’s adamant belief a witch living in his neighborhood is the cause of his recent bad luck, begins to hound the old lady into submission until she suffers a fatal heart attack and now haunts his dreams to the point he takes a family as hostage to prove his sanity and her existence.

Now replace his name with ‘An eccentric loner’s…’ and it gives the reader the impression of no one coming to his aid since he isolates himself from everyone. Or even ‘ a lonely man’s…’ now implies a man with nothing better to do than to come up with his own devices to give himself something to do.

Examples of fictional loglines to study:

A pair of vigilantes who believe they are cleaning up the streets in their neighbourhood only succeed in riling up the wrong gang.

Three musicians are on the ride of their life when they sign on with an agent who ends up embezzling all their money, leaving them back on the poor side of the track to make the comeback of their life.

A wealthy woman puts her life on the line when she sets herself up as bait to catch her husband’s killer.

The logline for my own soon-to-be-released paranormal/thriller “Doorman’s Creek” is”

A young teen and his friends discover a cave…and an entity that puts them in the path of a serial killer.

A logline is your ad, your hook to cause a reader to pick up your book and purchase it. Offer enough of the essence of your plot to intrigue them, build their curiosity level to such an extent they ‘need’  to find out what happens.

You only have those few precious initial minutes to impress an editor/reader with your storyline so make it count.

Thank you for stopping by and reading this week's article. Join us next week for Joan C. Curtis' article: How Do You Handle Rejection


Susan Bernhardt said...

A wonderful post, Lea. Log lines are so important to hook a reader. I enjoy the challenge of writing a log line. It definitely takes skill to write a great one.

John B. Rosenman said...

Excellent post. I like the way you divide the story into three parts as a way of highlighting the basic ingredients of the plot.