Screenwriters use a logline when pitching a movie script, but it can also be helpful for novelists to learn the essentials of an effective logline. According to Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat, “a logline is like the cover of a book; a good one makes you want to open it right now, to find out what’s inside.”
What is a logline?
A logline is a one or two sentence description of what your story is about. It answers the inevitable question that is asked when you announce you’re writing a story.
What’s it about?
To novelists it’s better known as the hook or elevator pitch of your story. It must grab a potential agent or reader’s attention and make them want to learn more. If you can’t boil your story down to a one or two sentence description, then you may need to reevaluate it. The idea should be crystal clear and concisely communicated. Today’s fast-paced world of internet, smart phones, and social media leads to information overload and short attention spans. An intriguing logline is the lifeline that hooks the reader to your story.
Snyder says the logline must satisfy the following components to be effective:
- It must be ironic. The irony hooks the reader’s interest.
- It must present a compelling mental picture. The whole story must be implied with the logline.
- It must give a sense of the audience for the story. What is the genre and who is the target market?
The perfect logline must also include:
- A description of the hero,
- A description of the villain or antagonistic force, and
- A compelling goal we identify with as human beings.
When describing the hero or villain, it’s not necessary to use character names. Character names don’t add much, if anything. Instead, use adjectives that give depth to the character. For example, pretend you know nothing about the Harry Potter series. I know it’s a stretch, but humor me. Which of these loglines is more engaging?
Harry Potter, an eleven year old orphaned boy who lives with his aunt’s family, is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. While there, he learns that Lord Voldemort—the wizard who killed his parents and attempted to kill him—is returning to finish the job.
An orphaned boy, reluctantly taken in by his aunt’s family, discovers he is a famous wizard who miraculously survived the death spell of a notoriously powerful dark wizard, when he is invited to attend an elite school of witchcraft and wizardry. While there, he learns the dark lord, incognito for many years, has never stopped hunting the boy who lived.
Okay, I just made those up, but I hope you picked the second one. While each logline names the hero, the villain, and the goal (survival), the second logline is more compelling (I hope) due to the adjectives used to describe the hero and villain.
To read more about creating loglines click on the following:
What do you think of loglines? Do you have one for your story?
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