Okay, are you ready for Part 5?
Good, because today’s mission is to jot down a jolly good log line.
A log line. You know, that one sentence you scream at an PEA (publisher/editor/agent) as they whizz past you at a writers conference.
Oh, that. But I can’t tell anyboy what my story is about in one sentence.
Well, suck it up because you have to. Hey, you do it on Twitter all day long.
Right, I’ve already explained it but for the benefit of the few sitting at the back of the room playing ‘Angry Birds’ on their i-phones, a log line is one short, sweet, grab you by the seat of your pants, sentence that explains your whole story. Simple
Easy. Now for the hard bit.
But why do we have to do the log line thing now? I want to plot.
We do the log line now because it will help you stay on track when writing your novel. Plus, if a PEA asks what your current work in progress is, you’ll be able to tell them minus the ‘..and then this happened’ or ‘..oh, I forgot to tell you about so-in-so at the beginning’…. See how it all makes sense? You need to hook them and quick. A good log line will do that.
Would it surprise you if I said PEA’s really do want to know what your novel is about? The problem most writers have is they just cannot get the right words out quick enough. In some instances you have a mere ten seconds to hook your listener. Choosing the right words is vital. Get it right, and you are on your way.
So, how can we do that?
Basically, a log line consists of four things. Seems simple doesn’t it? Think again. Nothing in life worth having is simple. *Cheesey grin*.
Lets take a closer look at what these three things are.
1. A main character, who
2. Has a mission or a goal, but
3. Must overcome an obstacle or some kind of opposition
4. Before all hell breaks loose.
First, our protagonist is our main character or ‘hero’. The goal is what he/she wants and the obstacle is what is stopping he/she from reaching it. All hell breaking loose is what happens if he/she fails in their quest.
In the first of the ‘Twilight’ series, (the aptly named ‘Twilight’), the protagonist is school girl, ‘Bella Swan’.
Her goal is to find out more about mysterious class mate, ’Edward Cullen’.
Her obstacle is that he is a vampire and vampires like to drink humans dry.
All hell breaking loose is that Edwards vampire enemies want to kill her.
Now we have that down, is there anything else we need to create a great log line?
First, we must be perfectly clear. We may understand what is going on in our story, but the PEA reading our log line doesn’t know squat and has absolutely no idea what it’s about.
You need an example? Oh, alright, I’ll tell you my very first ever log line. No laughing.
An American socialite witnesses a murder and goes on the run from the MOB and FBI, but an attempt on her life leaves her with selected memory loss and it is up to a London police officer to uncover her past before they’re both assassinated.
And breathe. No choking. Excellent, lungs refilled? Then let’s continue.
There are so many things wrong with this log line, it would be easier to tell you what’s right with it….absolutely nothing. It’s too long – another ten words and I’d have a completed novel. It has too way too much back story, and blah, blah, blah.
So what went wrong? I followed the rules. I have my protag and antag. I have the goal and all hell breaking loose.
Well, yes that’s true, but then I just threw everything on the page and hoped the words would sort themselves out while I grabbed a cuppa and watched NCIS. Let me explain – Writing the words is only part of the processes. The order in which we place them is a whole different ball game.
Thanks to the awesome Kristen Lamb, the format for a log line should be something close to this:
An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the (Antagonist) before SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).
Now, if I’d presented my log line correctly the finished product may have looked something like this instead:
‘A quiet museum curator suffering from amnesia must uncover her secret past to unlock the real reason the mob has put out a contract for her life.‘
One thing to remember: The main logline is one sentence.
And please bear in mind that squeezing ten commas and a couple of semi-colons between one hundred and fifty words doesn’t constitute as ONE sentence….more like a splitting headache and a weekend recovering at the Priory. So, one sentence = 30 or less words.
Ok, I’ve embarrassed myself enough (something I seem to do a lot on this site), and now it is your turn. Be brave and mirror in the comment box your first vs current log lines. Alternatively, if you have a log line you need help with, add that too. Everyone will be kind, I promise
Have you had a novel requested off the back of a log line? Do you find writing log lines hard or easy? Come on, don’t be shy….you know how I love talking to you guys.