By Betty Kuffel
Welcome to the Montana Women Writers Blog. Winter doldrums are behind us. Spring is in the air. Soon fruit trees and flowers will be in bloom. I recently finished a thriller and was struggling with writing a logline so decided to share my research with you.
A logline is a concise single-sentence summary of your story.
Novels begin with an idea that stimulates an author to write the story. The concept is the logline. Your initial description may be too long, but as the story flows, the logline matures. By the time you write, The End, it will solidify but require wordsmithing to convey the exact message.
Loglines are used when marketing your work, whether a book or a screenplay. It must be snappy and precise to capture attention. If you are writing comedy, try to get a laugh from the reader. For your thriller, your logline should build suspense. Use terms that convey tension.
Developing a logline sounds easy, but most of us find it more difficult than writing a synopsis. Relating the full story in 25 words is challenging. There are many ways to approach writing a logline.
Barbara Schiffman presented at the Flathead River Writers Conference a few years ago and gave a helpful talk on developing loglines. Her notes included a formula as follows:
“IT’S A (genre) STORY ABOUT A (main character – include what he/she does or something significant about him/her, like “a struggling attorney” or “a widowed single mom”) WHO (describe what happens or what they do: “battles a ruthless corporate law firm” or “fights to save her dying son’s life” AND LEARNS (what they and the audience learn in the end, like “that David can beat Goliath in court” or “she knew more than the doctors after all”).
Key concepts from the Rain Dance website include:
Increase stakes to add urgency. Ticking time-bomb concept.
Use a setup scene.
“Don’t tell the story. Sell the story.”
Don’t use a character name in either a logline or tagline. For the logline, describe the protagonist as: an ex-con, a sheriff, a rodeo queen. Add a description such as: an ex-con turned preacher, a crooked sheriff, an alcoholic rodeo queen.
Example – Jaws: When a swimmer is killed by a great white, a bureaucratic sheriff must take responsibility, protect the people, and kill the shark. (21 words)
What is the difference between a logline and a tagline?
A logline must contain: the protagonist, the goal, and the antagonistic force.
A good logline is helpful in writing a query letter and is essential when pitching. In a blog by story analyst Karel Segers, he presents key elements to successful logline construction.
When a major event happens
The main character must overcome the event (or flaw)
And pursue the goal.
A tagline is a few key descriptive words designed to grab attention.
Example – Alien: In space no one can hear you scream. (8 words)
The logline is often a component of the description on your back cover. Hone your logline and memorize it so when someone asks about your latest work, you’ll have it ready.
Have a good summer and keep writing.
Great information, Betty. Trying to condense a 80,000 word novel into about 20 words in a logline often seems impossible, but it so necessary for any author.