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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Loglines are Essential to Novelists


“Logline” was a term thrown around a great deal at the Florida Writers Association conference this past October. I’ve been editing books for decades, yet I’d never heard the term. Finally I found this description from the Raindance Film Festival website: “A logline is a one (or occasionally two) sentence description that boils the script down to its essential dramatic narrative in as succinct a manner as possible.”

 
Ah, so the word referred to scripts, yet FWA kept using it to refer to books. Yes, it has spread from the film industry to the book industry. Authors used to call our brief summaries elevator speeches, because each summary had to be short enough to be given in an elevator before floors. Today a logline can be part of an elevator speech, sometimes called an elevator pitch, but the logline must be able to stand on its own, as well. In simple terms, loglines tell what a story is about.

 
Loglines give the following information:

 
The main character—the protagonist

What he or she wants—the problem or goal

The villain or obstacle standing in the way of the protagonist —the conflict

The twist or unusual circumstance that makes the story unique

 
Some loglines include the setting, especially if it is essential to the story, as it might in in a science fiction novel that takes place on another planet, for example.

 
Here’s what a logline might look like for The Wizard of Oz:


In the 1950s a young girl on a drab Kansas farm from dreams of reaching a more colorful place, but when a tornado takes her to a mysterious new land, she has to fight evil witches, flying monkeys, and deceptive leaders, in her attempt to find her way back home.

 
Having a logline, a super-short summary, or elevator speech that describes your book helps you promote the book after it is written, keeps you on track while you are writing the book, and can help you come up with endless exciting ideas for new stories, before you even start writing. It can even help you discover the essence of your story, if you’re struggling to find it. In other words, loglines help before, during, and after you write a book.

 
For more information on loglines, sample loglines, and ways to create loglines for your own books (but ignore the many ads), see https://www.writersstore.com/writing-loglines-that-sell/ and here: http://www.literaryrambles.com/2010/02/log-lines-book-summaries.html. For what a simple formula that can help you create your own logline, see this page: http://graemeshimmin.com/writing-a-logline-for-a-novel/