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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Loglines: Get to the Heart of Your Story

Please welcome guest blogger Angelia Almos

Loglines strike fear in many writers. Traditionally known as the elevator pitch of screenwriters, loglines have become a regular selling and marketing tool in a writer's tool box. Vastly multi-functional not only can you use your logline to pitch your book to an agent/editor verbally or in a written query, but it can also be used to tell anyone (your mother, your neighbor, Twitter, Facebook) about your new book. Don't underestimate the power of a good logline. It is a selling tool pure and simple.

You've probably been reading and hearing loglines without realizing it. Those one sentence descriptions of TV shows and movies in TV Guide. One sentence descriptions of books in catalogs and web sites. Sometimes movie posters have their loglines printed right on them. A narrator might even say the logline in a TV or movie ad.

At it's heart a logline is a one to two sentence description of your book written in present tense for impact. A logline contains three elements:
1) Who is your story about?
2) What is your hero's goal? In referring to hero, I'm referencing him/her/couple/group.
3) What/Who stands in the way of your hero's goal?

You are boiling your story down to its very basics. The heart of your book. You might wonder how you're supposed to condense your 100K, 70K, 50K story down to a single sentence. Your book can't be described in a single sentence. It has plot twists, sub-plots, multiple characters, exciting issues, etc. But it can. You're shooting for the heart of your story not a synopsis.

There are a lot of methods to crafting a perfect logline. Google "logline" to see website after website on how to write a logline. Some of the advice is identical while others will contradict each other. If you're interested in checking them out, please do, you might find a particular method makes perfect since to you. I've used different methods from different screenwriting classes I was in (depended on the philosophy of my screenwriting teacher). The easiest method I have found is to take my three sentence blurb (you know the one you wrote for your query letter) and condense it down to the nitty gritty.

Consider who and what your story is about. This can be a little more complicated for romance writers who might give equal billing to multiple heroes. Here is an example of a logline I wrote for a query letter where the couple shared equal billing.

* A shape shifter and a witch have to trust in each other to break a hundred year old curse.

Here are the steps I took to break down my novella into one sentence. I considered who my story was about (the shapeshifter and the witch), what the goal was (he wishes to break the curse and needs her assistance), and what's in the way (they don't trust each other or their feelings for each other). I could have used their names in the logline, but I wanted to make it clear this was a paranormal story which is why I decided to use what they were instead. All of this information came from the three sentence blurb I had already written for my query. I didn't go into how they met, why they didn't trust each other, what the curse was, who cast the curse, why he needs her help, or any other items I might feel are important to the story. I just asked myself three questions. Who is it about? What is my hero's goal? What/Who is standing in the way of the goal?

I usually have multiple versions of the same logline. Some might have a different slant. One focusing more on the emotional journey. Another focusing on the outer conflict. One might have a lot more details (verbs, adjectives) while a different one will be more general. Here's an example of a basic general logline and a more descriptive logline for the same story. I find it easier to verbally pitch a general logline, but like the descriptive ones when writing. This book has a romance (romantic elements), but the "journey" is hers so I decided to have the logline focus on her.

* A princess uses her gift with horses to save her kingdom after her father is murdered.
* A sheltered princess discovers her remarkable gifts with horses on a dangerous quest to find her father’s murderer.

Here is my quick cheat sheet for writing a logline:
1) Have three sentence blurb in front of me.
2) Write in present tense.
3) Have thesaurus handy since you need to use as few words as possible while creating interest.
4) Who is my story about?
5) What does my hero want?
6) What/Who stands in my hero's way?
7) Play with it. Write out different versions. Move words around.

I thought I'd leave you with some movie examples of loglines (you can find more by googling movie loglines or famous movie loglines):
Gladiator: When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by a corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek his revenge.
Titanic: A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Toula's family has exactly three traditional values - "Marry a Greek boy, have Greek babies, and feed everyone." When she falls in love with a sweet, but WASPy guy, Toula struggles to get her family to accept her fiancée, while she comes to terms with her own heritage.
The Godfather: An Epic tale of a 1940s New York Mafia family and their struggle to protect their empire, as the leadership switches from the father to his youngest son.

Angelia Almos writes middle grade and young adult fantasy. Her young adult novel Horse Charmer is now available as an ebook. A sheltered princess discovers her remarkable gifts with horses on a quest to find her father's murderer. Nothing is as simple as it seems with unusual powers and political intrigue from all sides shadowing her on her search for the truth. Under her pen name, Angie Derek, she writes steamy paranormal romance and romantic suspense. The Beast's Redemption, a paranormal novella, about a shape shifter and a witch who have to trust in each other to break a hundred year old curse is coming September 28 from The Wild Rose Press. Mafia Secret, a romantic suspense novel, about a professional cheerleader thrust into the dangerous world of organized crime when she learns she's the illegitimate daughter of a mafia king pin is coming in November from Tell-Tale Publishing. I hope you noticed the loglines. :-)

Horse Charmer is a young adult fantasy about a sheltered princess who discovers her remarkable gifts with horses on a dangerous quest to find her father’s murderer.

At sixteen years old, Cassia would rather spend her days in the royal stables than in the royal court. But as the eldest child of King Robet and Queen Sarahann she obediently performs her duties as the Princess of Karah.

Her safe world changes forever when her father is murdered in the neighboring kingdom of Vespera. Cassia grapples with his loss as her mother prepares her for her new role as queen. Her first task - she must travel to Vespera to marry a prince she barely knows to fulfill the treaty her father signed just before his death.

Nothing is as simple as it seems with political intrigues and unusual powers shadowing Cassia on her search to find out who killed her father and why.

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