If you read my “Synopsis” post, you’ll see that you’ve already got a start on crafting a logline. But we’re going to take it a step further.
A logline is a one-sentence summary of your story. Think about a movie poster, with its brief but compelling summary, or the cover grab of your favorite best-seller. Those are loglines. And why do you need one? In part because you may experience an elevator moment.
Now, a caveat. If you go to a writer’s conference, whether SCBWI, local or national, or any other, you will encounter agents and editors. Since the basic premise of all world behavior is “be nice” it follows that you will not, no never, ever, confront an agent or editor with an unsolicited pitch. As in never. Do I need to repeat?
(There’s a not-so-apocryphal story in the industry about the editor who was in the ladies’ when someone slid a manuscript under the door of her stall. Think she bought it?)
However…you may find yourself in a friendly conversation, in a hallway, over breakfast, or even in an elevator, when, after getting to know you at your nicest (ahem) an editor or agent may say, “What are you working on?”
This is when you need a logline. Not a full-on pitch (that’s a longer item, for another time), but a one-sentence-can-be-told-in-30-seconds-or-less summary of your story. You can use it in that elevator moment, and you can use it in your query. Honing a good logline will also help you focus on what’s most important about your story.
The best loglines are brief and gripping. Here are some examples:
In the 17th Century Caribbean Sea the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith to rescue a governor’s daughter and reclaim his ship.
In a dystopian future where one segment of society rules all teen girl Katniss Everdeen takes her sister’s place in a televised game to fight to the death.
Let’s list the components you need:
genre (this can be implied as in the second example above)
your protagonist’s main problem
your antagonist (again, can be implied)
the goal/consequence of failure
Put these elements together in a sentence that speaks to the high stakes of your story and you’ll have your logline.