How to Tell if Your Story is On Target—What is Your Book About in ONE Sentence?

You missed….

You missed….

This past weekend, I indulged a little and we went to TWO movies. First, date night with Hubby. We saw Maleficient and it was AWESOME. Sunday, we wanted to take The Spawn to X-Men, but there wasn’t a convenient showing so we settled for the new Spiderman movie, or as I like to call it…The Movie That Would NOT END.

No spoiler alerts here other than save your money and go see Maleficient. The Spiderman movie was dreadful. I kept checking my watch.

The only saving grace is that Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey were really likable people. But the movie dragged on…and on…and yes, ON.

Characters are important. I don’t buy into the notion of character-driven or plot-driven stories. We need both. No one cares about the plot if we don’t care about the people. Conversely, we can care about the people, but PLOT is the crucible that drives change. A hero is only as strong as the problem he faces.

One can see that Spiderman 2 was in trouble simply by looking at the log-line from the IMDB:

Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of super villains against him, impacting his life.

What’s the GOAL? Where’s the ticking clock? What’s the hero supposed to accomplish? This log-line does an excellent job of telling precisely what this movie is about. Nothing, oh and everything. “Impacting his life?” Really?

O_o

The log-line tells us exactly what to expect. Instead of genuine dramatic tension, we’re served bad situation after bad situation to the point of tedium. Running a gauntlet is NOT interesting. It’s CGI indulgence.

Even The Spawn (Age FOUR) fell asleep.

Additionally, the movie revolved around Parker keeping Gwen safe. This is a passive goal. It’s like “containing Communism.” Doesn’t work and just drags on.

Back to the Log-Line 

Basically, we should be able to tell someone (an agent) what our story is about in one sentence. That is called the “log-line.” Log-lines are used in Hollywood to pitch movies. In fact, a book that should be in every writer’s library is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It’s a book on screenwriting, but every writer can benefit enormously from Snyder’s teaching.

In the world of screenwriting there is a tenet, “Give me the same, but different.” This axiom still holds true when it comes to novels. Our story cannot go so far off the deep end that readers cannot relate, but yet our story needs to be different enough that people don’t just think it’s a bad retread. We as writers have to negotiate this fine balance of same but different, and that is no easy task.

Let’s look at components of a great log-line:

Great log-lines are short and clear. I cannot tell you how many writers I talk to and I ask, “What’s your book about?” and they take off rambling for the next ten minutes. Often why writers are so terrified of the pitch session is that they cannot clearly state what their book is about in three sentences or less.

Here’s a little insider information. When we cannot whittle our entire story into three sentences that is a clear sign to agents and editors that our story is structurally flawed. Not always, but more often than not. Your goal should be ONE sentence. What is your story about?

Elements of a Great Log-Line

A good log-line is ironic. Irony gets attention and hooks interest. Here’s an example:

The Green Mile is about the lives of guards on death row leading up to the execution of a black man accused of rape and child murder who has the power of faith healing.

What can be more ironic than a murderer having the power of healing? Think of the complex emotions that one sentence evokes, the moral complications that we just know are going to blossom out of the “seed idea.”

A good log-line is emotionally intriguing.

A good log-line tells the entire story. You can almost see the entire story play out in your head.

A vengeful fairy is driven to curse an infant princess, only to discover that the child may be the one person who can restore peace to their troubled land.

This is the log-line for Maleficient. It’s rich with emotion, complication and irony. In the protagonist’s anger she creates the story problem. How can she heal the kingdoms? We also get a glimpse of the character arc (vengeance to forgiveness?) and the goal (break the curse).

A good log-line will interest potential readers.

Good log-lines exude inherent conflict. Conflict is interesting. Blake Snyder talks about taking his log-line with him to Starbucks and asking strangers what they thought about his idea. This is a great exercise for your novel. Pitch to friends, family, and even total strangers and watch their reaction. Did their eyes glaze over? Did the smile seem polite or forced? If you can boil your book down into one sentence that generates excitement for the regular person, then you know you are on a solid path for your novel.

Yet, if your potential audience looks confused or bored or lost, then you know it is time to go back to the drawing board. But the good news is this; you just have to fix ONE sentence. You don’t have to go rewrite, revise a novel that is confusing, convoluted, boring, arcane, ridiculous, etc.

Think of your one sentence as your scale-model or your prototype. If the prototype doesn’t generate excitement and interest, it is unlikely the final product will succeed. So revise the prototype until you find something that gets the future audience genuinely excited.

You Have Your Log-Line. Now What?

Your log-line is the core idea of your story. This will be the beacon of light in the darkness so you always know where the shore is versus the open sea. This sentence will keep you grounded in the original story you wanted to tell and keep you from prancing down bunny trails.

****This is what I teach you how to do in my Antagonist Class. At the Gold Level, we work one-on-one until you have the one sentence DOWN and then plot from there, which is WAY easier with a solid log-line. Use WANA15 for $15 off.

The Fear Factor

Fear is probably the most common emotion shared by writers. The newer we are the more fear we will feel. A side-effect of fear is to emotionally distance from the source of our discomfort. The log-line will help you spot that emotional distancing and root it out early.

Is your log-line on target?

Is your log-line on target?

I’ve seen two behaviors in all my time working with writers. Either a writer will wander off down the daffodil trail because he is afraid he lacks the skills to tell the story laid out in the log-line, OR the writer will water down the log-line to begin with. Through future plotting the writer will realize hidden strength…then he can go revise the plotting or revise the log-line.

The best way to learn how to write log-lines is to go look at the IMDB. Look up your favorite movies and see how they are described. You can even look up movies that bombed and very often see the log-line was weak and the movie was doomed from the start. Look up movies similar to the story you are writing. Look up movies similar to the story you want to tell.

Solid novel log-lines will have 1) your protagonist 2) active verb 3) active goal 4) antagonist 5) stakes.

Here is a log-line I wrote for Michael Crichton’s Prey.

An out-of-work computer programmer (protagonist) must uncover (active verb) the secrets his wife is keeping in order to destroy (active goal) the nano-robotic threat (antagonist) to human-kind’s existence (stakes).

For this literary folks, here is a log-line for The Road.

In a post-apocalyptic Earth where every living thing but humans has died, a Man (protagonist) must travel cross-country with his son to the ocean (active goal) while battling organized, militant group of cannibals who hunt people (antagonist) and yet must still protect their sacred humanity in the face of certain death by starvation (stakes).

Plot Goal: Make it to the ocean Character Goal: If they resort to eating people they fail.

So here’s an exercise. See if you can state your novel in one sentence. It will not only help add clarity to your writing and keep you on track, but when it comes time to pitch an agent, you will be well-prepared and ready to knock it out of the park. Practice on your favorite movies and books. Work those log-line muscles!

What are your thoughts? Have you nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to get your story into one sentence? Have you used this log-line technique and discovered you had to change it and make it stronger? Did it save you needless revision?

I LOVE hearing from you!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

For those who need help with branding, blogging and social media, please check out my latest book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

My Antagonist Class is coming up. At the Gold Level, we work one-on-one until you have the one sentence DOWN and then plot from there. The beauty of this class is once you’ve been through this process, it will make you a faster, better leaner plotter in the future and will save SO MUCH rewrite. Use WANA15 for $15 off.

If you think you might need some professional help, I have my First Five Pages Class coming up. Use WANA15 for $15 off. Also there is a GOLD level. This is NOT line-edit. This is ripping apart your first pages and then SHOWING you how to fix the problems not only in the beginning of your book but throughout.

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  1. #1 by Elke Feuer on June 10, 2014 - 8:23 am

    I try to write my log line before I start writing. It keeps me focused on the ‘big picture’ of the story. It also pulls me back when I start to wonder off into fields of daffodils. :-)

  2. #2 by Morgan on June 10, 2014 - 8:24 am

    Fantastic Post :) and great advice!

  3. #3 by Ron Estrada on June 10, 2014 - 8:24 am

    Save the Cat is a must. Thanks to Blake and a few other people smarter than me, I now attack the log line first, along with the premise. Good grief, don’t spend a year writing a novel and then see if it fits into a neat log line. Spend an entire month, if necessary, getting that one sentence honed to a point that you cannot wait to read your own book. And don’t forget the irony. Without irony, the story sags. I think Blake used Jaws as an example: a cop who is terrified of water must hunt a monster shark before it kills again. Love it!

  4. #4 by christineardigo on June 10, 2014 - 8:28 am

    I just wanted to take the time to tell you i bought your book Rise of the Machines and loved it and learned a lot. One of the things you wrote in it though, was how you kept saying how people dont want to read about How To Write, they want to hear stories. But i have to say, the reason i started following your blog 2 1/2 years ago was because of all your Writing posts. I subscribed to your website, printed out all of your articles and still have them. You taught a newbie writer how to write, and did it in a fun way. You referred me to great writing books and great resources/other blogs. I then referred you to so many others that were starting out.
    I am a visual person and you explained things so simply in an entertaining way, that it all clicked. I do love reading your stories now and learning about your life but dont underestimate yourself. You really should re run a lot of your old How to Write stories because they are worth their weight in gold.
    I finally published my first novel last month and i have you to thank for it, My first manuscript (before i started following you) is buried away somewhere also, so that no one will ever find it. :P
    Thanx again for all your help. Dont ever stop teaching us how to write! You are very good at it! You should re run one every week. Throwback Thursday!!

    • #5 by shawn m on June 10, 2014 - 11:21 am

      What a wonderful comment. Kristen works very hard, I’m sure she appreciates this too. Perhaps one day soon enough she will write a book on ..writing. First though. I have her in the old well finishing her fiction …It writes the prose or it gets the hose..

      • #6 by christineardigo on June 10, 2014 - 1:16 pm

        she is amazingly talented, not only in Social Media. :)

    • #7 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 10, 2014 - 12:57 pm

      Wel, I don’t want writers to start a WRITING BLOG. Blog about writing if you want to, but be aware that you won’t catch regular readers that way and it’s a good way to burn out. This blog is KRISTEN LAMB’S Blog, thus not dictated by subject matter. It has a lot on writing and social media, but there’s a lot of random stuff about life, making peace with my thighs, etc.

      I’m so happy I could help you mature as a writer. That makes every day so special and all the hard work worth it.

      • #8 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 10, 2014 - 12:57 pm

        AndI DO need to just out together my teachings into writing books, LOL.

      • #9 by christineardigo on June 10, 2014 - 1:18 pm

        you truly did help me, and made me laugh while i was learning!

  5. #10 by Lanette Kauten on June 10, 2014 - 8:30 am

    A couple of weeks ago, it hit me that my entire literary novel, which is a retelling of ANNA KARENINA in an underground art district, can be summed up with a joke: a lesbian, a naturalist, a Jesus freak, and a pothead walk into a bar…

  6. #11 by Jackie Saulmon Ramirez on June 10, 2014 - 8:40 am

    Good information!

  7. #12 by wittywritereditor on June 10, 2014 - 8:41 am

    I keep hearing about this SAVE THE CAT book. I obviously need to buy it.

    The log-line for my latest self-published book is: A Civil War widow falls in love with her late husband’s married best friend.

    The log-line for the book I’m currently writing is: This is a sequel to my first novel, SHADOWS OF THINGS TO COME…which says absolutely nothing to anyone who hasn’t read the book. Definitely needs some work. ;-)

    How about: A college undergraduate spends the weekend at a haunted bed-and-breakfast, someone dies, and then the killer comes after her? Eh…Better, but still not quite there. I’ll have it figured out by the time the book’s done.

    • #13 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 10, 2014 - 1:03 pm

      What is unique about the college undergraduate? What is the goal? What will happen if she fails?

      I.e. A college girl who’s been medicating her ability to see and speak to the dead risks possible demonic possession in order to discover who is trying to kill her before its too late and her soul is left in the Dead Realms for good.

      This is just a riff for a horror/supernatural/thriller.

      But see how the undergraduate is UNIQUE. She can see and speak to the dead. She is afraid of or doesn’t believe in this ability and has been medicating it. She has to do the ONE THNG she fears most in order to save her corporeal body, but ironically it could cost her soul.

      • #14 by wittywritereditor on June 18, 2014 - 5:45 am

        What makes her unique? What’s the goal? Yes, that’s what I need to figure out… and how to show it to the reader. Thanks! :-)

  8. #15 by Nickie Asher on June 10, 2014 - 8:46 am

    Excellent post!

  9. #16 by Larry Chroman on June 10, 2014 - 8:50 am

    Thanks Kristen. I needed this today. Perfect timing. Thanks for making this point clear, easy to understand and for breaking down they key elements.

  10. #17 by netraptor001 on June 10, 2014 - 8:51 am

    I learned this the hard way a few years ago. Now I logline everything. Bonus points for 140 chars or less!

    Revi, the ex-assassin and Jake, the agent hunting her, travel across a shattered world, fleeing the Oracle who seeks to alter their future.

    • #18 by sbjamestheauthor on June 10, 2014 - 9:47 am

      This post was so great! This exercise really helped me sharpen my focus. It’s dangerous if you start to forget what the story is about, especially with a series!
      One question (which is probably a stupid one, but I’ll ask anyway), can you use a separate log line for the entire series and one for each book in the series?

  11. #19 by Tymber Dalton on June 10, 2014 - 8:58 am

    I LOVE Blake Synder’s “Save the Cat!” All three books in the series, actually. They should be mandatory reading for all writers. I actually have my Scrivener template set up to include the log-line/beat sheet in my notes section for when I start a new book. (And yes, I’m a PANTSTER. LOL)

  12. #20 by tracikenworth on June 10, 2014 - 9:13 am

    Thanks for this!!

  13. #21 by Tamara LeBlanc on June 10, 2014 - 9:25 am

    I have a nervous breakdown every time I write a blurb, synopsis or log-line…yep, a hell of a nervous breakdown.
    I’m actually in the midst of writing blurbs and log-lines for my agent to pitch at Nationals, so Kristen, this post is not only timely, but HUGELY helpful!
    Thank you for your wisdom :)
    Have a great day,
    Tamara

  14. #22 by sharonhughson on June 10, 2014 - 9:55 am

    I’m working on this right now, both for the completed novel I am querying agents about and the exciting new idea I’m researching for my next WIP.
    I used Kristen’s formula to generate a log line for the series I wrote, book one which I’m querying, and the other two books. Take her antagonist class. Go for the gold. I took it last summer and have since written the trilogy we discussed in length and whipped the first book of the series into marketable (maybe) shape.
    Also, I have a blog post coming up on this very subject. I will likely link back to this post, Kristen.
    I also couldn’t believe I wasted my money to see Spider-Man 2. I should have read the log line 😳

  15. #23 by Helen Landalf on June 10, 2014 - 10:02 am

    You are so right about this. I am having a terrible time coming up with a log line for my latest novel, and I know it’s because I’m not totally clear about the core of my plot. Thanks for this “kick in the pants” post.

  16. #24 by Aul on June 10, 2014 - 10:09 am

    I gotta get to work….

  17. #25 by drshaywest on June 10, 2014 - 10:13 am

    Reblogged this on Dr. Shay West and commented:
    Great advice!!! I’m going to get to work on my log lines right now!

  18. #26 by Sarah Brentyn on June 10, 2014 - 10:19 am

    This is fantastic. So true. You must be able to boil your work down to a concise, compact summary. What you did here was to share how to do that well. :-)

  19. #27 by cpbialois on June 10, 2014 - 10:37 am

    Reblogged this on The BiaLog.

  20. #28 by Rii the Wordsmith on June 10, 2014 - 10:51 am

    Because I am a long-winded person (this is in part due to my distractability, though, I’m not just boring, I also have ADD-crap, I’m already getting sidetracked) log lines are super hard for me…but it’s nice to be reminded to work on it. Every time someone asks me what my story is about, I see it as a chance to practice explaining in a few less sentences. Sometimes I even succeed at giving a satisfying, one (not run-on) sentence answer.

    For me, the challenge is that I want to always tell about ALL the conflicts. Or really, I want to just tell them the story. “Oh, well, they’re on this quest for this MacGuffin, but then the protagonist has all these character flaws that have all these problems and blah blah blaah blaah”. But then I guess they don’t want to read the book anymore, do they? Because I just told them the story.

    Thanks for the reminder about WHY this is so freaking important.

  21. #29 by elderfox on June 10, 2014 - 11:37 am

    I just read this and I really REALLY want to thank you for it…I’m an “elder” and have been working on a novel and this is EXACTLY what I’ve needed. THANK YOU! (SORRY FOR THE YELLING
    BUT I AM SO EXCITED!

  22. #30 by John Holton on June 10, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    “Save The Cat” is a great book, and his advice about loglines is spot-on. There’s more good advice on loglines in his last book, “Save The Cat Strikes Again.” (Sad that he died so young.) In that book, Snyder turned the logline into a “Mad Lib.” Maybe not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s a great start. These were excellent examples!

  23. #31 by cromercrox on June 10, 2014 - 12:54 pm

    There’s a mi$print in your title. Just thought you should know.

    • #32 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 10, 2014 - 1:19 pm

      Ugh. Crap. This is what happens when I rush. Thanks.

    • #33 by cromercrox on June 10, 2014 - 6:15 pm

      You’re welcome. I’m a writer and editor for a living. No matter how many times I check and recheck my raw blog posts before I press ‘publish’, those mushpronts always seem to get through.

  24. #34 by sao on June 10, 2014 - 12:54 pm

    The log line has to cover the plot, but does it have to cover the theme, too? For example, my logline is something like, “An American Archaeologist is on the trails of an ancient library in Central Asia when she’s accused of drug smuggling and thrown in jail. The only one who can help her escape is a shady Russian who seems to have a new identity every week. Can she trust him?”

    But I’m not convinced my book is about trust. It’s romantic suspense and the main plot points are Yuri and Iris’s romance, Iris clearing her name and Yuri finding what he’s looking for.

    • #35 by Gry Ranfelt on June 15, 2014 - 2:24 pm

      No. Log line is just plot. Not theme. Because every log line can be written differently and with different focus. Trust can be a big part of their relationship but the REASONS behind the lack of trust are the real thematic cornerstones. For instance, if the reason she doesn’t trust him is because he didn’t tell her about something he did a theme could be that you have to share with others etc. etc.
      Of course, I have no idea what deeper ideas you have for your story so hard to examplify XD

  25. #36 by IndianaWonderer on June 10, 2014 - 1:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Indiana Wonderer and commented:
    Terrific post as always, really gets to the heart of writing. Literally.

  26. #37 by Cary Area Writer's Group on June 10, 2014 - 2:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Cary Area Writer's Group and commented:
    Do you have trouble telling an agent, IN ONE SENTENCE, what your book is about? Here are some helpful tips and suggestions.

  27. #38 by Stephanie Beavers on June 10, 2014 - 2:24 pm

    What’s your opinion on stories that have no one protagonist? Take Game of Thrones, for instance. IMDB has the logline at “Seven noble families fight for control of the mythical land of Westeros.” Or would he just need multiple loglines, one for each “main” character, or…?

    • #39 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 10, 2014 - 8:19 pm

      In High Fantasy we deal with “parties” but there is a protagonist in each.

    • #40 by Gry Ranfelt on June 15, 2014 - 2:22 pm

      Also, Game of Thrones has a main antagonistic force in “winter” and the whights coming closer. Goals of individual characters may shift constantly BUT as readers we know that something’s coming and somehow these characters must figure out how to stop it. So the story has a goal and we, the readers, want to see how it happens.

  28. #41 by swiveltam on June 10, 2014 - 2:28 pm

    Thanks for this. I worked on my log line for ages and then once I got that I read I needed a TAG LINE! Whaaaaaat??? I thought they were the same. Turns out, they’re not. Went to work on that, too. Now after reading your blog, I’m thinking I need to up the stakes in my log line. It works as a one sentence description, but I’m not sure its compelling enough. Back to the drawing board. Thanks for breaking it down!

    • #42 by swiveltam on June 11, 2014 - 3:29 pm

      Since everyone else is posting their log-lines. I thought I’d post my BEFORE Kristin’s Blog advice and AFTER Kristin’s Blog Advice:

      BEFORE The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress is the parallel story of two young women struggling with budding sensuality, new independence and recent loss, united across generations by a 1940′s swing dress.

      AFTER The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress is a parallel story of two young women: Violet, (1942), who races against her boyfriend’s deployment and her grifting father to win a dance contest and tie the knot before WWII interrupts, and June, (1992), who struggles to find her biological grandmother and solve a fifty year old mystery, both united across generations by a 1940′s swing dress.

  29. #43 by andreablythe on June 10, 2014 - 3:21 pm

    Always great to be able to sum up the story in a short form, as you said, it works as a great anchor. I’ve been telling people that the novel I’m working on is about a girl who must take care of her werewolf father in the same way one cares for an alcoholic. I’ve received some good reactions from that prompt. Though I could amp it up a bit, I think.

    I’ll be working on that.

  30. #45 by Katrina on June 10, 2014 - 3:50 pm

    Well, I’ve entered all similar movies, but none of the log lines are even close to what my novel is about, I’m going to work on it though! I loved this article, it’s fantastic food for thought :) thanks so much!!

  31. #46 by marianpearsonstevens on June 10, 2014 - 6:14 pm

    What a timely post, Kristen! Just what I needed right now. As always-thanks!

  32. #47 by cromercrox on June 10, 2014 - 6:26 pm

    I’d heard that it was important to be able to summarise the plot of a story into one or a few sentences, but having a word attached to a concept – a ‘logline’ – makes it so much more clear and concrete. So, here’s one. ‘Detective Inspector Persephone Sheepwool of the Metropolitan Police flees horrific bereavement to make a new life in the remote seaside town of Deringland, only to find that bodies start falling in the creepy clifftop institute whose shadowy staff is dedicated to discovering the Secrets of the Sea.’ That’s from my novel ‘By The Sea’, done and dusted and published soon. I’m just planning another novel featuring D. I. Sheepwool, and just the plan is getting rather hard to keep in my head at once – I haven’t even started writing. Should one get the logline done even before one starts the planning stage?

    • #48 by Deborah Makarios on June 10, 2014 - 9:33 pm

      D.I. Persephone Sheepwool – love the name!

      • #49 by cromercrox on June 11, 2014 - 2:26 am

        Thank you. I get all the best names from my elder daughter, who when about eight years old expressed a desire for a story featuring an Inspector Sheepwool. Not that I’d advise children to read the eventual result, though.

  33. #50 by Ice Scream Mama on June 10, 2014 - 7:11 pm

    Hmmm.. Okay…. After a starting a passionate affair with her friend’s husband, a suburban mom must reassess her seemingly perfect life and marriage which may not be so perfect after all.

    How’s that?

    • #51 by Author Kristen Lamb on June 10, 2014 - 8:17 pm

      What’s the goal?

      • #52 by Ice Scream Mama on June 10, 2014 - 9:14 pm

        Okay…

        An over forty suburban mom engages in a forbidden love affair with a man who just might be everything she wants, except he’s her friend’s husband, and must decide whether to follow her heart, stay in her comfortable acceptable life or break every rule.

        After a starting a passionate affair with her friend’s husband, a suburban mom must choose between her seemingly perfect life and marriage and feelings she has never experienced before, in a town where nothing stays secret for very long.

  34. #53 by authorleannedyck on June 10, 2014 - 7:21 pm

    Thank you for this article, Kristen.
    I strongly believe in log lines. In fact, a log line recently helped me writing the ending for a manuscript–actually find it, as I’d already written it and didn’t realize it.

  35. #54 by Lara McGill on June 10, 2014 - 9:09 pm

    Here’s my logline for my current WIP. The working title is “Murder By Magic.”

    A coffee-addicted epileptic witch who has renounced her extraordinary abilities (protagonist) walks unknowingly into a murderous conspiracy that targets her (active personal goal, super-bad thing #1) when she is forced to return home from self-imposed exile to face her high priestess, bitter ex-fiancee, and suspicious coven in order to help close an intergalactic rift (active plot goal, super-bad thing #2) before the next major sabbat on Lammas Night (ticking clock) when the rift’s energy may shift and reverse, shattering the boundaries between the worlds and opening a portal from the Otherworld to the unsuspecting Earth.

  36. #58 by Deborah Makarios on June 10, 2014 - 9:32 pm

    I had “a fairytale princess finds reality is no fairytale” but that was more the initial idea-nugget.
    How about “a sheltered princess must win back her ravaged kingdom before her usurping uncle hunts her down”?

    • #59 by Gry Ranfelt on June 15, 2014 - 2:19 pm

      Maybe insert an active thing she can do to win it back? Must she get certain allies? A weapon?
      Btw, that concept sounds a lot like Sansa from Game of Thrones :D I really like that deconstruction of the fairy tale princess stereotype.

      • #60 by Deborah Makarios on June 15, 2014 - 11:53 pm

        Thanks for the feedback!
        There are active things she has to do – find hidden regalia, win allies, rouse rebellion in the populace etc. It just seemed a bit long-winded to put it in the log line. Maybe a sign it isn’t simple enough? I dunno.
        Haven’t read (or seen) Game of Thrones – hope it isn’t too similar!

        • #61 by Gry Ranfelt on June 16, 2014 - 3:25 am

          No it’s not. most people disregard Sansa anyway and the tv show butchered her storyline.

          • #62 by Deborah Makarios on June 16, 2014 - 5:27 pm

            Phew!
            I agree, it’s very enjoyable to have a stereotype interestingly subverted, e.g. Diana Wynne Jones’ The Dark Lord of Derkholm.

  37. #63 by Miriam Joy on June 11, 2014 - 4:09 am

    I enjoyed Spiderman, but hey, I was in it for the sarcasm and one-liners, so…

  38. #64 by Candace Howze on June 11, 2014 - 8:09 am

    Reblogged this on TarheelDream and commented:
    If you’re a writer, you must read this.

  39. #65 by Jennifer Holm on June 11, 2014 - 8:21 am

    I wish I had my first attempt at a logline for comparison. It was a freaking (looong) paragraph and said nothing. Then, after working directly with you:

    A wounded healer must ally with his sworn enemy to wipe out an unknown evil that is corrupting the land.

    Boom.

    I loved the antagonist class. It sent me back to the drawing board (which was a bummer, though I kind of already knew it needed to happen), but what I’m working on now is so much stronger.

    • #66 by Gry Ranfelt on June 15, 2014 - 2:18 pm

      When I gave Kristen my original log line it was something like: “An outsider elf must blablabla” and Kristen was like “outsider? Come on, that’s boring. make it an exile.”

  40. #67 by Glynis Jolly on June 11, 2014 - 8:31 am

    The log-line for Maleficient sounds an awful lot like one that would be used for Willow.

  41. #68 by martinbeks on June 11, 2014 - 8:45 am

    I liked Spider-man, but I like the relationship between Peter and Gwen (and was properly horrified by Green Goblin’s nasty teeth). I can see your point (and yeah, parts of it did get a bit long), but overall, I liked it. I also thought Jamie Foxx’s character needed a cat. Like REALLY needed a cat.
    Great post. I’m currently plotting a new story, and have been trying to map everything out before I start writing. Definitely going to work out my logline, as well. :-)

    • #69 by Gry Ranfelt on June 15, 2014 - 2:17 pm

      Every plot-less story with great characters can be redeemed to some people. It depends on what we find interesting. For instance The Picture of Dorian Grey is a literary story that I myself love a lot. It drags on (!!!!) but because I’m a sucker for philosophy all the long conversations were swallowed willingly by your’s truly X)

      • #70 by martinbeks on June 18, 2014 - 2:48 pm

        I’ve never read that, but I tried to watch the movie they made a few years ago (Ben Barnes, Colin Firth), but kept falling asleep. But you’re absolutely right. My mom can’t stand Jane Austen, for that very reason (long drawn out conversations on manners), whereas, I find her opinions pretty funny and profound. :-)

        • #71 by Gry Ranfelt on June 19, 2014 - 1:38 am

          Jane Austen is far from plotless, though. She was, in many way, her time’s commercial fiction. The reason people fall off the austen wagon is because 1) language is 200 freaking years old and 2) MANNERS and CULTURE is so different. People today don’t get the priorities people had then.

          Yeah, the movie has even more plot than the book because they added stuff with Colin Firth’s character having a daughter ‘n stuff.

  42. #72 by Maryann Miller (@maryannwrites) on June 11, 2014 - 10:55 am

    Loglines are incredibly hard and this information is most helpful. I am going to take your tips on the four main elements of a logline and work on the ones I have tried to do for my books. Some of mine are actually good, others… well, maybe they need a little work. LOL

  43. #73 by Cronin Detzz on June 11, 2014 - 3:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Cronin Detzz "Writer's Block" and commented:
    This post breaks down the vital elements of your pitch, using the “log line” method that Hollywood favors. Take a look!

  44. #74 by Rachael on June 11, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    Reblogged this on An Author in the Works and commented:
    This was good advice for me because I’ve been struggling with keeping my explanation short when people ask what my book is about. Here’s my “Log-line”:

    “The cursed Princess Caitlyn and her betrothed, Prince Ean, must race against time, risking everything, to take back what the Beauty Thief stole before Caitlyn’s life is lost forever.”

    What do you think of it? Please tell me in the comments section! I really want to know. If you haven’t read Kristen’s blog yet, you should. ;) I enjoy it every time.

  45. #75 by Rachael on June 11, 2014 - 3:58 pm

    I reblogged this post with my own book’s “log-line” at http://www.writingraci.wordpress.com Thanks for the info, Kristen. I truly appreciate it. :)

    • #76 by Rachael on June 11, 2014 - 3:59 pm

      oops. Silly me, I didn’t know it put a comment in your comment section when I reblog. haha

  46. #77 by Whitney on June 11, 2014 - 7:48 pm

    This is exactly what I needed to read and chew on for a while. I’m definitely a rambler. This is what I’ve come up with so far. I’m sure it will change as I work to make it better.

    A teenager with the ability to unravel the secrets of those around her must decide whether to expose the truth about the town sweetheart or keep her rival’s secret in order to hold on to her own.

    …or maybe…

    A year after arriving in a tight-knit Texas town, Avery Stone, the teenage daughter of a decorated military officer, discovers more than she bargains for and must decide whether to expose the truth about the town sweetheart or keep her rival’s secret in order to hold onto her own (and finally find a place she can call home).

  47. #78 by symplysilent on June 11, 2014 - 10:51 pm

    Hi Kristen. On Scribophile, we have a logline group, run by one of the Mods. Until I went through the torture session with Ruv, I had no idea I could capture a story in 27 words. Any book can be captured in 27 words.

    He forces us to fit into this template: When incident, occurs character with role and motivation pursues goal, only to discover that opposition threatens disaster.

    By the time I am able to write this, I have a very strong command of the story concept and theme.

    The discipline needed is worth the outcome – a story I understand, and can write with assurance.

    Silent

  48. #79 by Kelly Roberts on June 12, 2014 - 7:43 am

    This was awesome, as usual Kristen! Thank you for being you and for pushing us to be the best writers we can be.

  49. #80 by Jessica on June 14, 2014 - 10:55 am

    Thank you, thank you. This helped me with the last question you posed. It saved me from needless revision. I’m going through my book right now with editing and such, trying to finish it by December 2014. I read your post and realized I was that author that rambled for ten minutes. Also, you mentioned agents and editors will see the book as structurally flawed if you can’t state it in one sentence, which made me realize that if we can’t state it in one sentence, we the writers should view the book as structurally flawed. So I set about to test if my book was balanced or not.

    I did summon up a log-line from the drudges, and I seriously cannot thank you enough for making this post and inspiring me to do it. My book was structurally flawed, but the log-line focused what I was trying to say. By forcing myself to write a one-sentence summary, I realized what my book was truly about probably for the first time in the eight years I’ve worked on it. I actually have plot! It’s a miracle.

    So thank you. You made me realize I’ve had a great hook just sitting there waiting to be taken advantage of. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog those several posts ago. :)

    • #81 by Gry Ranfelt on June 15, 2014 - 2:15 pm

      Haha, exactly! The log line sharpens what’s already there. it doesn’t make a story commercial or the litterary analogue to junk-food.

  50. #82 by Gry Ranfelt on June 15, 2014 - 1:58 pm

    I kept watering down my log line. I didn’t want THAT plot to just overshadow the others. “My story is about so much more.”
    Yes. But every body is beautiful and complex and NEEDS A SPINE!
    So I accepted my log line: “A young woman is trapped in an eternal time loop and is about to go berserk when she meets another time prisoner who, with his mellow ways, tries to make her see a different way of life. Driven by a deep disappointment in each other they venture to find other time prisoners and a potential way to freedom. But to free themselves they might have to trap others.”
    Now that I have this log line I realize that the whole story needs to be structured differently. Right now my MC’s only meet another time prisoner near the 2nd plot point. WAY too late. Needs to be earlier.

    • #83 by Gry Ranfelt on June 19, 2014 - 1:39 am

      It is :) It’s also, in many ways, an allegory for sickness that can’t be cured.

  51. #84 by Kathy Azevedo on June 15, 2014 - 5:01 pm

    This is my logline (so far)

    A graduate from Mongolia and her Russian pen-pal road-test their courage and their friendship by joining forces with other students and staff to launch the new floating campus aboard the Rainbow Warriors International University.

    Any recommendations?

    • #85 by Lara McGill on June 16, 2014 - 8:57 am

      I’m getting the feeling that this has to do with Greenpeace? Isn’t that the name of their flagship? I’m also curious as to what kind of evil they’re facing – why do they have to have this university there?

      It does pique my interest, and I sure would pick it up if it was on a bookshelf.

      • #86 by KAthy Azevedo on June 16, 2014 - 11:57 am

        I know nothing about Greenpeace, but I will look into it right away. The evils are family and political opposition, economic, poverty, language barriers and some hidden enemies. (How can I put all of that into a logline- is my dilemma.)
        His goals will run him into conflict with a huge worldwide monopoly, as well.
        Hers are about solving the slum problem in her country, and finding ways to help all countries to do the same.
        University is international- they haven’t found a location to plant a college that is politically neutral, and there are so many earth changes going on that finding something permanent is an obstacle.

        Thank you so much for all your feedback.
        I am looking forward to hearing what else you may have to say.
        Thank you very much.

  52. #87 by Joelle on June 16, 2014 - 9:09 am

    This was very helpful! Thanks so much.

  53. #88 by Lene Fogelberg on June 18, 2014 - 1:18 am

    Great blog post and I could not agree more! Thanks for sharing! I saw the movies as well and liked your reflections and connections to writing.

  54. #89 by Rebekah on June 18, 2014 - 1:56 pm

    I’m so happy to have stumbled across your blog. I am writing a sort of Blog Book called ”TenYears in Germany. The story of a young girls just following her heart.” I am definintely going to work on making a log-line. Thank you so much for the tips. I look forward to reading more posts from you. Have a great day.

  55. #90 by gjoelfranco on July 3, 2014 - 5:34 pm

    Must read for all filmmakers! Happens to me all the time when people try to pitch. Loglines are almost an afterthought for so many people it is a little scary! Thank you for posting! Looking forward to check out more posts!

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