Loglines for Fiction

I recently listened to a podcast with authors from Realm Makers. They’re a close-knit group of professionals, mainly Christians, who have a great community to help writers.

Anyway, in the podcast, loglines were mentioned. I had briefly researched the topic, but never in-depth. My logline was underdeveloped, especially with new revisions on the way.

But what is a logline, and how can writers master this simple, yet challenging task?

What Are Loglines

Imagine wading through a jungle. The map is gone, and we’re lost. We see a small sign that points us to a trail leading home. Excited, we hurry along the path to reach its end.

A logline is like that sign. It’s a one or two sentence description of a manuscript—short and sweet. Sound easy? It’s anything but that for most writers.

We fantasy authors struggle the most with loglines since they’re so many details in our manuscripts. What to include, what to omit? The choice can be hard. Every single word counts in a logline. There’s only so much we can put on that small sign.

“Some of the examples of log lines given on various sites are ‘movie tags’ rather than true log lines. The difference is that a movie tag is an advertising hook used to intrigue a viewer, while a log line is a selling tool intended to persuade an agent or producer to read a manuscript.”

Maeve Maddox

How About Taglines

Taglines are different, and shouldn’t be confused with loglines. A tagline is a brief, catchy phrase or slogan. This phrase captures a central theme in the book usually on the cover. It entices readers to read the book.

Important Points of a Logline

1. Sympathetic, Struggling Protagonist

The protagonist is the crux of the story, and that’s what readers are interested in. By connecting a sympathetic protagonist to the audience, we forge the initial bond between hero and reader.

The struggle of the hero creates conflict, which encourages reader interest. Mention the challenges of the protagonist, the antagonist force, and what’s at stake. Think of: who, what, why?

2. Trendy Loglines

What about pitching the story to an editor, agent, or publishing firm? Is there money in the story? How does it stand out? A logline, like its story, should be unique.

There’s the argument that everything’s already been written; originality is dead. But there’s always new readers entering the market. Niches change, and trends come and go. Agents and editors pay attention to these trends—and so should we.

A good logline would play on current trends—or revisit old ones if they’re popular again. This requires some marketing research. Does the book play on themes of action, fantasy, sex, or greed? What elements can entice readers and encourage sales?

3. Simplification

It’s challenging to not go over that one or two sentence limit. Every word in a logline has weight and needs careful consideration. Complicated loglines will quickly lose reader interest. Don’t write super long sentences either; keep it no more than 35 words. We need short and sweet!

Logline Examples

  • A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.
  • The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. 
  • When an optimistic farm boy discovers that he has powers, he teams up with other rebel fighters to liberate the galaxy from the sinister forces of the Empire.”
  • A depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis decides to turn his hectic life around after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s attractive friend.

And hundreds more to view at this link.

Why Bother with a Logline?

Screenwriters need loglines for their movies. Why should we novelists have one? Because they:

  • Are a convenient, effective way to pitch to agents, editors, and potential readers
  • First impressions go a long way in spreading hearsay about a novel
  • Help us reflect on how we can represent the story better
  • Adds depth and professionalism to the presentation of a novel

Without a logline, the way we describe a story can become cumbersome, weak, and boring. We—epic fantasy writers especially—may lose sight of the central themes.

It’s surprising that a sentence or two can have such a big influence on a book’s success. Loglines may seem like a nuisance we can ignore, but they’ll serve our story in the end.

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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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