1.12 – Loglines

In this episode, I . . .

Define the term logline.

A logline is a one-sentence description of your novel that hooks the reader and tells them what the story is about. You don’t really need a logline until you are ready to sell your book, but having one can help you stay on track as you write.

Logline ingredients:
1. Inciting incident.
2. A hero + an adjective that describes him or her.
3. The hero’s (primal) story goal that conflicts with his or her nature.
4. What’s at stake obstacle or a worst-case scenario that the hero wants to keep from happening.

A logline sentence might look something like this:

When the ____(inciting incident)____ happens to ____(adj. + hero)____ s/he struggles to ____(achieve the story goal)____ before the ____(what’s at stake obstacle)____ happens.

Here is an example from JAWS by Peter Benchley.

When residents of his seaside town are killed (inciting incident), a land lubber sheriff (adj. + hero) fights to kill a giant shark (achieve the story goal) to keep his family and others from getting eaten (what’s at stake obstacle).

Here is another way your logline sentence might look:

A(n) ____(adj. + hero)____ does/experiences the ____(inciting incident)____ and must face the ____(story goal)____ before the ____(what’s at stake obstacle)____ happens.

Here is an example from The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet by Stephanie Morrill:

An outcast teen (adj + hero) finds therapy writing her enemies into her story (story goal), but when her novel is published (inciting incident), she must face the consequences of using her pen as her sword (what’s at stake obstacle).

Another method to craft a logline is the “Who, Wants What, Why and Why Not?” method. You need:

Adjective and a Who (Ex: a blind dancer)
What the Who wants (Ex: to attend Juilliard)
Why does s/he want it? (Ex: to prove that disability isn’t weakness)
Why can’t s/he have it? (Ex: because she is deaf and can’t hear music)

Then you put it all together.

Ex: A blind dancer wants to attend Juilliard and prove that disability isn’t weakness, but her deafness keeps her from being able to hear music.

Tips to help you:
1. Your character description adverb should help show how your character is flawed in the worst way to face the challenge before him.
2. Choose active verbs that depict a battle.
3. The obstacle should feel insurmountable. The problem should be BIG.
4. The goal should have high stakes.
5. You don’t have to stick with any formula. As long as your sentence has a hero, a goal, and an obstacle, you’re good.

A logline is not a tagline, which is often used on the back cover of a book or on a movie poster. Most taglines hook interest along with an image but don’t reveal the conflict that would move the story along.

I hope this information helps you come up with a great logline for your story.