I love loglines. There’s no better feeling than pulling together words that capture the spirit of your book in a perfect, compelling way. I teach a submissions class for the Lawson Writer’s Academy and find that loglines are a major source of stress for my students.
Have you ever noticed that loglines are only fun to come up with when they’re NOT yours?
There’s a reason for that.
But first, there’s some confusion about taglines vs loglines, so let’s start there.
- A taglineis a catchy ‘movie poster’ phrase.
- Alogline is a 25 word synopsis of your book.
Examples illustrate the difference clearly:
Tagline – Don’t go in the water.
Logline – After a series of grisly shark attacks, a sheriff struggles to protect his small beach community against the bloodthirsty monster, in spite of the greedy chamber of commerce. (from J. Gideon Sarentinos)
So WHY is it so hard to write loglines for your own books? You’re too close to it. A logline is a concise, yet sweeping portrayal of your novel’s genre, conflict, characters and emotion. Did I mention in 25 words? Yeah, no problem.
There are formulas to come up with loglines:
- At Filmmaking101 Joe Lam says it must have 5 parts: Protagonist, genre, inner conflict, outer conflict, and climax.
- Blake Snyder in his book Save the Cat! says: It must contain a type of hero, the antagonist, the hero’s primal goal and it must have irony.
- Some say, all you need is a characterwith a goal and a
All those work. They’ll give you a perfectly workable logline. A workmanlike logline.
But to me, that’s only a place to start.
THEN you need to add what Margie Lawson calls,
Something that make readers say, ‘Ohhhhh…”
- Use Backloading: If you haven’t yet attended a Margie class (and if not, you seriously need to – trust me) backloading is taking the most important word in your sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter, and placing it at the end.
Example: Smoke rolled into the sky, spreading over the dairy like an angry fist.
- Use Power words:Very simply a word that carries power. In the above example, ‘angry’ and ‘fist’ hold power, because they evoke emotion.
- A tough principal takes revolutionary measures to clean up a notoriously dangerous inner-city New Jersey high school.Lean on Me
- A meek and alienated little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial and has to find the courage to defy authorities to help the alien return to its home planet. ET
- Naive Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to.Midnight Cowboy
- In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed.Minority Report
- A comedic portrayal of a young and broke Shakespeare who falls in love with a woman, inspiring him to write “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare in Love
- An archaeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.Raiders of the Lost Ark
It could be as simple as an intriguing title. 40 Year Old Virgin? Who wouldn’t want to read on to find out about that?!
It could be the intriguing premise, stated by combining two disparate references:
Personally, I’m a fan of using an intriguing line from your book. It can be a good intro to your voice.
This is the line I used in my query for my novel, The Sweet Spot:
The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was thankful for the bull semen.
From Her Road Home:
You can’t outrun nightmares on a motorcycle – Samantha Crozier knows because she’s tried.
Get the idea? Seem impossible? It’s not. Think about your book. SOMETHING was intriguing enough about the idea to make you spend months writing it. What was that? What was Different? Fun? Compelling?
Share your logline in the comments!