Thursday, November 4, 2010


Loglines, it's all about the loglines - one or two sentences to sell your 70,000 words (or more) of brilliance to . . . everybody: agent, editor, publisher, friends, lovers, and mortal enemies.

Holly Bodger over at Random Notes from Holly Bodger did two recent posts about Loglines: here and here. Authoress over at Miss Snark's First Victim provided the link to the second post here. Go on, check things out. Thanks.

Now, back to the loglines. According to Holly Bodger, there are five elements of the logline as follows:
  • Main Character
  • Inciting Incident
  • Conflict
  • Goal
  • Consequence

In her first logline post, Holly provides a description of each element and examples as well. In the second logline post she does a bit of clarification and provides a few more examples.

Since I've been working on my own logline for my cozy mystery, this information has come in handy.

But, being the generous person I can be (shhhh, don't let my sisters know), I'm going to share the knowledge by providing an example of my own by using a well-known fairy tale character: Little Red Riding Hood.

Main Character = Little Red Riding Hood

Inciting Incident = going to grandma's house to deliver a basket of goodies

Conflict = Big Bad Wolf

Goal = reaching grandma's house safely . . . and delivering the basket of goodies

Consequences = twofold: ending up dead or grandma starving to death

So, in the grand tradition of loglines, using the elements provided by Holly Bodger . . .

When Little Red Riding Hood (main character) sets off through the woods (inciting incident) to grandma's house, she encounters (conflict) the Big Bad Wolf. Suddenly, the forest isn't so inviting, and Little Red must use all her cleverness to make it safely (goal) to grandma's house before the wolf eats (consequence) her and grandma starves (consequence) to death.

Okay, I'm winging it here and adding a bit of drama . . . just for funsies. Still, the logline - 2 sentences - contains the five elements outlined by Holly Bodger: main character, inciting incident, conflict, goal, and consequences.

As I work on my own logline, I'm making sure I incorporate all these elements into the logline. So far, so good.

Oh, and just for fun, Authoress is having a logline critique session on her blog. Go over, look at some of the loglines, and see if they have (or don't have) all the necessary elements.

Have fun.



Tess said...

how come we can write a huge novel but struggle with a three sentence summary? at least, I do. this is a fun formula, though...helpful, I think.

and, I owe big thanks to Miss Snarks First Victim. I placed 3rd in her secret agent contest and, while I didn't end up w/ that agent, it was the first step that got me to where I am now. She's a good egg.

Scott said...

Tess - I don't have a clue. I always struggle with my query, and the logline, and yet I don't have a problem pounding out 64,000 words. Go figure.

Authoress is great. I love her contests. I really wish I had my MS ready to go so I could have entered the logline contest. But . . . another few months of editing and all that jazz before that's going to happen.


scott g.f.bailey said...

This is a really excellent explanation of loglines, and once you have a logline, the rest of the query is just filler.

Scott said...

Scott - Holly did a great job of explaining. She really had me narrow my logline down into a neat - and hopefully sellable - hook! It was fun taking these elements and looking at the loglines on Miss Snark's First Victim blog. Very enlightening.

And, you're right - of course - that the rest of the query is filler.


Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Ugh, loglines. My motto is that if you can't write a good logline you really have no clue what your book is about - and that's a sign of a deeper underlying problem. This has frightened me on more than one occasion. :)

Scott said...

Michelle - I agree: UGH! This formula really helps with writing the logline. Also, I think things come easier to some people: query letters, synopsis, loglines, dialogue, long narrative passages. We all have strengths and weaknesses. My weakness is, well, the logline and the query. Still, practice makes perfect, and I'm getting better. I love it when I find something that helps me better understand how to do something.

I was horrible in math in high school. Absolutely horrible, I don't know how I passed algebra. In college . . . straight As, because I had professors that took the time to really show me how to do algebra. Go figure. So, I learned algebra and was pretty dang good at it.

The same thing goes for loglines: I've found a formula that helps me better understand how to craft a logline. It's all in how we learn.


Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Scott, yeah. I actually really don't like formulas for loglines, but maybe I should. My loglines might just suck and nobody is telling me. I FINALLY, after 16 years came up with this one for THE BREAKAWAY. It's like I finally figured out what the darn book was about.

All Naomi wants is to feel love from her indifferent parents. When she is kidnapped by a group of middle-aged jewel thieves, she must decide between a family who never loved her and a family who is stealing her heart.

So that's the brief logline and here's the followup if I want more...

Told from both Naomi's and her mother's point of view, The Breakaway explores the complex bond between a mother and daughter - a bond both of them are in danger of losing forever.

This will most likely change when I rewrite the book, but maybe not. These are the basic elements of the story and those shouldn't change. What's funny is I wrote both of these in 2 minutes flat the other day. No effort. It's like it was all building up.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Oh, and I have formulas for my novels, but they change with the novel and they are formulas I made up myself that work for me and only my writing. I'm not sure I'd really call them formulas more than a way to roadmap.