Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Log Lines - Author Life

One of the most important things an author can do while they're between works (or even while they're in the middle of a work) is study craft.

Studying craft is the deliberate decision to improve your abilities to write. All writers can benefit from it, and all writers nee to study craft on a regular basis. It's the best way to improve.

I've been studying craft this week and I came across Kristen Lamb's series about structure.

Now personally, I always hated structure. I never really knew why, but reading through Kristen's blogs, I realized why. I hate having to think too much about structure while I write. I'd rather write with abandon (with a detailed outline - I'm not a pantser) and worry about structure later.

While I was going through these blogs, I realized I tend to use a lot of structure already. But of course, I learned some wonderful new things.

One of them is loglines. A log line is a one sentence summary of your novel.

I'm not stranger to short summaries. I did a whole blog post about it in my old blog. But looking back over it it's a bit... lacking.

So let's see if we can change it up and make it better.

Old Log Line

The Stolen Defender - A high ranking member of a private army encounters a strange alien from another planet, fuses with him, and it is up to his partner and the alien's sister to separate them before they turn the population into a black army.

A good log line will have three elements.

IRONY - Or in simpler terms, it should have a contradiction. In Michael Cricton's Prey, the main character is an out of work computer program and his goal is to stop a robotic threat (taken from Lamb's blog). In Tolkein's The Hobbit, Bilbo is a peaceable creature who's goal is to burgle from a dragon. In Jess E. Owen's Song of the Summer King, Shard is the lowest gryfon in his pride, but he's actually a king both from legend and by birth. In K. M. Carroll's Storm Chase, Carda is an average kid who becomes the most important magic user in his world.

You get the idea.

EMOTIONAL INTRIGUE - Your log line should bring some EMOTION into things. If I don't already feel emotionally attached to your character, then I'm not going to read your book. Emotional intrigue can also paint the whole picture of the novel for you as well.

INTEREST AND CONFLICT - Your log line should be interesting and it should have conflict. Conflict drives a story. It's necessary to show us the conflict and stakes right away.

It also has specific parts, according to Kristen.

Protagonist - Active Verb - Active Goal - Antagonist - Stakes.

Going back to Storm Chase.

A high school senior (protagonist) must harness his new-found powers (active verb) to stop a cursed storm (active goal) and the mage enabling the storm's creator (antagonist) before it swallows Earth whole (stakes).

That's a pretty strong log line.

Irony - A high school senior with enough powers to save the world.
Emotional Intrigue - The protagonist has brand new powers and is already expected to save the world. That's gotta be tough on the psyche.
Conflict - A world eating storm AND a fellow magic user enabling it. Scary stuff.

I should note that it's better to use character professions and descriptions rather than names for a log line, since it gives potential readers, agents, and publishers an idea of what your character is like.

So let's try and do it for Zyearth.

A high ranking soldier (protagonist) must unravel (active verb) the mystery of a pack of indestructible black monsters (active goal) and the alien invader controlling them (antagonist) before the invader destroys the soldier's friends and family (stakes).

Let's break it down.

Irony - A high ranking soldier has been asked to unravel a mystery rather than simply fight.
Emotional Intrigue - Not only are the monster's a mystery, but there's also a mystery behind the alien invader, which has my attention.
Conflict - Monsters, invaders, and a threat of family and friends destroyed. I think there's lots of conflict in there.

What do you guys think? Good log line? What would your log line be for your WIP?


  1. It's good! But destroying friends and family is sort of vague...maybe you could strengthen that with something more specifically devastating. :) I'm also not sure how it's irony to have a high-ranking soldier solve a mystery. It's interesting, but not really ironic.

    Mine would be:

    An overprotective brother (protagonist) must protect his sister by hiding (active verb) his secret double life - as a soldier in another world (active goal) protecting earth from brutal invaders (antagonist). If she finds out, a second memory wipe could completely destroy her brain (stakes).

    A little messy, but you get the idea! :)

    1. Ha ha, yeah, mine needs a little work. Honestly, I realized the other day that I highlighted the wrong character in my logline. o_o I should have highlighted Izzy and instead I highlighted Matt. I'll have to go change that.

      Your long line looks good too! Though again, like you said, it doesn't have the same kind of irony. I wonder if irony is really necessary. Not all books have it, I don't think.


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