I was skyping with my writer friend Jocosa of the Earrings (who blogs at I may not be John Irving where theatre meets writing), and we were discussing the logline for her work-in-progress. She is going to a conference and they asked participants to write a logline for their manuscript.
My first question was: what's a logline?
Different from the high concept blurbs on my novels like: It's Nancy Drew meets Lady Macbeth (Dead Bird through the Cat Door) or It's Nancy Drew for the ipod generation (Dead Frog on the Porch) a log line is most often used in the movie industry. It boils the story down to its essence.
The elements of a logline include:
who the story is about (protagonist)
what s/he strives for (goal)
what stands in his/her way (antagonistic force).
A logline doesn't tell the entire story. It's a hook, and uses story elements to reveal the dramatic narrative.
Let's look at some famous loglines:
After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home. - THE WIZARD OF OZ
OR:Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to do it again. — Humourous Logline for The Wizard of Oz, attributed to Richard Polito of the Marin Independent Journal who writes sarcastic briefs for the paper's daily TV listings.
After being institutionalized for a suicide attempt, a teen struggles for sanity and closure but must overcome his greatest adversary first – his mother. - ORDINARY PEOPLE
In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a despondent cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed. - MINORITY REPORT
You'll notice some similarities: cause and effect, well chosen adjectives, and the fact that the protag struggles against an antagonistic force.
Here's my log line/back of the book cover blurb for Dead Frog on the Porch:
Sisters Cyd and Jane are propelled into an international plot involving evil scientists and giant, genetically stretched frogs. They struggle to save the frog kingdom as their scientist mom sides with the geneticists, and the police don’t believe them. (Alright, it's a little long, I'll work on it).
Jocosa's log line about our friendship and journey as struggling writers:
Now we just need someone to write the screen play ... I'm busy making lentil soup.A wannabe woman's fiction writer teams up with a crazed lentil addicted YA author. Together they crash conferences and stalk agents and novelists on their bipolar ride to publishing stardom.
What the log line for your work-in-progress?