This week, I’m going to discuss log lines. A log line is script writing device that tells the story in twenty-five words or less. It’s rather like the elevator speech they say you should have when job hunting. It is not the story itself. It’s not even a synopsis of the story. I wrote this one for the novel I’m currently revising. A cat familiar pits herself against a ruthless killer to keep her wizard’s ailurophobic friend out of prison for a murder he didn’t commit.
I’ve found this formula online: “When [INCITING INCIDENT] happens, [OUR PROTAGONIST] decides [TO DO ACTION] against [ANTAGONIST].” I found that at https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/write-compelling-logline-examples/. This is a tool mostly used by scriptwriters, but novelists can use it too.
You’ll note that my log line doesn’t follow that template. If you Google the term log line, you will find that template. There are others. It does incorporate everything a log line should, protagonist, stakes, goals and the antagonist. To rewrite my log line in that template would make it: When a wizard’s ailurophobic friend is accused of murder, a cat familiar must pit herself against a ruthless kill to save him.
As I have said, there are many templates on the internet which can help you write your log line. Be sure to use strong adjectives and the active voice when composing your log lines. State the character’s goals clearly and concisely. Make sure to include the stakes. A log line should answer who and what for both the protagonist and the antagonist. Who is the protagonist? In my example above, it’s a cat familiar. What is she trying to do? Keep a friend out of prison. Who is the antagonist? A ruthless killer. What is the killer trying to do? Stay out of prison and get away with murder. Then you simply string it all together.
If you can write a log line about your story before you write a word of it, your story will be clearer in your head. A clear idea of your story and it’s actions means that writing it will be clearer. Not only that, a log line can help you to explain your story to others.
The purpose of the log line is to sell the idea, not the story itself. It clarifies the story for you as the writer and tells readers enough for them to decide if they want to read it. It’s as simple as that. A good log line can be used in query letters to agents and publishers. You can also use it as the basis of the blurb for the back of your novel. It’s another tool in the writer’s toolbox. Done correctly, it can help you write the story, as well as sell the idea of the story.