Today in Kelley Armstrong’s Dark Fantasy writing class we talked about loglines.
The term loglines comes from the movie business. All scripts need a logline; apparently this is what movie producers and studios read first, rather than the actual script itself, in order to decide if they’re interested.
Here’s a logline I bet you’ll be able to identify (courtesy of Writing Good Loglines):
A police chief, with a phobia for open water, battles a gigantic shark with an appetite for swimmers and boat captains, in spite of a greedy town council who demands that the beach stay open.
And how about this one?
A young farmer from a distant planet joins the rebellion to save his home planet from the evil empire when he discovers he is a warrior with legendary psychokinesis powers.
Pretty recognizable, right?
It turns out, though, that writing loglines isn’t easy. At least not for me. I wish I’d found the Writing Good Loglines page last night, when I was attempting to put together a logline for today’s class. It might have helped me a little!
This is the logline I ended up writing. I didn’t like it at all when I finished writing it—first, it was too long. And second, it made my entire story sound so trite and boring.
When a series of abductions and brutal murders rock the quiet town of Market Crossing, the forces of good and evil must work together to defeat an ancient enemy that threatens to annihilate all life on Earth.
After Kelley wrote my logline on the board, she pointed out the three tropes or clichés I was using. Yes, that’s right—not just one, or two, but THREE tropes. “The forces of good and evil”, “defeat an ancient enemy” and “annihilate all life on Earth”. No wonder my logline made my story sound so boring!
Luckily, both Kelley and my fellow classmates had suggestions and ideas. I used their feedback and came up with this revised logline:
When abductions and brutal murders devastate a quiet town, two teens must team up with the human embodiments of ancient forces.
Much shorter and no clichés. But I felt like it was missing something. So after class today I worked on it some more and came up with this:
Two gifted teens must join forces with a guardian spirit and a demon lord to solve a series of abductions and brutal murders devastating a quiet town.
I think that’s a little better, because it’s more specific. And it’s more specific because I finally made myself sit down and figure out who exactly one of my characters was. I still don’t quite know who she is for sure, but at least I know a bit more.
The best thing about this logline exercise? It made me see more clearly the story I’m writing. Since I don’t outline, this is pretty invaluable. I already have some revisions in mind!
So most of you know how nervous I’ve been about taking my first ever writing class/workshop. Nervous isn’t the right word, actually. Petrified is more like it. And stressed. Totally and absolutely stressed.
Well, I had my first day of class today. And while I was waiting for the elevator, I took a deep breath and told myself to think of it as an adventure. Which, strangely enough, really helped.
Despite this, I missed my subway stop. Fortunately, I was early, so that just made me a little less early.
And guess what?
I LOVED the class. Every last bit of it!
First of all, Kelley Armstrong is an awesome instructor. Simply and absolutely awesome (I’m not supposed to be using all those adjectives but I can’t help myself). She’s very down-to-earth and that was inspiring in and of itself—sometimes when I think about writing, it feels so precious. Too precious. And that’s when I stop myself from sitting down and actually writing. But Kelley talks about writing so matter-of-factly. There is no magic or mystique. It’s just about spending time doing what you love to do, and that’s something I lose track of sometimes.
We spent a bit of time talking about giving and receiving critiques, which I found extremely helpful. And then some of us read two pages of our opening scenes. I was NOT expecting this, and when I read my scene my voice quavered and my hands shook.
But it was worth it. The criticism I got was really good. Most of it was on point. Some things I wasn’t sure about, and a few things I knew weren’t right for me. Kelley had pointed out that approximately 85% of the comments she gets back from editors gets a clear “yes” from her, 10% she’s not sure about, and 5% are a clear “no”, and that was roughly how it panned out for me.
So now I have this list of things I want to change when I do my revisions. AND I’m all fired up about my story again.
Plus I feel like a writer. I feel I can do this, commit to my stories, get them finished and start the querying process.
But the most surprising thing for me? I ended up chatting with several of the other students, and it was such a wonderful feeling talking with other people who also love to write fiction. I tend to think of myself as an introvert, but I didn’t feel introverted at all today. It turns out, when you have a common ground like writing—especially when you enjoy writing the same kind of stuff—conversation is a breeze. Everyone I talked to was so interesting; I wanted to learn more about them, about what they’ve been writing, about their writing process.
I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, and the rest of the week. At the end of the course, we can submit revised pages of our work to Kelley—AND she’ll give us detailed comments if we’d like. I absolutely would like!
I have not felt so fired up about my writing in a long while. This class is definitely a good thing for me.