Where I Discover I’m Terrible at Loglines

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!

12 thoughts on “Where I Discover I’m Terrible at Loglines

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      You’ve already met him, Memory! It’s Sweetness I’m not quite sure about. Not quite an angel. But sort of. I’m going with guardian spirit for now but I’m keeping my fingers crossed something even more accurate will come to me.

  1. Athira

    Those English class exercises where you had to read a long passage and then summarize the gist of it in 1-2 sentences? Yup – I sucked at them. Hated them too. I tend to be verbose, which I like. I reserve succinct sentences to work, where it helps to be short and sweet.

  2. Heidenkind

    I like your log.ine! I usually start with a one or two sentence summary of the book, then write a 2-3 page summary, and then a 10-15 page summary. It really does help focus on what your story’s about.

  3. Ti

    Am I alone in saying that I like your logline better?

    I had to do this for my screenwriting classes. I got quite good at it. Practice does help but if you don’t stay up on it you lose the knack. It’s like an unused muscle or something.

  4. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    I love the final logline you came up with! “Demon lord” definitely got my attention.

    I don’t write fiction, but this seems like a useful exercise for writing short blurbs for reviews or lists; I often struggle to write a quick one-sentence synopsis.

  5. Katherine @ I Wish I Lived in a Library

    I think I’d be terrible at this too but what a useful skill for writing and reviewing for that matter. I had a class in college where we had to write a one page paper about a particular issue for each class. While that class had nothing to do with my major it was one that I got the most out of because I really learned how to make a strong but brief argument. I imagine this would be similar. It definitely looks like you’re getting the hang of it though so I’m not sure you can say you’re terrible at them anymore!

  6. rhapsodyinbooks

    Wow, so interesting! You know, I think about that a lot, sort of, wondering how these people at PW and Kirkus always manage to come up with such pithy and informative summaries (sort of log-paragraphs). I can’t do it, but maybe a class with Kelley Armstrong…..


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