I meet a lot of people who tell me they are writers. This is awesome!
Sometimes, said writers want to tell me their book ideas. In exhaustive detail. Which is slightly less awesome because it gets kind of … long winded. Okay, really long winded. Why? Because they don’t have a log line, a one-sentence synopsis of their work. Which means usually their book explanation goes something along the lines of this:
Author: My book is about a girl who hunts sharks. On a desert island. With one hand. It’s called One-handed Shark Hunter.
Lara: That sounds really exciting! [Turns to go get a coffee.]
Author: Except, there’s this part in the book where a plane-load of football players crashes on the island and they become wild really fast, and before shark girl knows it, she’s being hunted like a boar through the underbrush by a really hungry Aaron Rodgers.
Lara: [Puts ideas of coffee on hold] Oh. Well. That certainly complicates things.
Author: Yes! And it only gets worse. You see, there’s this one place on the island where no one is supposed to go. Bodies were buried there thousands of years ago and it’s terribly haunted. But of course the one-handed shark hunter stumbles upon it when she’s running from Aaron Rodgers.
Lara: [Gazes longingly at espresso bar] This maybe sounds a little like Lost.
Author: Like what?
Lara: Nevermind. It’s great. I wish you all the best writing it. Thanks for sharing. [Starts out again for coffee]
Author: But I didn’t get to the part where the radioactive dynamite washes up on the shore and starts turning all the sting-rays into killer, man-eating, land-walking sting rays.
Lara: [Turns in disbelief] Land-walking sting rays?
Author: Yes. And it’s up to the one-handed shark hunter to save everyone because only SHE has the experience to do it.
Lara: But I thought she hunted sharks, not sting-rays?
Author: It’s a transferable skill.
Lara: Ah. I see. Well. Thank you for sharing. But I really should be going.
Author: Except, then —
Lara: Sorry. Must go. Bye. [Bolts for coffee. Does not look back.]
Don’t get me wrong. Sharing ideas is awesome. But condensing book ideas into a singe sentence?
That is priceless. And that’s also what’s called a log line.
For the Implosion of Aggie Winchester, I worked out my log line in a writers’ workshop. It wasn’t easy, but I came up with this:
In the Implosion of Aggie Winchester, a prom scandal forces a Goth girl to discover who she is underneath all the makeup.
This article from Daily Writing Tips has great insights on how to write a log line. In the article, they summarize Taxi Driver and Silence of the Lambs, which, while not books, are stories most of us are familiar with and consequently provide useful examples.
The super smart and insightful Donna Newton offers this post in which she explains the construction of a log line:
The format for a log line should be something close to this:
An ADJECTIVE NOUN (protagonist) must ACTIVE VERB the ANTAGONIST before SOME REALLY HORRIBLE THING HAPPENS (stopping the protagonist from reaching her goal).
Log lines don’t have to follow that format exactly, but they do need to be punchy and engaging.
Got a log line? Share it in the comments, as I’d love to hear it!