Loglines

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Paul Whybrow

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Jun 20, 2015
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We’ve talked about loglines or elevator pitches many times on the Colony.

https://colony.litopia.com/threads/one-line-pitch.1525/#post-24379

I’ve gotten into the habit of starting a synopsis with a preface that sums up the plot in a couple of sentences, but, making another query last night, a literary agent specifically asked for a logline to describe my book. Toby Munday is an agent at Aevitas who use an online submission form. Theirs is different to most agencies who appear to have bought commercial software. Aevitas don’t call it a logline: rather, they describe it as a “One sentence summary of your book or manuscript.”

In seven years of making 850 queries, this is the first time a logline has been requested. I wonder if it’s the start of a trend.

Mine, for The Dead Need Nobody, is: “An art gallery owner prefers paintings to people, killing to protect his collection, something that Detective Chief Inspector Neil Kettle finds repugnant, so he lures him into a trap.”

What’s your logline or elevator pitch for your latest book?

iu
 
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Ha... haven't thought about it... yet.

I'm not happy about that bit- you're giving the whole game away. You have to keep your readers guessing right to the end.
I'm still half-teasing. The logline, in this case, is aimed at a literary agent—who, as we all know, want to know everything!
 
is aimed at a literary agent
I don't think that is the case. Agents usually ask for a log-line so they can put it at the back of the book/blurb. You don't think agents or publishers are going to go out of their way to make one up for you, :D do you?
 
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I think the major difference between a log-line and a single-sentence summary is the question raised (but don't quote me!).

Logline: a blind spy chases the murdering mole across the desert with nothing but super-tech and a big dog.
Short and pithy, a brief insight into the potential for a story question.

Summary sentence: When a blind spy seizes the opportunity for her last op - to uncover the mole who murdered her only friend, she takes the super-tech and the dog and chases him through the desert, through bush-fire hell and no water, to get his confession before she is forced out by disability.
Not so short, a bit pithy, but a clear direction and desire for the protag.

However, as I said, that's my understanding and I've been known to be slightly off-kilter with these things.
 
It may change but this is mine. It also appears in the middle of my proposed query letter.

When Jed returns from five years in a Moroccan jail he discovers who framed him, who told Agi he was dead and who is now visiting her bed.
 
I don't think that is the case. Agents usually ask for a log-line so they can put it at the back of the book/blurb. You don't think agents or publishers are going to go out of their way to make one up for you, :D do you?
You're thinking of taglines, and yes, publishers will make them up, along with titles. That's what they have marketing departments for. A logline, on the other hand, is part of a pitch to an agent or publisher. It must contain character, premise, genre (implicitly) and (broadly) plot. The logline's job is to encapsulate the story for an industry professional. The tagline's job is to hook the public into buying it.

For example, the logline from the movie Alien would be something like:

Seven space truckers accidentally pick up a hostile alien lifeform intent on picking them off one by one in the confines of their giant star freighter

While the tagline was:

In space, no one can hear you scream


Loglines and taglines are different beasts with different jobs.
 
I'm still sticking to my guns about a log line and apparently I'm not the only one to think so:

A log line or logline is a brief (usually one-sentence) summary of a television program, film, or book that states the central conflict of the story, often providing both a synopsis of the story's plot, and an emotional "hook" to stimulate interest. A one-sentence program summary in TV Guide is a log line. Log line - Wikipedia
 
There is a lot of terminology in any industry that gets used in different ways, usually specifically in a professional situation and less so in more 'casual' contexts. It's those casual uses that tend to muddy the water. The point is that, whatever you call them, loglines and taglines (plus blurb) have different functions -- one is a pitch to an industry professional, while the other is a pitch to the public. It's an important distinction.
 
I use my logline as a 'grounding' sentence to make sure I stay on track with my plot. For novel 3 it was: If Nick, an MI5 linguist, doesn't pay his £63k gambling debt in one week, the Russian Mafia will kill his wife. Whether that logline is any good, I don't know.

Novel number 4 is about to be born, and I've decided to start it by writing a logline before anything else. After all, if I can't write the logline now, how will I know what the story will be about? The logline will give me the brief concept of the plot and I can measure any scene against that line to make sure it serves the plot/concept/etc. I'll then expand that into a paragraph / blurb. Then into a page, and now I have a synopsis, thank you. Only then will I begin the actual novel. The tag line will be composed at the end. I might end up using a phrase from the text.

My logline will go into a letter to an agent or publisher. My tagline won't. The tagline is for that glorious day when someone designs the front cover of my book.

I hate writing loglines. I love writing taglines. Or is it the other way round?
 
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Good idea @Barbara! I will now write a logline for my book 3 before I start. Even though I've already written an outline. I'm sure it will help.

Thanks @Rich. The Alien example really clarifies the difference.
 
I use my logline as a 'grounding' sentence to make sure I stay on track with my plot. For novel 3 it was: If Nick, an MI5 linguist, doesn't pay his £63k gambling debt in one week, the Russian Mafia will kill his wife. Whether that logline is any good, I don't know.
That one sounds pretty good to me.
 
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