Monday, July 9, 2012

Loglines and Why You Need Them

What's a logline?  It's a word Hollywood uses to describe a sentence that distills the entire story into something anyone can understand.

You see the problem with that already, don't you?  Too bad, keep going.

This is not a new technique.  A hundred years ago David Belasco the great Broadway producer said you should be able to write your story on the back of a business card.  90 years later some wag in H'wood said it should be something you can shout across a parking lot and still have it understood.

That's why entertainment keeps being simplified and the ability for the audience to understand complications is progressively diminished.  You make things simpler, the audience expects simpler, simpler is rewarded, more simple is offered, the audience approves so even more simpler is concocted.  You know the routine as well as I do.

Why do you need this?  Because space is limited on some internet sites--Twitter comes to mind--but if you post a notice for your book on some Facebook pages,  only the first half sentence is visible unless the reader clicks on it.  Make it good.  Make it succinct.  Make the reader scrolling past at speed want to stop.

What's a good logline? It gives you the basics and the primary basic is the conflict.  What is going on, what's the main character struggling against?  Do that in 30 words or less--less is always better--and your description or blurb will be improved.  Don't try to tell the story.  Give them the sizzle not the steak.  It's all Hollywood now.

Nothing Serious--Life and love was nothing serious for Paige.  Then life decided it had other plans for her.

What does this tell us?  There's a woman named Paige who has been skating through life, not making commitments.   Then things happened she has no control over and she has to find a way to deal with them.

How do I know that?  Maybe she didn't deal with it.  Maybe she didn't and then I didn't write that book.  There are elements we assume.  A story has a beginning middle and end, there's action and we hope there's conflict.
We don't have to say these things, we're acculturated to this form of storytelling.  The best advice I can give anyone about how to write a book is to read a couple books on screenwriting.

Here's a script-based approach and I would disagree with none of it.  But hey, I'm a former scriptwriter myself.

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