Logline Basics

Working on a query letter? Pitching in an event like Pitch Wars? Struggling to identify the core hook for your story? You might need a good logline.

I want you to imagine you’re in an elevator. In walks the agent of your dreams. And guess what? They will listen to ANYTHING you want to pitch. The catch? You only get one sentence.

This is where a logline will help you. It's a single-sentence pitch that tells you not just what your story is about but why someone will read it.

Now I know we’re in the elevator with the agent, but let’s take a step back to the development process. A logline will help you here, too, because it's a quick and easy way to experiment with different versions of your story.

TEMPLATE

Someone (the protagonist) wants something (the story goal) and goes after it against great odds and/or obstacles (the antagonist and the conflict).

The key here is to make the odds/obstacles BIG enough that they will take an entire story to resolve. Big doesn't necessarily mean complex, just that the stakes are large enough that no single decision will fix anything.

Side note: That is often why romantic conflicts are weak if everything would be solved by the characters just having an honest conversation. "You mean to tell me you had a rational explanation that I refused to listen to?!" *screams*

Think of your logline as more than the Setup. You need to encapsulate in a single sentence what the story is ABOUT. What are we going to experience in the meat of the story? Here are some examples.

EXAMPLES

In a world inspired by ancient Arabia, WE HUNT THE FLAME follows a girl named Zafira, who must disguise herself as a man to seek a lost artifact that could return magic to her cursed world.

In a world inspired by ancient Arabia, WE HUNT THE FLAME follows a girl named Zafira, who must disguise herself as a man to seek a lost artifact that could return magic to her cursed world.

PRETTY WOMAN: A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets...only to fall in love.

PRETTY WOMAN: A man in a legal but hurtful business needs an escort for some social events, and hires a beautiful prostitute he meets...only to fall in love.

YOU’VE GOT MAIL: Two business rivals who despise each other in real life unwittingly fall in love over the Internet.

YOU’VE GOT MAIL: Two business rivals who despise each other in real life unwittingly fall in love over the Internet.

CITY OF ANGELS: Seth, an angel who wanders the Los Angeles area invisible to humans, falls in love with a distraught heart surgeon Maggie, who inspires him to forego his immortality and exist on earth with her as a feeling and mortal entity.

CITY OF ANGELS: Seth, an angel who wanders the Los Angeles area invisible to humans, falls in love with a distraught heart surgeon Maggie, who inspires him to forego his immortality and exist on earth with her as a feeling and mortal entity.

THE PROPOSAL: The only person who can save a publisher’s editor in chief from being deported is the executive assistant who hates her.

THE PROPOSAL: The only person who can save a publisher’s editor in chief from being deported is the executive assistant who hates her.

Again, the key here is NOT to stop at the setup. If you make the hook about a decision, a choice, a secret, a revelation, what are you really promising to the reader?

The conflict you present needs to be something that takes the ENTIRE book to resolve. It takes a second to make a decision. It takes a second to discover something. And similarly, if that's where your pitch ends, readers have to ask okay, but what's the story???

Look again at PRETTY WOMAN. The hook isn’t whether Edward will ask Vivian to be his date. It’s the promise of what will happen WHILE she is his date.

Look again at CITY OF ANGELS. The hook isn’t whether Seth will choose to reveal himself to Maggie. It’s what happens AFTER he reveals himself.

Whether you're still writing or you're cooking up the perfect pitch for your finished book, I hope this lesson on loglines helps you get to the next stage of your publishing career.


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