Authorguy's Blog

Loglines

Posted on: July 3, 2010


I just heard this term today.  Over on the Writer Unboxed blog, which I recommend everyone read, they just finished up a month of posts on various aspects of the craft of writing.  In the final post they had a summing up which mentioned this concept, about which I had never heard.  (See?  Good grammar.)

A logline is apparently a term used in scriptwriting, where it refers to “the short blurb in TV guides that tells you what a movie is about and helps you decide if you’re interested in seeing it.” This is apparently in contrast to a tag line, which from the look of things is even shorter, “a memorable phrase that will sum up the tone and premise of a brand or product”.

When I was writing St. Martin’s Moon, I would often describe the book I was working on as ‘it’s about a werewolf attack on a lunar colony.’  At which point their eyes would go wide and they’d say ‘Cool!’  However, that short description. however accurate it may be, and it didn’t end up that way, is neither a log or tag line, as I understand the terms.

The tag line I came up with is “The Moon is haunted, but the werewolves don’t know that.”  I came up with that one after a few years trying to come up with a synopsis for a query letter.  Unlike the first description it’s pretty accurate, but notice that it says almost nothing about the story.  Tag lines don’t.

Then I discovered loglines, to my dismay.  Bear in mind that I have spent literally years trying to come up with a short description of this book.  The funny thing is, taglines came to me easily.  It was the longer descriptions I couldn’t do.  Once I had to get involved with the plot, which taglines aren’t concerned with but loglines are, I found myself going in 3-5 directions at once, because that’s what the laughingly-so-called plot of this book does.

Happily, it seems that loglines aren’t the problem I thought they might turn out to be.  Unless I’m doing something wrong, which is always possible, the logline doesn’t need the complete plot, just the main plot.  In most cases there’s not much of a difference but in the case of St. Martin’s Moon the difference is considerable.  The main plot features Joseph Marquand, operator extraordinaire, recalled to space service to solve a werewolf attack in the most unlikely of places.  It’s everything else that causes the trouble.  Candace, Bing-Bang, Bertrand, and Dr. Ron are major players as well.  The whole concluding sequence depends on them, not Marquand, but they only get involved because Marquand is there.  So you can see where trying to get all this into a complete and short summary is not a doable thing.  I couldn’t even do it in a complete and long summary.  In fact, the only complete summary I can think of that does the story justice is the book itself.

But a logline is not a complete summary, it’s a teaser summary.  What good are spoilers to TV Guide, after all?  I came up with this, off the top of my head:  “A former operative turned werewolf hunter returns to the site of his lover’s death to solve the most unlikely case of all, a werewolf attack on the Moon itself.”

I wish I could get the ghosts in, though.

What do you think?

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5 Responses to "Loglines"

Hi Authorguy,

By coincidence, our werewolf-themed romance novel, Wicked Games, came out yesterday from the nice folks at Cobblestone Press. The logline describes things nice but the tagline, “Love had brought them together but would his secret tear them apart?”, somehow forgets to mention there’s a WEREWOLF in the story.

And worse…my writing partner and I wrote the tagline!

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Whoops!

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Back in the day when i was an editor, working on a typewriter, writing headlines and pix captions became almost second nature. For both, the space available was usually rigid and limited (“two lines, 48 picas”) and deadlines always loomed ’cause we did heads and captions last. So tags and loglines are the modern equivalent. In those days we had to be grammatical.

The trick is to tease, not be comprehensive.

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Did mine do the job?

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I like this…it’s a great way of thinking about loglines. It’s so hard to make a huge story small, and you have to when you’re talking to people about your work.

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