In preparation for her December Agent Auction, the fabulous Authoress let people submit trial loglines on her blog today. Because she was so gracious to use my logline formula, I thought I should return the favor and critique all of the entries.
In case you didn’t see it, the formula of mine that she posted was as follows:
When [MAIN CHARACTER] [INCITING INCIDENT], he [CONFLICT]. And if he doesn’t [GOAL] he will [CONSEQUENCES].
When I critiqued the entries, I looked for the following:
[MAIN CHARACTER]: I prefer a name here and possibly one characteristic, such as “14-year-old Cara” or “professional assassin Bob”. What I didn’t want to see was a long list of characters with no obvious main character, or a introduction like, “Bob Smith was born in Ireland in 1975. His parents were potato farmers but they were both involved in a horrific car accident involving a tractor and a flying spaceship. Sadly, they didn’t survive so Bob had to live the rest of his life in an orphanage which is where we start this story.” Luckily, Authoress’s contributors are better than this so while I did occasionally see a bit TMI, I saw more people leaving the details out.
[INCITING INCIDENT] – This is whatever situation starts the story. For example, “When Amy’s parents decide to move the entire family to Mars…” Most of the posts today had this information although a couple didn’t put it right up front and it really belongs at the beginning of the logline.
[CONFLICT] – This is the conflict in the story or the “who/what is going to stop the MC from reaching his goal”. For example, “Bob must defeat a group of evil squirrels.” Note that this does not have to be stated before the goal (often, it is easy to put them together). In most of the posts I read, the conflict was fairly clear.
[GOAL] – This is the tangible outer goal of the main character. For example, “Bob needs to find the stolen jewel and return it to his boss before midnight.” A lot of the posts I read were either missing this or had it buried. This really is the most important part of your plot. It can’t be missing from the logline.
[CONSEQUENCES] – This is what happens if the main character fails to meet his goal. For example, “If Amy doesn’t get her job back, she won’t be able to pay her rent and her children will have to live on the street.” A lot of the loglines I read were either missing this or didn’t make it strong enough to make us care.
If there is one thing I think everyone should take away from this contest it is this: the point of a logline, and of a novel, is not just to make the reader interested, it’s to MAKE THEM CARE.
I look forward to the next round of entries!