Official Website of Holly Bodger - Author of 5 TO 1

Loglines

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!

Category: Contests, On Writing
  • Stina Lindenblatt says:

    Hi Holly. I found your blog through today’s MSFV post. I didn’t have a chance to enter the critique but hopefully next week. Both this post and your feedback on the entries has been extremely helpful. I realize now that my one sentence logline is good since it fits all the criteria list here. I was worried that maybe my three sentence pitch was better because it has more info (but is still concise). But according to the guidelines, even though it’s only 66 words, it’s too long since it’s three sentences instead of one or two.

    Thanks for your advice and feedback. :D

    October 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm
  • Michael T. says:

    Hi Holly,
    thank you for your thoughtful (and highly perceptive) comments on my logline yesterday. (I write under the name Ingrid Michaels) Although it felt better to read the comments stating my logline was perfect, your comments were more helpful, zeroing in immediately on the weaknesses of my indecision. I also thank you for your highly effective logline formula. Lastly, I snooped around your site and found your posts on writing truly worthwhile. I’m getting Donald Maass’ How to Write the Breakout Novel because I saw it listed in your books section and I value your opinion. Thanks for the help. PS. As a former Philosophy/Logic/Argumentation teacher I found your post on fallacies interesting and informative.

    October 22, 2010 at 10:35 am
  • S. Kyle Davis says:

    Holly,

    Thanks SO MUCH for your comments about my logline for BLACKBIRD. It was extremely helpful. This, too, is very helpful, so hopefully I’ll get my logline perfected before the submissions. I’d love to be part of the auction!

    I must follow your blog now and read more of your excellent advice.

    Thanks again!

    October 22, 2010 at 11:00 am
  • Tracy Holczer says:

    You’ve got some great posts here and I wanted to thank you for taking the time.

    I’ve so struggled with the consequences part of the logline. Although my girl is trying to get away from what she perceives as a bad situation, it really isn’t. It a combination of her perception and her actions that keep it that way. Once she realizes this, things change. She does have an outward goal, but it is unattainable, and her realizing this also changes her for the better. So the consequences part has me stumped.

    For example, in SPEAK, what would you say her goal and the consequences are? They seem to me to be internal so I’m not sure how to fit them into the suggested formula. Same with stories like Winn Dixie or Bridge to Terebithia. I’ve always seen these stories as having a throughline, but not neccessarily an outward goal the character is reaching for, or consequences if they don’t reach it.

    Maybe the consequences are implied in the logline when it is clear the goal is unattainable?

    October 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm
  • hollybod says:

    Tracy: If she believes the situation is bad and thus wants to get away from it, that’s a realistic goal for her. The fact that she’s wrong in the end is irrelevant. As for the consequences…there has to be a reason why she thinks she needs to get away. Again, she can be wrong but it needs to make sense in her mind (even if the reader thinks she’s wrong!) I’ve never heard of an unattainable outer goal. The MC doesn’t always meet the goal but they have to believe they CAN meet it for part of the novel. Otherwise, you have a defeated protagonist and it’s pretty hard to hook readers on that kind of character. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible or that there aren’t books that do this. It just means it is a bigger challenge. Having said that, Michael Hauge would tell you that the MC HAS TO HAVE A GOAL and HAS TO MEET THAT GOAL.

    It’s funny that you ask about SPEAK because I just read it and I found the MC’s goal a little unclear in the beginning. I think her goal is to tell someone what happened and the consequences of her not telling are the danger to her former friend (Rachel?) and the danger to herself. Having said that, she is a bit of a defeated protagonist because her inner goal (or arc) is to stand up for herself so she has to start off almost passive. Perhaps it is the strength of her inner arc that outweighs the weakness of the outer one?

    October 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm
  • Tracy Holczer says:

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. I’ll keep at it and see what I come up with.

    October 22, 2010 at 6:16 pm
  • Tracy Holczer says:

    “…there has to be a reason why she thinks she needs to get away.”

    Breakthrough!!

    October 22, 2010 at 6:19 pm
  • Courtney says:

    Thanks again, Holly, for your comments for us all. I wish you and the Authoress could see all of our new, improved log lines so you could bask in the glory of having helped us all! :-)
    Have a great weekend.

    October 22, 2010 at 8:25 pm
  • hollybod says:

    Courtney: I’ll be looking for them in the December Agent Auction!

    October 22, 2010 at 8:33 pm
  • Marne Kirstatter says:

    Holly,
    Thank you so much for your feedback. I’ve printed out your formula, read everyones loglines and comments, and am going to try again on this log-line business… But boy, loglines are more difficult than writing the synopsis or the story…

    October 23, 2010 at 11:52 am
  • Rachael Harrie says:

    Hi Holly, just wanted to say a huge thanks for your comments on my logline for FROM THE OTHER SIDE. You’ve given me some fantastic feedback and I can’t wait to go and revise in preparation for the December Auction. Now I just have to cross my fingers that I get in :)

    Rach

    October 28, 2010 at 1:20 am
  • Robyn Campbell says:

    I wish you’d looked at mine. Came over here from Scott Mitchell’s blog. (He’s a long time Dolphin fan with me.) Anyway maybe I’ll learn a thing or three. Thanks for all the teaching goin’ on over here. :)

    November 17, 2010 at 6:56 pm
  • says:

    Hi Robyn,

    I didn’t get a chance to look at the 2nd and 3rd groups of loglines before everyone else commented, but I’d be happy to do so if you send me the link (or post it here).

    Holly

    November 17, 2010 at 7:00 pm
  • Robyn Campbell says:

    Thanks Holly. I followed your formula and am getting requests FOR FULLS! :)

    December 11, 2010 at 10:31 am
  • says:

    Great news, Robyn. Good luck!!!

    December 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm
  • Robyn Campbell says:

    Holly, would you look at my logline? I only got three requests. Something still isn’t right about it. Purty please.

    April 23, 2011 at 11:50 am
  • says:

    Absolutely. Email it to me at holly[at]hollybodger.com

    April 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm
  • Nils says:

    Hei Holly, I stumbled across this post a while back and found it vastly illuminating. I’m nowhere near finished with my book, and pitching it to agents is not what I’m concerned with yet, but this concise formula made me really look at my plot and tighten it and figure out what’s at the core of it. Besides, it helps avoid the awkward mumbling and rambling when someone asks what I’m writing about.

    I linked to it on the Storywonk Daily forums; I hope you don’t mind.
    http://storywonk.com/forum/discussion/31/so-what-are-you-writings#Item_4

    October 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm
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