Loglines…one last time

Authoress Anon held her third (and final) logline crit session this week. I must start by saying that I was very impressed with all of the comments on the loglines. There were many times where I REALLY had to struggle to say something new and I didn’t always succeed. In most cases, the loglines had clearly defined characters, inciting incidents, goal, conflicts and consequences, (BRAVO!).  Having said that, there were still some instances where there were other issues. These included:

1) Focus on the main character: Your logline is about your main character and NO ONE ELSE. All we need to know is their journey. We don’t need anyone else’s names and we certainly don’t need their goals.

2) Stay in the present. I don’t just mean the tense (although loglines should always be written in present). What I mean is focus on what happens in the book. We don’t need to know the main character’s back story. Just tell us what is happening to them now, in this book.

3) Who is the antagonist?  The antagonist is the character who creates the conflict. There were instances where the conflict was identified but it wasn’t specific enough to appear like a real conflict. For example:

Bob has to battle evil forces.

This is not a clear conflict.

Bob has to defeat the King of Sweden

This is.

4) Inner goal masked as outer goal – If you identify your main character’s goal as something like, “find strength/decide/choose” then you are probably mistaking the inner goal for the outer goal. As I said before, the outer goal is the tangible thing the main character wants to achieve. Things like “finding strength” are the inner conflicts that prevent them from achieving these goals.

5) New concepts – A logline is not the place for worldbuilding. If you are introducing a concept that is not completely self-evident, use wording so it is. This is not the place to tell us that your main character has to battle Werebits, which happen to be a breed of half-werewolf, half-rabbit that was create by an evil Scientist who want an animal that was vicious but looked, well, as cute as a bunny.

6) Too many goals – I can’t say this again but I will anyway. ONE TANGIBLE OUTER GOAL. Tell us the one thing your main character wants to achieve and leave the rest out. Sure, he might also want to win a medal, get the girl and eat a cookie. That’s fabulous but it doesn’t belong in the logline.

Loglines, Part Deux

Another week, another round of loglines on Authoress Anon’s blog, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed overall. I don’t think I read a single logline without a clearly defined (and described!) main character.  I also found that almost all loglines made the main character’s goals quite clear and most even stated the conflict and the consequences. If I had to point out two things that I noticed a few times, they would be these:

1) Loglines are usually about the main character’s outer goal and the outer goal has to be tangible. Does this mean you can’t write your logline about the inner goal? Not necessarily. But outer goals are the ones that are routed in the concept and that tends to be the unique hook a novel offers. Sure, maybe you can find a way to create a character arc that is totally unique, but I’m willing to guess that it’s going to be pretty hard.

2) Consequences (or stakes) cannot be wishy washey. Take these examples:

a) If Bob doesn’t return the diamond, Gino is going to cut his throat.

b) If Bob doesn’t return the diamond, Gino might cut his throat.

c) If Bob doesn’t return the diamond, Gino might possibly do something really bad to some people.

The point of these examples is to show that A is a rock solid consequence,  B is a possible consequence and C is just something vague that may or may not happen to someone. What you want in a logline is A. Yes, it may be more complicated than that in your book. Doesn’t matter. For the purposes of your logline, you need these consequences to be crystal clear.

3) I said I only had two items but I just thought of a third. Don’t confuse your obstacles with your goal. For example:

I need to make a cake for a birthday party tomorrow.

This is a goal.

I need my husband to get home soon so I can borrow his car to go to the store so I can buy eggs that I need to make a cake for a birthday party tomorrow.

Up until the “need to make a cake” part, what I’ve listed are the obstacles that are going to make my goal more difficult. For the purposes of the logline, we don’t need these.

I’ve just read that Authoress is going to do another round next week. OY! I guess I’ll see you then!


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 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!