What‘s your logline?

Published by Larbrill on

(A great place to start your book trailer)

Imagine for a moment you’re sitting across from a literary agent. Next to her, a Hollywood producer. “What’s your story about?” they want to know. Your goal is to get her to take you on as a client, sell the rights to your book to Conglomerate Publisher Inc. and convince the Hollywood producer to option it and make a movie that will make you a critically acclaimed writer and millionaire.

So you begin by setting the scene, the time-frame, the characters, and their backstory. 10 minutes later someone is dragging you away before you’ve really gotten to the crux of the conflict. That’s okay, their eyes glazed over and you lost them in the first minute anyway. 

You need a log line. It’s been a staple of movie pitches since before the invention of popcorn and drive-ins. It’s a single sentence—maximum of two if they are short—that strips your story down to the core, most compelling elements. 

The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. (The Godfather)

A science-fiction fantasy about a naive farm boy who discovers powers he never knew he had when he teams up with a feisty princess, a mercenary space pilot, and an old wizard to lead a ragtag rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire. (Star Wars)

Six unemployed steelworkers form a male striptease act to pay their bills. Their swagger and friendship are tested as the audience of women cheer them on to go for “the full monty” – total nudity. (The Full Monty)

Think of your author book trailer as a pitch to an agent using a log line with visuals. If it’s good enough for the agent, why shouldn’t you use it for your readers and potential readers? If we accept the premise that the book trailer is a pitch with pictures, and we only have one minute to interest the viewer, a log line approach is a great format to follow.

There are variations on this theme, but all of them revolve around a template for log lines. As video book trailers, they all involve the same five elements tweaked to work as seamlessly as possible with the visuals. You have:

A protagonist
His or her goal
The antagonist or obstacle to the goal
The main action that drives the story
Call to action — “find out more/buy my book”

I’ve written more than a dozen versions of the logline for my novel, Déjà vu All Over Again, each one is tailored for a specific audience. This is my favorite de jour:

A washed-up screenwriter tries to re-boot his life by writing a script for himself and using it to recreate his high school days in hopes of finally winning over the girl he dumped forty years ago before she marries the wrong guy. Again.

Some loglines work neatly when they’re supported by visuals, and preferably a narrator. Others are too bare and lose the

emotional power that compelling copy with  great images can provide. For instance, you might rarely use the protagonist’s name in a short pitch, but in a video book trailer, giving your heroine a name will build a connection with the audience. But either way a log line is the critical starting point for creating a video and an awesome exercise to either start, or evaluate your novel.

Got a great logline of your own? Feel free to add it to the comment section below. In the meantime, take a lesson from this excerpt from TV Guide that serves as a logline for a well-known movie. …Or maybe not.


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