Sanity Snippet #9

How’s your story idea coming? Here’s an exercise that is difficult, rewarding, and necessary if you want to create an engaging novel. It’s called the logline.

Simply put, the logline is a bird’s-eye one sentence description of your story.

Why is this important? There are two main reasons. One is for your benefit. Experts say that if you cannot condense your novel into one sentence then you either don’t understand your story or you are trying to do too much (something I’m often guilty of). Your logline will keep you from chasing too many rabbits as you draft your story. In other words, it will keep you on the right track.

The second reason your logline is important is to trigger interest in a prospective reader. “Oh, that sounds interesting.” That’s what you want your audience to say. Hopefully, this, along with your book cover and blurb motivates potential readers to purchase and consume your story.

What should be addressed in your logline? H.R. D’Costa offers this helpful template in her Story Outlines book:

  1. because of a compelling reason,
  2. a protagonist must accomplish a goal
  3. despite extraordinary resistance.

D’Costa also tweaks the above to include step-numbers from her detailed story outlining list.

  1. because of the stakes [action step #6],
  2. a protagonist [action steps #2 and #3b]
  3. must accomplish a goal [action step #2]—
  4. despite the antagonistic forces in his way
    [action #3a].

She offers several examples. I like these two the best (quotation marks omitted):

A Few Good Men:
To prevent two marines from being convicted of murder, a US Navy lawyer—accustomed to easy victories—must elicit a confession from a powerful colonel desperate to suppress the truth.

Here, I’ve added the related attribute from D’Costa’s tweaked template:
Because of the stakes (To prevent two marines from being convicted of murder)
a protagonist (a US Navy lawyer—accustomed to easy victories)
must accomplish a goal (must elicit a confession from a powerful colonel)
despite the antagonistic forces in his way (desperate to suppress the truth).

Here’s the second example I like:
One for the Money:
Facing eviction and desperate for cash, a freshly minted female bounty hunter must apprehend a cop accused of murder…who also happens to be her ex-flame.

Here, I’ve added the related attribute from D’Costa’s tweaked template:
Because of the stakes (Facing eviction and desperate for cash)
a protagonist (a freshly minted female bounty hunter)
must accomplish a goal (must apprehend a cop accused of murder…)
despite the antagonistic forces in [her] way (who also happens to be her ex-flame).

Here’s the logline for my current work in progress, The Boaz Stranger:
To get justice for the disappearance and presumed death of his high school friend half-a-century ago, a sixty-six year old Yale Law School professor must return to his North Alabama hometown to verify whether clues recently discovered inside his deceased wife’s diaries are true, and to reveal how the wealthiest man in town got away with murder.

I admit, it’s a little too long.

One thing to note before you try your hand. Your logline is not a plot by plot listing. You don’t have space and that’s not the goal. Obviously, subplots aren’t included.

Now, take out pencil and paper (or laptop) and start drafting your logline. I suggest using D’Costa’s tweaked template. Don’t worry, you don’t have to get it perfect the first time. Expect that you won’t.

Finally, and never forget this, if I can write a novel, you surely can.

Photo by Ann Nekr on Pexels.com

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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