Logline It


The logline. The so-called “elevator pitch.”

I think in writing novels, the logline maybe claims more importance than it really has — some folks paint a world where you have to sharpen this short blurb of your own work to an atom-splitting point, keeping the weapon in your back pocket because at some point you may find yourself at a coffee counter with an agent or editor and have a sudden chance to pitch them. (Which I’m sure is awesome for the agent or editor. Particularly if they haven’t had their coffee yet. Pro-Tip: never pitch an agent or editor before they have consumed at least one cup of their daily caffeine. You may lose a hand, an eye, a few toes.)

Still — I like it as an intellectual exercise because it helps you distill the work you’re doing down to its manageable essence. You’re figuring out what lies at the core of the work and you’re also helping figure out how the work can be mentioned and brokered without taking people on a ten minute snooze-worthy journey — because, man, I’ve been the guy who gets cornered by an “aspiring” novelist who wants to tell you about his book. It takes forever, and it makes me want to rip your trachea out and shove it in my earholes.

Plus, you’re keeping me from refilling my drink.

(Pro-Tip: never keep a writer from refilling your drink. We won’t just take a hand, eye, toes. We’ll go for the soul. We’ll write you into our next book as a possum-molesting Neo-Nazi who gets thrown into a wood chipper as everyone else laughs.)

Clarity and conciseness are powerful skills for the writer.

So, let’s practice.

You’re working on something now, I take it?

Give us the logline.

Meaning, hook us into the story with a single sentence.

Then: feel free to discuss everyone’s logline with them. How’d it work? How’s it sound? Did it hook you? Did it compel you in some fashion? Was it both clear and concise?


518 responses to “Logline It”

  1. In a dystopian future, a young girl searches for her identity–and her murderers–with the help of the alien that brought her back from the dead.

  2. Her family has betrayed her, her enemies have protected her, and now Evalise is the only one who can save them from a war her curiosity brought upon them.
    …(a bit vague)

    Eva only wanted a normal life, but instead she’s using magic to stop a 3-way war she might have had a small hand in starting.
    …(better, but how did she start that war?)

    Eva didn’t mean to start a war, but when you uncover the hiding place of powerful magic, things tend to get a little messy afterward.
    …(not bad)

    • I like two and three and suggest you take Kay’s advice. However, I think two would be the winner, if you just fleshed out who the three refers to in the war, what kind of magic she’s using and why the war needs to end.

      • Tall order for one sentence. Not sure on the bracketed words.

        [Half-breed] Eva just wanted a normal life, but instead she’s using [half-assed] elven magic to stop a [3-way] war that will kill everyone she’s ever known, and she only might have had a hand in starting it.

        Debated changing “had a hand in starting” to “helped start,” but the former conveys a better sense of unintended consequences, I think. I’d rather take “3-way” out than try to explain that mess in a single sentence. (Have you ever played 3-way chess? It’s like that, but the pieces are only two different colors.)

        • Definitely improved. If you can’t tell me all three sides, then maybe characterize the war? Fairy war? Hell war? Demon war? That sort of thing?

          It’s easier if you don’t think of it as trying to say everything about the story in three lines, and you think of trying to say the most important, unique thing about the story in one line.

          • War for power. More specifically, a war for elf-made stones of concentrated energy used to amplify magic or, as the humans do, drained in order to power a city. The elves are miffed the humans are stealing these stones, and some wish to kill all humans for it. Most humans have no idea the stones exist, and the ones that do either don’t care to play nice, or form the third group: humans and a few elves who would rather settle things without genocide.

            I think “war for power” is about the best way to summarize that without being too wordy and distancing the “kill everyone” and “she started it” bits.

            I could add “…all thanks to a little, round stone” at the end, but that doesn’t remotely relate to the war.

        • I recall someone giving logline advice before (maybe a past-Chuck?), where they said not to give names to characters in it. Use two, maybe three words to describe the person, names rarely convey useful information in a single sentence. Unless your MC is named Buffy, and you mention that she’s a Vampire slayer; that name implies a unique tone and even setting that “Eva” doesn’t.

          Instead of Half-breed, or even “half-elven”, maybe “A magical neophite”, or “A half-elven outcast” or “A disgraced sorceror”

          Then I’d concentrate on why she has to be the one and try to include the challenge of her (self appointed?) task. For instance: “A disgraced claravoiant half-elf must stop her vengence-hungry king from waging a disasterous war that will leave the kingdom in ruins and her entire family dead.”

        • Although I agree there is a format for doing loglines where you don’t use names, I don’t agree that is how it should always be. Though R. Dale may have a point–it works better of the name is unique. With regard to your rewrite, you should be clear–either she started the war, or she didn’t. You should stick with she did, because it’s the more exciting option. Even if it later turns out she didn’t. You’re not aiming too tell them everything here 🙂

          What you’re saying here is it’s a war for resources, not power really. It’s a war over a power source. Only it’s a magical power source. But there is a more exciting way to say that, trust me 🙂 You’re not going to get this right after two or three tries. Keep working with it. Re-tool it until it makes you excited to say it. Then show it to someone else and start again.

          A (bad) example off the top of my head? A young woman’s newly discovered magic accidentally starts a war between humans and elves that will destroy both worlds if she doesn’t find a way to stop it.

          • Last submission, I swear. I think it’s better now, though still needs work. Thanks for the help, everyone! As for names, I’ve seen advice go both ways so I’ve no idea.

            A young woman finds a shiny stone and accidentally starts a war for the “rightful” use of the world’s most powerful magical resource, making her the only one who can stop the wrong side from getting the stones and using them to bring destruction to the world.

          • A bit more specificity would be nice. Who is the wrong side? Say elves, don’t hide that. it tells us what kind of story this is–a faerie story. How does finding the stone start the war? Do they consider the stone stolen? Does a king call for her head? Be specific but keep this framework. It is much neater and just needs to find the right notes to hit.

  3. A debut writer is offered the chance to shamelessly plug her book when high school PTSD swoops in like a first day of school let’s-move-our-desks-into-a-circle-and-introduce-ourselves nightmare.

      • “A young boy’s life is changed FOREVER when his parents take him to the Used Kid Lot and trade him in.” [It’s been pointed out that ‘changed’ feels weak, but is difficult to replace. I think the addition of ‘forever’ implies a bigger story, and raises the question to a higher pitch. What on earth happens to him?

    • This made me smile. I’d read it. I think “is changed” sounds very passive, but I can’t think of a snappy way to improve it.”Changes” doesn’t work somehow.

        • The story actually started as a screenplay, back in the 90’s when I was trying to sell movie scripts. Good enough to get me called out to several meetings with production companies, but they never put money on the table. Later rewrote it as prose fiction, which turned out to be novella length. No luck placing it with any of the (few) novella markets. The rise of self-publishing seems to be the best shot of it ever actually finding an audience.

          That’s if I can ever find the time to learn and do all the things I need to accomplish to get it into (short) book form. (I’d planned on self-pubbing a short-story collection last year, and that hasn’t happened yet, either.) If you see something titled JUNKER TOMMY, it’ll mean I actually got that production work done.

    • Here’s the problem I have. Of course his life is changed when he’s traded in. That doesn’t tell me anything. What you have here is half a logline: When Tommy’s parents take him to the Used Kid Lot and trade him in, he…

      He… what? Or they what? He goes on an adventure? They miss him and try to get him back, but he!s already gone? He has 72 hours for someone else to take him home or he’s sent to the Spice Mines of Alzfragtr?

      I like the premise, though. I’d like to know what this leads to.

      • I have to agree; don’t make the kid a passive object in the story. Give him agency; A tap-dancing phenom must escape the circus into which his parents sold him… That kind of thing.

  4. Ok, man, loglines are hard and my current project is still taking shape… but here goes.

    ‘A routine ghost hunt turns into a nightmare for Alec when the murderous haunting turns out to be caused by the same immortal dickhead, Caine, who’s ruined his life twice already; he’s forced to team up with an untrustworthy dead girl and her similarly life-challenged friends to put a stop to a ritual that could easily destroy New Mexico and ensure that Caine can never be defeated.’

    • I think having loglines at different lengths is a good idea. That said, this runs a little longer IMO because once you add more details past “he’s forced to team up” it gets harder to hold each detail in our mind at once.

      This works for a longer version though, and I do like the extra details.

      My main “concern” is the lack of specific details for the conflict. You have a great voice, and interesting set up, but what the actual conflict between Alec and Caine is still a bit vague.

      • Ugh, yeah. I have a problem with running long… when I write shorter ones it seems even more vague, though. That said, I can hopefully say that some of the vagueness probably comes from the fact I’m maybe 5% through the first draft, winging it, and I didn’t even mean Alec to be a main character, so… hopefully he’ll let ME know what’s up between him and Caine soon. 😛

        Thanks for the advice!

  5. I needed this, as I’m trying to get my momentum back on this project!
    Children’s tongue-in-cheek fantasy:

    A fair maiden who breaks all the rules. A would-be Hero who does it all by the book. If they can make it past breakfast, they can save the world.

    That’s not quite right, because it’s not the world they’re saving, just a kingdom. . .

    • I like this a lot. What are they saving the kingdom from? And is it a possibility of not making it past breakfast because it’s a particularly perilous breakfast, or just that they need to figure out how to get along with each other?

      • Hmm. . . .
        . . . if they can make it past breakfast without killing each other, they can handle the bandits, ogres, dragons and giants that stand between them and home.

        • Pretty close, though _whether_ they can handle the bandits, ogres, etc… should not be a given. Maybe also vary the challenges: negociate a truce with the dragons, unite squabbling and scared lords against invading giants, etc…

          The protagonists should maybe have more interesting skill sets/roles instead of “maiden” and “hero”? Like Warrior Duchess and her Playwrite husband?

          • Maybe that’s more of a “if they can avoid killing each other, surely bandits, hungry ogres, and kidnapping dragons will be easy!” That would maintain the implication of what they THINK it will be like.

            As for the Fair Maiden and Hero–that’s his approach to categorizing everything “by the book.” I’ll need to work on it, the more so as it’s written from his POV (not 1st person, but I was forcing myself to be constrained, so it’s a limited narrator).

            As for home. . . I’ll think about that. It’s more of an aspiration than a place.

            Clearly this is hard!

    • Then there’s the one for the novel I just released, a mystery called “Death By Ice Cream”:
      What do you serve when all you have in the freezer is a nice cold corpse?

          • Great! it’s out there 😉
            Paul makes me wish for a character with a shotgun, though 🙂

  6. “Alex, the lowest of the low in fairy society, is given the chance to earn respect by recruiting a seer for the king’s Court … but he’ll have to hide the fact that he’s just befriended the fairy world’s most notorious outlaw.”

    Okay, it’s rough, but hey, I thought it up on the spot. 🙂

    • Or what? Why does he have to hide this fact? What will happen if he doesn’t? It’s a good beginning, but we don’t have the central conflict of the story, the actual stakes. Tell we why we’re reading this story, now.

      • Hmmm, I don’t really know how to make it clear. I had thought that emphasising he was working for the KING but hanging out with an OUTLAW was enough, because presumably there’s some conflict there… *muses on the topic for a while*

        I’ll get back to you.

    • If lowly Alex recruits a seer for the king’s court, his standing in fairy society will skyrocket. But when his best friend is an outlaw, he could be cast out forever.

      Not brilliant, but there are at least some stakes there.

      • Hmm, yeah, that could work. I couldn’t use the word ‘skyrocket’, though, since it’s set in the 17th century and I’m pretty sure even fairies didn’t go in for space travel back then 😉 I’ll try an amalgamation of the two:

        “For Alex, the lowest of the low, the only way to earn respect in the fairy world is to complete the task he is set by the king: recruit the seer Eirian to join the Court. But he’ll have to do so without letting slip that he’s friends with the notorious outlaw, Irial, or he risks losing everything — the king’s favour, the girl he loves… perhaps even his life.”

        Yay, now I managed to fit in that there’s a romantic element to the story, but I turned it into two sentences so it’s more of a blurb than a logline at this point… sigh. These are hard.

  7. Jesse was exiled for high treason after killing his best friend the king, and magically hiding his reincarnation — but now he’s come back, and has to choose between his best friend’s happiness, or the salvation of their kingdom.

    • I’m confused. If he magically hid the king’s reincarnation, then how was he exiled for high treason when as far as everyone knows, the king is alive? And are you telling me Jesse has returned to kill his best friend again? Bit repetitive of him :-). Is he a mage or something? Overall, a bit vague and confusing.

      • The king of the elves was assassinated, and has been reborn as an investment banker on Wall Street; now his best friend and the rest of the kingdom have to fight off an invasion from the neighboring lands — do they recruit their erstwhile king, or let him live in ignorant bliss?

        • Much improved! I’d consider switching things up to make sure the best friend is the focus. Something like “When a crisis strikes the kingdom, his best fried Jesse must decide whether to recruit” and on.

        • I love the first part, but I don’t like the last line. That’s because there is no right thinking person in the world who wouldn’t say ‘duh, go get his ass’ 🙂 Never ask a question the reader will say ‘obviously’ to. That’s why I dislike this format of logline–I have never met one yet where the choice wasn’t obvious.

          If he’s the only person that can help them, tell us why and tell us what would stand in his/there way. And what is lost if the King fails. That’s your conflict. Not his happy life now.

          • See, this is why I’m failing at a one-sentence thing: the conflict *IS* ‘do we get the king or resolve this without him’? If it seems to hard to explain in a single sentence… is it too complicated a plot?

          • No. It’s just that for me, that’s a very small thing to build a novel on. More of a sub-plot than the main plot. If that’s your main plot, then it’s your main plot. But for me, that’s not enough of a conflict to make me interested. That’s just me though. Many others might disagree 🙂

        • I agree with RSAGARCIA Of course they have to go get the king, but how hard will it be for elves to infiltrate Wall St and will the king even believe them? Probably there will be elves who disagree (the subplot) and think they should leave the king alone….maybe that person wants to be king? Sounds like a fun read.

    • Too vague. You have to tell us what crime and why she won’t live. There are no stakes–there’s no central conflict at all. Try it again, this time imagine you’re writing the blurb for TV guide. What do you say to get someone to change the channel?

      • My problem is, I don’t want to spoil anything. The reveal of the crime is the central “WHAT?” of the entire first part.

        Thanks for the input, I’ll put some more thinking into it 🙂

        • I appreciate that’s a concern, but unfortunately, no one will care to read the story if you’re asking them to basically read it while knowing nothing about it. I simply can’t tell who the character is, what the world is, or what the story is about from this.

          Think of the other successful books you’ve read–the back of Harry Potter told you everything about the first half too. And yet you not only survived, you want to read on. That’s what your novel should be able to do. It’s not about hiding the story from the reader. It’s about giving them just enough to want to read the whole thing.

          • Ok, yeah, I think I got you. I’m sure I’m not the only one who only skims the first paragraph on back of the book for fear of spoilers, but we’re a very small minority. I can say she commits a murder, without telling you who or why it’s so horrendous…I can also tell you she’s 17…yeah. That could work.

            Thanks very much, you opened my eyes 🙂

  8. After Pluto shut the gates to his underworld, taking offense at his demoniation to ‘Dwarf Planet’, one lonely god takes it upon himself to recreate some order between the powers of the netherworlds and the Psychopomps’ Union on strike, his only help a mortal who has no idea what kind of train he jumped onto.

    • At the moment, too generic. You have to come up with something to let us know that it is it’s own thing, and not just another knockoff of the aforementioned.

      • Thanks Paul. You have put some great comments here, including this one. I was being a little facetious. Everything I write in my logline seems to be a repeat of another fantasy out there. Trying to be serious here:

        A young sorcerer (orphaned, because how else do you get rid of those bothersome parents?) must defeat the much-loved chancellor who is rising to power in the Council, but who will believe MC when he tries to expose the chancellor’s wickedness? The chancellor’s very power is deception.

        A young sorcerer must learn to control his own powers and defeat the chancellor, both politically and magically, but first he has to expose the chancellor’s wickedness and his power of persuasion.

        It seems to go from generic to too long and cumbersome, and I haven’t even added in any of the friends that help the MC. Sigh.

        • A (bad) example off the top of my head? A young sorcerer must defeat a dangerous powerful chancellor who is gaining influence in the Council (What council, by the way? Would explain why it matters that he not take control of this council). But how can he do that when the chancellor possesses the powers of deception and persuasion and is beloved by all?

          • Thanks Rsagarcia. That was an excellent example, since you are flying blind here, not knowing the story….The Council of Five, which is the ruling body including representatives of each of the Elementals: Fire, Water, Wind and Water and a High Lord which corresponds to the current ruling elemental, now Earth, but changing during the course of the story to either Air (the MC) or Fire (the Chancellor) depending on who wins the position..

  9. Oh thank you Chuck! I need some major advice on my logline. This book has morphed and changed and now I don’t know which way is up. 😀

    “When Alex discovers she’s the next chosen one in an ancient order of mediators between the gods, she fights to make her fate her own while trying to discover who murdered her predecessor before she’s the next victim.”

    That’s the rough, crappy logline. There’s a lot of details that I’m not sure about.
    Some details I left out:
    *She can see the future. I tried to work in that she sees the future, but it gets confusing. But that’s the point of the book. She sees the future, but believes in free will. Then she gets chosen, making the chains of destiny feel even tighter.
    *there’s a god who wants vengeance on her and the “line” she’s chosen for
    *there’s a turncoat in the organization

    At some point I have had these plot points as part of the logline, but I give up for right now. I’m still drafting, and figure I’ll have a better idea how to organize the information once I’m done. I’ve also had a lot of concern that when I break the book down like this it sounds super cliche and over done. Chosen one, destiny, demons, gods, etc, are all a dominant part of urban fantasy, even though I am specifically trying to take these things and twist them.

    Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

    • I couldn’t get it to a single sentence, and obviously you’ll do better at cleaning it up, but this is what I wrestled together from your description:

      With Alex’s gift of foresight, her belief (faith?) in free will was already strained, and then she was chosen (who chose her?) to be the next mediator between the gods, after her predecessor was murdered. Now she must [do cool stuff] before a vengeance-driven god succeeds in making mediators a thing of the past.

      • Oooh thanks! I will clean it up more once I’m done with this draft, but this is a really good skeleton to work with.

        I could get into who chose her (Fate, possibly other gods) but I felt like that sort of confused things with the logline being so short.

      • I understand your wrestling with this. I’m doing the same. You have some excellent advice already. I just wanted to say, I’d probably skip the “destiny” in the logline and description. It has been too overdone, even though you should keep it in the book. I would read this book from what I see so far, so keep drafting and let us know when it is out.

    • How about “When precognitive Alex discovers she’s been drafted to settle disputes between the gods…”? It gets the future-seeing aspect in and we know a bit more about who Alex is.

      And I’d suggest dropping “fights to make her fate her own”. It’s a bit cliche, and her issues with predestination don’t need to be out in front.

      • Thanks! The “make her own fate” thing felt over done, but I wasn’t sure if it was clear enough in the plot. The hard bit about being brief is knowing what the important parts of the story to tell and what you can safely leave out. The plot itself is fairly straight forward–girl finds out she’s a chosen one, has to figure out who killed her predecessor before being killed herself–but there’s other bits that feel important that can’t be easily worked in. I like using “precognitive”, that’s brilliant.

  10. Also (and this one is much tougher):

    “Elpis doesn’t hate you, she just wants you dead.” But it was pointed out that the 2nd person alludes to the reader’s active participation, and that is not the case.

    “Elpis doesn’t hate people, she just wants them all dead.” –not as strong, I don’t think.

    “Elpis wants humanity gone and she’ll use all her considerable powers of persuasion to…” blarg.

    This is for my main WiP, The Suicide Faerie, and I’m floundering, obviously!

    “Elpis isn’t regular fae, she’s a Suicide Faerie. And she’s very good at her job.”

    Uck. Sorry. Too much. Not enough. Whatever.

    :/

    • I lean towards the second one:

      “Elpis doesn’t hate mankind, she just wants it dead.”

      It’s a strong first half, but it needs a second line to imply whether we’re going to follow her as she seeks to destroy humanity, or follow those charged with stopping her before she does (or the thing that forces her to defend mankind despite her hatred for them).

      • I did have a second sentence, along the lines of “When she meets her rule-breaking counterpart, the earth may not survive.” It kind of ends up (SPOILER ALERT LOL) like a buddy picture, now that I think of it.

        Hmmmm…

        • “Elpis doesn’t hate mankind, she just wants it dead, and when she meets a fellow Suicide Faerie with even less respect for “the rules,” she might end up getting her wish…”

          • That has real possibilities…AND you’ve brought an error to light: she actually meets a Life faerie, not a fellow Suicider, so “counterpart” is totally wrong.

            I really appreciate all your help, thanks!

    • I also like the second, but the last one actually works for me, too. Though instead of “regular” I’d look for something like “sweet” or “happy” or something–I can’t the word, but something to suggest the saccharine faery stereotype.

      • I kinda like the third one, too, and you’re right on “regular.” I was thinking something like, “Elpis isn’t your normal, cutesy, run-of-the-mill fae…” etc. Probably too many words. I have a problem with too many words 😉

        Thanks for the input!

    • The last one intrigues me — suicide is the kind of thing you can only do once in your life, after all — but it doesn’t say much about the story itself. It’s a hook, but not much else.

      I like the direction mikes75 is going. “Elpis doesn’t hate humanity, she just wants it dead, and she’ll get her way by … except …” or something. Doing it that way, you get an idea of who the main character is, what she wants, how she plans to get it, and what stands in her way. Character + conflict = story.

  11. Ten-year old clairvoyant city-girl Margo Napoli didn’t see it coming: first her dad lost his job in the recession, then their “new home” turned out to be an abandoned development in the woods of eastern Long Island. But as the economy recovers, Margo’s gift stays silent as she races to find endangered salamanders in the woods so she can stop the construction roaring back to life and save her home and theirs.

    • Hmm. It definitely interests me. But it’s too busy. And I’m not sure why she’s clairvoyant.

    • She’s ten. Dealing with the new home and recession is probably enough. Did she foresee her dad losing his job? Did she foresee the new home and its problems? What does she see now? I would think it being silent would not be a problem in the real world. I don’t understand what the salamanders have to do with anything, and are there salamanders in NYC? I would think it may be too cold.

  12. Here’s my WiP…

    A former contract killer trying to go straight falls for a man running from his past; a past that won’t stay dead.

    • I like this idea. It’s the sort of book I would read if it was character led.
      Some thoughts: Former / trying to go straight convey the same thing for me, so you could lose one.
      Can you hint at why your assassin stops killing? Or what happens once he/she falls for man with a past? Back to killing, back to contracts or joining forces to get out?

      • Thanks for the suggestions! I’ll probably drop “former” to imply the “trying” part might not be going so well. I agree it needs a second line, probably fleshed out from the post-semicolon phrase…

  13. Since Sam Serrano left the force, he’s seen some serious crazy. Vampires pushing the best big high. Werewolf gangsters preying on Boston’s weak. Still, Sam doesn’t believe in fairies.

    That’s too bad, because if it goes bump in the night, you’ll find it in the Hub of the Universe.

    • Maybe because I’m also working on a “fairie” story, I really like this. You’ve painted him hard-boiled in a fantastical world and that’s intriguing. I’d put a colon after “crazy,” though.

      “Since leaving the force, Sam Serrano has seen some serious crazy: vampires pushing the best big (next big?) high and werewolf gangsters preying on Boston’s weak. Sam doesn’t believe in fairies…” along those lines

      But, now that I’ve typed that out, is there a way to tie Sam more closely to the Hub of the Universe? That is, establish that that is where he’s working/making a living?

      • Thanks for your advice, Jules.

        I think the colon is trying too hard to make this a one-sentence logline (and failing). The novel is written with short, clipped sentences (Sam’s POV), so I figured I’d cheat with the logline and use short, sweet sentences, instead of contorting it into one sentence.

        As for tying Sam more closely to the Hub, I figured it was on the listener to connect Boston with her nickname, the Hub of the Universe (the werewolf is preying on **Boston’s** weak). Perhaps I should also specify the city in the police force Sam left?

        Since Sam Serrano left the Boston police, he’s seen some serious crazy. Vampires pushing the next big high. Werewolf gangsters preying on Boston’s weak. Still, Sam doesn’t believe in fairies.

        That’s too bad, because if it goes bump in the night, you’ll find it in the Hub of the Universe.

        • I think adding Boston helps. I honestly had no idea that Boston’s nickname was the Hub of the Universe. I know it as “Beantown” 🙂 And I see where you’re going with the short, sharp sentences. Good call 🙂

    • Sounds exciting. I didn’t know that “Hub of the Universe” meant Boston. I was a little confused because werewolves and vampires sounded like fantasy and “Hub of the Universe” made me think of science fiction.

  14. My log line. It’s a WIP, but it’s a place to start. This is for a fantasy/paranormal romance…

    Hiding on Earth, hunted for the Sight she despises, Eve refuses to be anything but human. Attacked, kidnapped, and lost in the alternate world of Gaea, now a dead queen is talking in Eve’s head, a cursed dragon is her guide, her best friend Kylie has been dumped quite literally at her side, and she’s been claimed by Lorh, a Fey banished from his kingdom; if she can survive long enough to figure this new life out she may be able to save a society on the brink of collapse and learn to accept herself in the process.

    (^^Long-winded and rambling–a bad habit of mine)

    Hunted for the Sight she despises, Eve hides on Earth, refusing to be anything but human. Attacked, kidnapped, and lost in the alternate world of Gaea Eve must accept unlikely and dangerous allies along with her best friend in order to figure out her new life and save a society on the brink of collapse.

    (^^Shorter, but it seems lacking….)

    Isolated in hiding, hunted for the power of Sight she despises, Eve refuses to be anything but human. When she is kidnapped and lost in the alternate world of Gaea, Eve must choose to accept her gift and fight for a society on the brink of collapse or go back to Earth to a safe life of loneliness.

    (^^Better, but still not quite there…)

    Any feedback is very much appreciated!

  15. May I do another one, please? This is turning into a great exercise!

    When his plans to treat his lover to the best oysters in England lead instead to a stash of drugs and counterfeit money, Jack Horwood has to call in favours – expensive ones as it turns out.

    • I like this. It takes a (relatively) mundane thing (as someone who has never/probably will never try an oyster), and jettisons it to a whole different place. I also like how, with him calling in “expensive” favors, one gets the sense that he’s a spy or something along those lines. Someone who’s more than he appears. I would give it just a little “in order to,” as the end.

      Like, “…Jack Horwood has to call in some very expensive favors [to survive] [to save his lover] [along those lines].” I hope that makes sense.

      I would also switch to “his plan” (singular) and “leadS” just for flow’s sake 🙂

  16. In Colorado, 1867, “Young Buck” Flynn has done well hiding from his past until a wounded Arapaho woman leads a monstrous evil straight to his doorstep.

    • Sounds interesting, but I’d like a little hint about his past and why he’s hiding from it. Was it a [murderous] [shameful] [painful] past? And does the Arapaho woman just show up at his doorstep or does he bring her to his place to help her? Just little hints about those two things would seal the deal on this for me.

      Just some thoughts 🙂

  17. Good timing! I was just working on my back cover copy this morning for my new psychedelic fantasy series.

    When an odd Angel with her dead brother’s eyes walks through a crack in the sky above the parking lot of the Free-Way diner Betsey Weisz discovers that there may be a way that she can bolt from her busted life. But something else has invaded Betsey’s world, and if she wants to escape she’ll need to admit her most terrifying secret before the Jersey Devil can eat her soul.

    • It sounds like an interesting premise, but the logline itself seems a bit wordy. Is Betsy the protag? Or the odd Angel? And whose brother? The Angel’s or Betsy’s? If it’s Betsy’s brother that’s dead, does Betsy know the Angel has his eyes? Do they give some kind of power, these eyes?

      If Betsy is the protag, I’d focus on her (start with her instead of the Angel) and her ‘busted’ life, and maybe tie the Jersey Devil in tighter, if it is going to be a major force in the story.

  18. this is so helpful, just to see so many examples.

    “the logline maybe claims more importance than it really has”

    maybe this is true, I have no idea. maybe the likelihood of getting that chance is equivalent to winning that radio contest, or the cool new car in the mall.

    still, I feel like since I’m a total NOOB to the writing world, I have to be ready and take advantage of any possibility that might come up. it would suck to not be ready if, by some miracle, an editor or agent looked at me (without pushing on my part, naturally! lol) and said, “so.. what is your book about, anyways?”

    • The very thought of that question makes my blood run cold AND hot! What an opportunity that would be…a terrifying one, but still!

      • You’re so right! Thank you! Here’s a few revised versions, which one do you think is strongest?

        “When Kate is mistaken for the Chosen One and summoned to save a dying city of blooming people, she’d rather steal the source of their magic so she can get home once and for all–and leave her perfect older sister to fix things up like she always does.”

        Or: “Kate’s not the chosen one–that’s her sister–but she’s a damn good thief and she’ll do whatever it takes to get home, even if it means leaving an entire city exposed to the attacks of the parasitic Shadows.”

        Or: “Kate just wants to live a life without the ‘help’ of her perfect older sister, but just when she finally figures out a way she’s accidentally pulled with her to another world and a dying city where (of course) her sister is the only one who can save them.”

        I’m having a tough time figuring out what to focus on/leave out/how to keep it concise. Any ideas?

        • I think the second of the three is the best. Great improvement! Maybe re-work how you describe the “parasitic Shadows” though. I don’t get a sense of their threat to the MC. What are the parasites of? Blood parasites? Magical parasites (where a lack of magic = death or even undeath)? Could the Shadows manage to turn the entire world into a desolate hellscape if she fails to stop them? Just adding/changing a few words could convey whatever you’re going for… “leaving the entire city, and maybe the rest of the world, vulnerable to the soul-consuming Shadows.”

  19. An author, and editor, and an agent walk into a bar…

    Oh, wait–you said LOGline, not PUNCHline. Heh. Sorry.

    So what what’s my novel about? It’s the TV show “Jericho” in a fantasy setting: small town, big war, and a fallen hero seeking redemption.

  20. A former elite quarterback moonlighting as a vigilante in Detroit teams up with a flamethrower-toting waitress and a team of disgruntled urban survivalists to hunt down the African occultist responsible for cursing Detroit after World War II before the curse hits it’s next stage and the entire country looks like Detroit.

    • Cursing Detroit after WWII…Is this an alternate history? A curse seems like fantasy, but the flamethrowers make me think science fiction. It sounds like a good story, but what genre is it?

  21. New Eden is a paradise, the perfect place for Isabella to put the war behind her; sadly the spirits visiting her don’t agree and will force her to discover a secret she never wanted to know.

    • What was Isabella’s role in the war? Fighter? Lost her family? Just a cruddy time to live through?

      What war, between who? Was she on the winning or losing side? I assume winning if she’s in ‘paradise’.

      Whose spirits — people killed in the war?

      Is the secret about what makes New Eden a paradise, or about the war? Or something else entirely?

      Agreed with Ouranosaurus, I’m having a hard time sensing whether this will be SF, fantasy, steampunk, YA, etc…

  22. Fun challenge!

    “After a mass murder at the ranch she calls home, Malin joins forces with two strange men, seeking fortune and answers in the unmapped desert once called the Pacific Ocean.”

    • Interesting. I get a bit of dystopian vibe, because of the “desert formerly known as Pacific” thing. I’d almost want more, regarding who these men are. Also, is Malin only after answers or is she seeking fortune also? Maybe if the fortune-seeking is completely on the men’s side, you could say “…joins forces with two strange fortune-seekers to find answers in the…”

      Or something 🙂

      It does sound interesting, though!

    • I’m curious how the mass murder and desert connect, more specifically than ‘answers’. I’m guessing her family was killed in the mass murder. Is she wondering why she lived, who killed them, why they were killed? And why does she think she’ll find those answers in the desert?

      Also curious about the strange men — strange as in strangers, weird, or both? Why does she decide to join them? Are they going to help her, or are they just in it for the money?

      I’m intrigued by the setting, hope to read this one day!

      • Aah – excellent points, Tracy! Should definitely find a way to connect the first and second parts of the pitch. Thanks for the feedback!

  23. Amnesia: A woman with no memory begins to fall for the gentle doctor that found her a few weeks ago, when a kind man shows up claiming to be her husband.

    • Too much kindness can kill your plot. Also, how did she lose her memory? It needs to be a really good reason because amnesia is the most over-used diagnoses in fiction

  24. OK, here goes:

    A not-quite-human courier must work with a master thief and possible alien to recover the package that was stolen from her before her boss has her killed.

  25. Paradigm of Failure: Shard wants little more than to serve his god with everything he has. But when the woman he loves his endangered, something awakens in him, something that makes him question the truth of his faith.

    • Sounds very interesting. I think you’re going for effect, with the sentence structure, but I would find it more compelling if it was “something inside him awakens, a [terrible] [monstrous] [mysterious] [whatever] something that makes him question the truth of his faith.”

  26. Krylan Starguard, outcast of the mighty Zar, has been bullied by Toren his enitire life, but when his demonic powers awaken he is sent to earn his beacons from, the sky god, Aroonoo, or leave the Silosian Jungle forever.

  27. Ferathainn will be the first girl initiated into the Agrothe magicks in over two centuries, but when her village is attacked, isolating her from her family, friends, and magickal master, she must discover what she is truly made of, and how much she is willing to sacrifice, to save them all.

  28. Pretty close, though _whether_ they can handle the bandits, ogres, etc… should not be a given. Maybe also vary the challenges: negociate a truce with the dragons, unite squabbling and scared lords against invading giants, etc…

    The protagonists should maybe have more interesting skill sets/roles instead of “maiden” and “hero”? Like Warrior Duchess and her Playwrite husband?

  29. A group of supernatural librarians, charged with protecting mankind from forbidden knowledge long forgotten, must come out of hiding in order to stop an ancient enemy from destroying the world.

    • How does the forbidden knowledge relate to the ancient enemy? Who forbade the knowledge, and why? I’m guessing it somehow relates to the enemy, or how to stop it? Or perhaps to supernatural powers?

      Not sure exactly what to envision when you say supernatural — magical humans or magical creatures (vampires, werewolves, etc.)?

      Always love librarians!

  30. Loglines are hard they can be ridiculously vague:

    What do you get when you mix a reluctant bio-synth scientist and an angry cult? A conspiracy that will bring the Metrodome to its knees.

    or a case of information overload:

    Cate knows she can’t escape her past as a military bio-synth scientist but she’s doing a damn good job of trying. Then the shit hits the fan in the form of a string of mutilated bio-synth droids and it all feels a little too familiar. Cate knows she must step up and prevent a war that has been brewing for some time. There is only one problem she’s not on the side of the humans.

    It is fun to play around with them though 🙂

  31. A Real Detroit Miracle–just a joke–until now. But when one man’s determination to prove to the world that the fate of the city lies in his hands becomes a fight for its very soul, everyone loses.

    • I think it might help here to have a better description of the “one man.” Is he a politician? A sports hero? A homeless man? A wizard? Detroit is a really compelling setting right now, but I can’t tell what genre this book is from the logline, so I’m not sure it’s giving me enough of an idea what to expect.

  32. Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, Penelope, might have inherited her mother’s curse, but she has the narcolepsy problem mostly under control and is kicking butt at life in the real world… until her father dies, her drug supply dries up, and she discovers just how fragile the boundaries between realities can be.

    • Sounds cool! The ‘might’ is a bit misleading…you could say something like “Although Penelope, Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, inherited her mother’s curse, she’s got the narco….”
      And which realities are we talking about here? Sleep world vs. ‘real world’? Why is the boundary ‘fragile’? Is someone threatening her (and if so, mention them!)?

  33. An ex-con and his lunatic brother accidentally kill the girl they were hired to kidnap, only to discover she was in on the kidnapping, and has returned from the dead.

      • Tired of always being on the run, an ex-con and his lunatic brother accidentally kill the girl they were hired to kidnap, only to discover she was in on the kidnapping, and now he must quit running and fight her when she returns from the dead. Whew, that’s one long ass sentence.

  34. It sounds very interesting! I can’t imagine what a Real Detroit Miracle might be, unless it’s related to urban re-development/re-invigoration…? Personally, I’d lose the em dashes and just make the first sentence a straight “A Real Detroit Miracle was just a joke until now.”

    Also, I don’t like knowing that “everyone loses.” I’d rather have that possibility looming, to add some tension.

    But I like it!

  35. Hi, this is for my WiP horror short story titled Necromance. I have already gotten advice earlier in the comments, so I was looking to compare my first logline, and after receiving input. I am always looking for more tips, so feel free to say which one you like and why…
    “When twelve-year old Gail Grayson is confronted by the occult, she begins to question reality, wondering if all of her life has played out only in her mind.”
    or
    “Twelve-year old Gail Grayson has seen time run backwards, watched people vanish, and gaped as wounds healed in seconds. Now, she wonders if all of her life has played out only in her mind, and these seemingly occult experiences are nothing but a horrible nightmare.”

    • The second one, nightmare sounds better than “played out only in her mind,” which implies some kind of hypnosis, mind control, Matrix-type thing. Too complicated to imply in a logline, I think.

    • Okay, two more.

      He survived the Civil War, the North Pole and Dr. Frankenstein, now the creature whose father left him nameless is taking werewolves with his trusty pistol and miner’s axe to save his adopted family.

      (The project is currently called His Father Left Him Nameless)

      Before the Wild West, Dr. Frankenstein creature faced the worst humanity has to offer, this time, he tackles the inhuman if he is to survive.

      … okay a third that seems to be a melding of two others.

      The Wild West has shown Dr. Frankestein’s creature the worst — and best — in humanity, but now he faces the inhuman that threatens to take away all that he loves.

      • Things I love about this concept:

        1) That you know Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster. I hate it when people get that wrong. It’s petty, but damn it, it’s not that hard to get right.

        2) Werewolves. Werewolves are awesome. That is all.

        3) That it’s a western. The world needs more Weird Westerns.

  36. Thanks for the critique opportunity, Chuck!

    “Fears are quite unruly creatures when they spill all over your next-door-neighboor’s yard – or world, for that matter.”

    Alrighty friends and fellows, have at it! 🙂

  37. “When runaway climate change threatens to make the Earth uninhabitable within a generation, an adventure TV star decides to save mankind by colonizing Mars…assuming he can convince the world’s leaders to give him a few trillion dollars that are earmarked for fixing Earth’s climate.”

    I feel like this version has more zing, but is a little too movie preview-y…
    “While the world’s nations scramble to reverse runaway climate change that will make the planet uninhabitable within a generation, an audacious adventure TV star proposes an unthinkable solution to save humanity: sacrifice Earth and colonize Mars.”

    • Neat idea! I like the second one best, because movie preview-y is NOT a bad thing here, methinks. And the second logline is more succinct, and could stand to be even more so:

      “While the world’s nations scramble to reverse runaway climate change, an audacious adventure TV star proposes an unthinkable solution to save humanity: sacrifice Earth and colonize Mars.”

      BOOM!

      (because you mention that the solution will ‘save humanity’ — no need to say it twice, eh!)

      Good luck!

  38. Alright. One sentence? Here you go:

    “Half-demon detective is cursed to solve a murder by the victim.”

    (And yes, I am aware that this is the basic plot of the first October Daye novel. I only have a sentence, so shut up.)

  39. Yanked from her life, pulled up into heaven and forced into a mold she doesn’t fit Marynn must solve the mysterious case of jack the ripper, a fallen angel desperate to redeem himself.

    Ok so apparently i suck at longlines…