Logline, Logline, what do you see? In which the author attempts to write a logline

The logline is the one sentence statement of what your book is about. It must accomplish getting the entire idea of the novel across to another person in a single sentence, and do so in a way that the person can immediately determine if the thing is going to be a book they want to read.

On to mine.

I’ve got a character, a female marine. She’s an orphan who joins the marines to get away from the orphanage, where they buy and sell kids. By strange chance, the ship on which she is stationed ends up back in the solar system she is from, and is attacked causing her to have to flee for the surface of the planet. Once there, she must go to the orphanage to find out answers to who she really is and why she is mistaken as the politician who is doing a political coup to take the solar system from the empire.

That’s not the logline, that’s just me throwing out the premise. There are no coincidences in books, are there?

On to the character. What are the important bits about her? Orphan, Marine, Female. I think the most important factor here is that she is an orphan. Can I say orphaned marine, or is that confusing? The marine part is certainly a big portion of the whole thing, but is it expressive of the storyline to mention that? I think that the military aspect should probably be mentioned, yes, in the logline because if you don’t like that stuff, this book will not be something you’re interested in reading. I’m leaning toward:

“An orphan joins the marines to escape the orphanage, but…”

That’s too wordy. Plus it misstates the content, because it’s not about her joining the marines, she’s already been there for a while.

So, let’s break that down again. How about:

“A marine is marooned on the planet she is from and must confront her past.”

Oh, that was terrible. Marine, yes. But that non-specific “confront her past” is awful.  Let’s rip that out. And the “Planet she is from” is super awkward and wordy.

“An orphan marooned on her origin planet stumbles upon a plot by her family to take over the universe, and she must stop them or join them.”

I actually like that.  It’s still wordy, though, and Mr. Soghomonian from Poly Sci wouldn’t like it. Is it stumbles? That implies a Nancy Drew sort of awkwardness, like she fell into the plot and was clueless it was there to begin with.  And it wants clarity. Plus I need to mention the military aspect.

“A marine and her squad must fight to discover and stop her family from a galactic takeover.”

That sort of accomplishes it. I left out orphan, left out the planet marooning, and that’s the gist of the story– discover her origins, find the truth, and then decide whether to throw in with the evil family or fight them. Do I put in orphan? Here’s what that looks like:

“A marine orphan must fight to discover and stop her family from a galactic takeover.”

However, it’s not popping. What makes this story unique from any other? There’s the whole origins of the protagonist, but if I say more, it may be a spoiler. And the middle – “must fight to discover” seems weak. Perhaps drop that? It would look like this:

“A marine orphan must stop her family from a galactic takeover.”

That, however, has the disadvantage of the two disjunctive thoughts, and looks like a mistake. After all, you can’t be an orphan and know who your family is, can you? Sure, there’s instances where you know your family but you’re still an orphan because none of them can care for you, but most of the time the implication is that being an orphan is to be without family.

Ideas, peanut gallery? Suggestions (besides, “scrap this book. You can’t write the logline for it”)?

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4 thoughts on “Logline, Logline, what do you see? In which the author attempts to write a logline

  1. Having just had to do one of these to submit my own MS to a publisher, I feel your pain. I used the approach of 25 words or less to describe who’s the protagonist, what does she want, what’s stopping her from getting what she wants and what’s the twist. Good luck with it – my suggestion:

    A young woman escapes an orphanage by joining the fight against a galactic takeover…by her estranged family.

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    • Pesky things, loglines, aren’t they?
      Except this doesn’t quite get the gist – the orphanage is in the past, but it’s important information in that what is to come (she finds her “family”–not really estranged, yet, since she just met them or found out about them) is a major part of the story, and then what does she do when she finds the family? She has a choice, actually, a few choices. She’s a marine, and she can fight on behalf of the imperium (her oath); she can step into the shoes of the new ruler for the planet; or she can choose some other option which might not make sense.

      This logline is intriguing, however. I’d be interested in reading this book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep I spent ages on mine, it’s hard condensing the story into a few words. Even getting the synopsis into 1-2 pages was a trial. I’m a pantser not a plotter so didn’t really have an outline, although having written my MS in Scrivener I was able to compile a list of plot points and refine that into a synopsis. But it’s good when you get it done! Your story sounds like a good read.

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