Leo's Angel Oak Tree

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Several blogs and books I've read recently spoke about the need for a killer logline, or a summation sentence.  Both for your novel pitch or query, a logline can make your manuscript stand out from all the rest by simply explaining to the agent, editor, or reader, "WHAT IS IT ABOUT?"

Sometimes (as writers) we can get so blurred by all our our subplots and character relationships, we miss the big picture, or the theme, of our novels. Blake Snyder, author of Save The Cat, said that the logline should be the first thing a writers writes.  If you can't sum up your novel in one sentence than it needs work.

How many times have we all read The Query Shark, aka the fabulous Janet Reid, attack a query because it didn't answer the question at hand? (Sidenote: If you haven't read The Query Shark's blog, SHAME ON YOU!)  Who is the main character? What is her/his goal? What would happen if she/he didn't meet the goal? What she's essentially asking for is your logline!

Think about the number of times you have been talking to a friend about movies, trying to explain the last movie you saw, and you couldn't sum it up quickly.  That is a red flag to writers.  You must have a logline!

Book jackets wear them, movie posters display them, and we should be writing them!  Let's take a look at a few loglines from a few fantastic novels:

Seventeen year old Bella Swan falls in love with vampire Edward Cullen only to find out he might want to kill her more than love her.  TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer  (Who wouldn't read that?  It just begs for us to find out if she lives at the end, right?)

Eleven year old famous wizard, Harry Potter, is sent to wizarding school to learn magic, but ends up solving a mystery over life and death all with the most evil of wizards, Lord Voldemort, trying to kill him.  HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE by JK Rowling.  (We know we're in for fantasy, magic, mystery, and a life & death struggle with this one!)

Sixteen year old Clary Fray discovers, after her mother's kidnapping, that she belongs to a world of Shadow Hunters, a nephilum force protecting humans from downworlders (vampires, werewolves, and faeries).  CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare (Every type of paranormal creature will be in this book, and Clary will have to learn how to navigate in this world in order to find her mother!)

An angel, Bethany, is sent to Earth on a mission, but falling in love wasn't part of the plan. HALO by Alexandra Adornetto (We can tell this will have paranormal elements with tension and romance, WIN/WIN!)

So, these a just a few examples.  So, you might be asking, how do I write a logline?  Blake Snyder gives these key points.  All loglines should have:

  1. An adjective about the hero. 
  2. An adjective about the bad guy.
  3. A goal we can relate to.
  4. A Killer title
Some examples he shares from movies are: (Can you guess which movie?)

  1. A cop comes to LA to visit his estranged wife  and her office building is taken over by terrorists.
  2. A business man falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend.
If you guess Die Hard and Pretty Woman, you're exactly right.  Two killer movies summed up into one sentence each.

The logline is the one-two punch that could seal your manuscript.  If you don't have a logline (or can write one quickly), you may want to rethink your novel! Queries are more difficult to write if you don't have a logline.  In my opinion, that's one of the reasons writers hate writing the query.  Some have said to write the query before you write the novel. Isn't that fundamentally the same as writing the logline before the manuscript?

So, what's your logline?  Do you have one?


  1. Awesome topic. I recently returned to an old novel of mine and saw this same problem. I hope I can amend the errors and have better luck with submissions this time around ;)


  2. Thanks for helping me have a better idea of what exactly is in a logline.

  3. Thanks for helping me understand what exactly is in a logline. Maybe now I can narrow mine down. :D

  4. Recently I had to write one of these and I was pulling my hair out til I found your blog! I linked to this post from mine. Thanks!

    The Horror of the One-Sentence Summary

  5. Just stumbled onto your site. Great ideas - thanks!