Conversational, Accessible Tip-sheet
Jordan Smith’s previous work Finding The Core Of Your Story was a step-by-step guide to composing a logline – a one sentence summary of the “through-line” of a book’s plot. This is especially useful for authors trying to clarify and market their own works, but a logline can also be fun for readers eager to share their favorite reads with others.
For those (like me) who love to see things in action and so love examples, Loglines In The Wild provides eight case studies of real independent authors crafting loglines to help them with writing and marketing their ideas. To display a broader spectrum of experiences, Mr. Smith chose authors whose stories were at different stages of development (from already-published to first-brainstorming), to show you can write a logline no matter where your story is.
I learned several things from Loglines, and had some other things reinforced.
One thing that Finding The Core taught me was the value of loglining your story before you start writing. This allows you to have a clear idea of the central conflict you need to emphasize and tie back to as you’re writing a draft. The story will likely change as you write, but that’s okay since the logline can change, too, and having a clear vision for where you’re going helps prevent rambling drafts.
However, if you don’t have a set story it can be difficult to write the logline. One of Logline’s case studies was a screenwriter who was just brainstorming a screenplay. Being forced to whittle down the main story to one pithy sentence helped him decide what elements he needed to focus on to convey the themes he wanted, but it was also plainly more difficult to boil down the story when the author was still throwing together elements to see which ones he wanted to be part of his story.
Another important take-away I got from this book was that a logline is about conflict, since a story is about conflict. Mr. Smith’s first book discusses this explicitly, but somehow watching story-tellers in action, trying to define their stories’ conflicts, brought this home more poignantly. It helped me understand some of the issues with my own loglines, in that I had let lesser, situational elements distract me from the overall importance of “protagonist & his goal VS. antagonist & his goal”. Even if the antagonist isn’t exactly corporeal, if it isn’t crystal clear why the main character isn’t getting what he wants, the logline’s going to be saggy and the story might be, too.
It was also inspiring to be reminded of the marketing potential of a logline. It’s very important to manage your audience’s expectations so that they know what to expect when they read your book/watch your movie/etc. Mr. Smith gives the example of a movie he didn’t enjoy on his first viewing, but then did enjoy when he watched it again with adjusted expectations. Several of the authors featured in Loglines used their loglines to discover the most important elements of their story, then focused their marketing copy around that to offer audiences exactly what their book delivered.
Reading Finding The Core is not a prerequisite to reading Loglines, though the former offers a more in-depth look at some of the theory.
This leads me to my one real complaint about Loglines – it’s written to help those who haven’t read the previous work, so contains a crash-course intro to loglines at the beginning and thematic passages about the theory interspersed contextually between the case studies. Most of these passages seemed lifted out of Finding The Core, if often adapted to show their applicability to the recent case study. It’s not like I’ve poured over Finding The Core‘s text, but I recognized several of Smith’s turns of phrase.
This is great for those new to the world of the logline, but reduced the amount of new material for his repeat customers.
Zeroing in on a story’s central, continuing conflict is a valuable skill, one that I am still practicing to master. Whichever of Mr. Smith’s books you pick up, you’ll get a quick, easy, and engaging read full of pertinent tips. Loglines In The Wild gives you a better peek into the actual procedure of authors examining their stories to find the single indispensable element, then express that succinctly and powerfully.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. Thanks!