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Save the Cat: The Logline

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by A. E. Lowan, Dec 9, 2019.

  1. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

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    The classic writer's guide Save the Cat went on sale on Amazon (don't know for how long) so I finally picked it up. It's a good little book for the commercial storyteller, very practical and amusing in turns. It's also educational and spends a fair bit of time on developing the logline, basically your elevator pitch, with the idea that if you can't pin down a stranger for less than ten minutes and keep their attention with your story idea, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

    I find this idea intriguing.

    While we haven't refined our pitch down further than our book cover blurb, we find it's useful to have at the top of our heads when we interact with readers curious about what we write about. (A nice business card doesn't hurt, either.) So what we have is this...

    Winter Mulcahy is the last wizard in the city of Seahaven, WA and all that stands between the fractious preternatural population and total chaos. Holding the city together by the skin of her teeth, the blood of her friends, and an addiction to stimulants that is slowly killing her, the young wizard is approached by a pair of sidhe lords who claim that her city is harboring a fugitive who has kidnapped a sidhe prince, and that they are on a mission to rescue the boy.

    Winter must investigate this fugitive to get to the truth of the kidnapping, discover the cause of the surges of wild magic tearing open rifts between realms across her city, and navigate the deadly waters of preternatural politics before Seahaven both figuratively and literally rips itself apart.

    What are your loglines, the bits and pieces that break down your story to its essence? Do you have a clear pitch in your mind or are you still struggling to condense what's really a very complex concept?

    20170315_172946.jpg
     
  2. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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  3. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I have a strange problem in that I can summarize it in a sentence or two that gives you a clear idea of the main hero, villain, theme, tone, conflict, genre and overall hook.
    But then when I try to expand it into a couple of paragraphs, it gets pretty jumbled. I actually showed a friend of mine a one page summary and they said it gave them a headache.
    But then I expand that into three or four pages and it’s very clear and conventional.

    So, I got the elevator pitch and the full summary but I don’t really have the “back of the book blurb” yet. There’s levels to summarizing.
     
  4. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I still haven't settled for a proper pitch/log line for Lost Dogs, but it'd probably be something along the lines of...

    It's a story about a man who gets the chance to correct the worst mistake of his life, and who gives up everything to do it. Also, he's a werewolf, and the beast inside of him has no interest in dwelling on old mistakes.

    Maybe. The drawback with that is that it completely leaves out the other main character of the series, but then she doesn't show up until the third book, so I'm not entirely sure how important she is to the pitch. That said, the pitch for Alene's story might be something like this...

    It's a story about a young woman who dreams of becoming a travel journalist and seeing the world - only, she's afflicted by a rare breed of therianthropy, which is slowly turning her into an insane, blood thirsty monster, making her a danger both to herself and the world at large. When she encounters a celebrity prize-fighter on the run from the law, she sees her chance at the scoop of a lifetime, and perhaps even friendship.

    ...and then you cold maybe combine the two, somehow.
    Sitting here, thinking about it, now, it feels like the second story sounds a lot more interesting.

    Word of advice for beginner writers: don't wait until the third book in the series to introduce the main character. :p
     
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  5. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    >There’s levels to summarizing.
    This.
    One of the several surprises in becoming an Actual Author was discovering how many different versions of a summary were required, and not only for length but for market and in the context of previous marketing. I am not sick of my published books, but surely am sick of having to write enthusiastic pitches for them.

    It gives me a new respect for the copywriters. That job is tougher than it looks, and toughest of all is being your own copywriter.
     
  6. Peat

    Peat Sage

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    I generally try doing a logline/summary after I've done my test scenes and am trying to decide how much I like the idea. If I can't, it's probably a good sign that the story has a few too many issues to be worth bothering with.
     
  7. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    I usually have a summary / back cover description before I start my first draft. I build it off my outline, and it serves as an azimuth check as I go.

    I go to enough cons and collect enough business cards that I realized early-on I had to have elevator pitches not only ready, but memorized.

    My elevator pitch for my current series is "A down-and-out stuntman takes the gig of a lifetime as a hero for hire in a fantasy world, only to discover that the enemy he's been brought to fight is also from Earth."

    If I only have two seconds, my pitch is "Game of Thrones meets Deadpool." The Deadpool movie didn't exist when I was writing Dragon's Trail, but my MC is so close to a pre-Deadpool Wade Wilson that Ryan Reynolds could have walked into the role. Anyone can put those two things together and get a pretty close approximation of what I write: a wisecracking badass trapped in a grimdark world and dick-punching his way home.

    The back-cover copy for Book III in my current series, at least as I hammer out the first full draft, looks like this:

    “Mountains rise where gods fall.”
    – Falconsrealm proverb


    A GLOBAL WAR ON MAGIC

    In a magical realm a million light-years from Earth, hooves thunder and spears shake as former Hollywood swordmaster Jarrod Torrealday rides at the head of three mighty armies aligned in single purpose. Their mission: destroy the Silver School, a training ground for battle-mages threatening the fragile peace he’s been fighting to build since his arrival.

    Plucked from a blood-soaked field of sorcerers, dragons, and the largest armies in living memory, Jarrod faces his greatest foe, yet: shadowy forces from Earth with magic of their own . . . and their crosshairs on the world he swore to protect.

    The final chapter in Joseph Malik's Outworlders series. Coming in 2021.

    The two-second pitch is "The final book in a series that's Game of Thrones meets Deadpool." (Sensing a theme, yet?)

    The logline/elevator pitch for the first book of my next series (also in first-real-draft status, because KILL ME PLEASE) is "An anthropology professor and former commando discovers a portal to another world when he's recruited by a shadowy government agency to assess a disturbed American Indian burial ground." Time permitting, I'd throw something in there about the MC being half Blackfeet and a combat-wounded amputee.

    The two-second pitch is "Reign of Fire meets Dances with Wolves." (And I know Reign of Fire is a movie, but if I rolled with Three Hearts and Three Lions meets The Last of the Mohicans I'd sound like a pretentious schmuck. However, that's my hip-pocket backup. Know your audience, is what I'm saying, here.)

    And no, I'm not giving you the back-cover copy for the next series intro, yet. I'll post it in Shameless Self-Promotion when I have it dialed-in. Probably late next year.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2019
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  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Dragon’s Trail is grimdark? Huh. Didn’t carry that vibe for me.

    Anyhow, elevator pitches for screenplays were cake compared to epic novels. Trail of Pyres I could hit the old “Game of Thrones meets the Trail of Tears and Moses,” blending history, bible, and fiction, but Eve of Snows is difficult to bundle and stick to one thing. I’ve switched it up numerous times. I never have found a quick comparison for EoS I like, but I do like my current copy: When the gods play games, kings and queens are pawns.

    The full elevator pitch pretty much rips off the back cover, with some embellishment, but I plan on working on that again soon enough.
     
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  9. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

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    I just started a new project and I spent some time writing a query letter style pitch and also a twitter sized pitch to see how my idea holds up.

    A woman fleeing her controlling husband moves into a Victorian house full of witches who teach her crystals, candles, and curses. But when their magic produces deadly results, she must untangle the secret of the house and the alluring, dangerous woman who controls it.
     
  10. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    It doesn't for me, either, but readers keep telling me this.
     
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  11. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    The reader is always right, I guess, LOL. Okay, that would be a lie, but in this case they are allowed. I always find it fascinating to see how different folks define genres and subgenres.

    One could add... if you enjoy grimdark, then by the gods, it’s grimdark.

     
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  12. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    As long as they're buying it and enjoying it? Whatever works for them.

    I long ago gave up any hope of steering anyone's expectations or interpretations of my work.
     
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