Today the peerless Red Pen of Doom challenges writers to compose four-word loglines for their own books, and then for other books or movies. It’s often said that if you can’t pitch your work in a single sentence and get someone interested, you probably don’t know your work as well as you should. Or worse, your book’s an unfocused mess that defies clarity.
A short logline isn’t supposed to tell a potential reader everything. That’s what the book is for. But with so many other books and movies competing for people’s limited and often scattered attention, a pithy hook is essential. It’s like writing a strong first line: you’re not showing off, but rather drawing the reader in. If the first line pulls a reader to the second line, and you can keep that going for 300 pages, you have a bestselling page-turner. And the way to get a reader to encounter that engaging first line is with an effective logline.
So I’m trying the four-word challenge. Four words is surprisingly harder than five, because you can’t waste space with “and” or “from” or “after” or any of the other soft connective tissue that comes so naturally to any description. But here goes, beginning with my forthcoming first novel.
Quiz Part 1: Describe Current Project
FELLOW MORTALS: “Tragic fire heightens relationships.”
My novel in progress: “Woman outshines 18th-century dangers.”
Quiz Part 2: Make Fun of Current Project
FELLOW MORTALS: “Feelgood tragic relationship story.”
My novel in progress: “Historical bildungsroman. Zzzzzzz.” (Three words!)
Quiz Part 3: Write Fresh Loglines for Books or Movies That Spoiled Their Own Excellent Promise. The goal here is to present what would have worked better than the actual result. I’m doing only movies, because I’ll often sit through a failed movie but will rapidly abandon a failed book. And I’m going with the big easy targets of recent years.
STAR WARS PREQUELS: “Hero believably chooses evil.”
(No one kills these movies harder and better than THIS GUY, who’s truly a genius when it comes to isolating the exact, numerous storytelling mistakes in all three movies.)
KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL: “Weathered Indy’s gritty quest.”
(All we wanted was a tough old S.O.B. version of the tough young Raiders hero, with dirt and blood and realistic sets. The opening warehouse scene, prior to the fridge, had such wonderful promise.)
SPIDERMAN 3: “Parker-centered, one villain.”
(Like Spidey 2, the best.)
RECENT M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN MOVIES: “We’ve hired another screenwriter.”
(I continue to think the guy is super-talented, and that it’s the scripts, not the direction, that’s murdering his career.)
Colonial-American Word of the Day
To Flux: (v) to cheat, cozen, or over-reach; also to salivate
PHANTOM MENACE critique. Seriously, this is the sharpest, funniest thing ever. You won’t be able to stop watching. Once you look beyond the swear words and sicko humor, you’ll begin to realize he’s presenting a master class on storytelling. I’m not kidding.
“Neil Gow’s Lamentation for the Death of His Second Wife”