There is one element of writing that must be fully understood. It is an element that most authors do not handle well and, ironically, something complicated compared to writing over three hundred pages of a story. That is the logline, or synopsis, so concise that it takes no more than a sentence or two.
Screenwriters call it a logline or elevator pitch; you are in an elevator with a production executive, and they ask you what your story is about.
You have a very short time explaining it in a compelling way, covering the basics and selling the project before the elevator doors open and the executive walks off.
You cannot ramble on. You cannot mumble your words. You cannot get caught on what a brilliant story it is. You must dissect it into one or two very precise sentences.
Let’s practice. Everyone has seen ‘Star Wars.’ Let’s pretend that you are George Lucas in the elevator, and you get asked what your script is about.
Do you say: “It’s a fantastic space battle between good guys, a princess, and the evil empire, and there are robots and something called The Force that helps the good guys win.”
Huh? I was lost at ‘princess.’ And what is a Force? Let’s try again.
“Good versus evil, a mystical Force guides our space knights to battle the evil empire to rescue a princess and save the galaxy. Enter a swashbuckling space pirate trying to collect a reward who unwittingly becomes one of the heroes.”
Much better, yes? One more time.
“It’s a swashbuckling adventure set in space, complete with mystical villains, compelling heroes, and non-stop action.”
The last one doesn’t tell you much in the way of details, but it gives you enough insight to pique the executive’s interest. After all, what you are after are the ‘magic words’: “Send it to me. I want to read it.”
You see, you will never sell your story until the right people read it. Assuming you have written it well, your story, or script, will then sell itself. But the most challenging part is getting someone to read it.
I always tell my writing students: “No one cares about your story. You have to make them care.” That means small, irresistible bites, offering enough to make the executive want to read it.
To illustrate the importance of knowing your logline or elevator pitch, you must first understand the sheer volume of submissions that occur. You are a droplet in an ocean, a piece of dust in the wind, one star in an endless universe. Hundreds of writers are out there, each submitting, vying for that coveted publication. Script readers have hundred of submitted scripts to read in a weekend. They open the script and read the first page. If that grabs them, they read more. But before that even happens, someone in the office reads your logline and immediately decides to pass or go on. Get the picture?
It doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it. But it doesn’t have to be. If you are a writer, you had better believe in your writing and yourself to stand firm, submit and follow up, withstand the fear, ignore the competition, reject the rejections, and keep going.
But before that, develop a solid summary of your story and practice it on family and friends. It takes no time for that elevator to reach the next floor, and you cannot stumble over your words. Get it down. Memorize it. Rehearse it. Live it.
Contact me if you are interested in learning more, taking one of our writing classes, or having us critique your work. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some well-known book and film loglines/taglines: (source: screen craft.org)
In space, no one can hear you scream. (Alien)
There are 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean. They’re looking for one. (Finding Nemo)
The longer you wait, the harder it gets. (The 40-Year-Old Virgin)
Just because they serve you doesn’t mean they like you. (Clerks)
You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. (The Social Network)
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. (The Godfather)
A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help in catching another serial killer who skins his victims. (Silence of the Lambs)
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. (Titanic)
A prince cursed to spend his days as a hideous monster sets out to regain his humanity by earning a young woman’s love. (Beauty & the Beast)
A seemingly indestructible android is sent from 2029 to 1984 to assassinate a waitress whose unborn son will lead humanity in a war against the machines. A soldier from that war is sent to protect her at all costs. (Terminator)
•GRAB YOUR READERS!
•HONE YOUR PITCH
William Gensburger is the publisher of Books & Pieces Magazine. He is also an award-winning, bestselling author. Learn more about him at www.MisterWriter.com