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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Loglines and taglines

 cj Sez: Where do you get the ideas for your stories? That’s a question that every author I know has heard.

   How and where does one come up with an idea, a theme for a novel? I used to find ideas in the news, but what the media is producing right now is incredibly ominous and ugly. So, let’s get lighter.
   First, let's agree that novels need a theme, a premise/thread that continues through the novel on which to hang the action and plot points. And pantsers, this is for us, too (might save a lot of hefty editing later). 

   One way to get a handle on finding the theme/premise is to describe your novel in one sentence before you start writing it.
   I’m talking about a logline…a one-sentence description of your story that introduces your main character, the conflicts s/he will encounter, and what the cost will be if s/he loses.
Here’s a quick visual formula:
Protagonist + Verb + Antagonist + Antagonist’s Goal
A young queen + risks her life + vengeful husband + exterminate her people   . . . becomes
   A young queen must risk her life and reveal her Jewish heritage in order to change the king’s mind about exterminating all her people. (The story of Esther in the Bible.)
British spy + uncovers plot + gold magnate + contaminating U.S. gold  . . . becomes
While investigating a gold magnate's smuggling, a British 007 agent uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve. (James Bond in GOLDFINGER)
   Notice there no names or specifics in those loglines.
   Caveat: A logline is not a tagline. The tagline describes what kind of emotion the reader can expect to find in your story. It’s simply a catch phrase, and here’s where the forbidden cliché might be helpful.
   A cliché is, by definition, a trite and overused expression —a figure of speech that has become tiresome and uninteresting.  
   Clichés are those taboo things editors tell writers to avoid like the plague, but clichés can be good fodder for this exercise (I found the following two paraphrased examples on another site too many years ago to remember the source.)
   Cliché “Life is like a box of chocolates” from FORREST GUMP
   You’d expect a philosophical story that will probably have some humor, too.
“Don’t go into the water” from JAWS
   You know this is a story that’s going to scare you.
   I like the idea of writing a tagline first because then I’ve identified the tone I’m going to use when writing my story. .  
   For a love story (which doesn’t always end with a happily ever after): “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” The reader expects that angst is involved
   For a romance: “Love will find a way.” The premise is that there will be obstacles in the protagonist’s path on her way to happily ever after. The reader knows there is going to be romance and probably tears.
   I always think of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre as a combination of those two genres—an angst-driven love story that evolves into the happily ever after of a romance.

   I will be doing some practical practice of my own; i.e. trying to make up my own loglines and taglines for other stories I’ve read before I create one for my own.  
   Some smiles and truisms that show up with regularity on my Facebook page.

I am a multitasking procrastinator.
I can put off several things at once.
Today is Sunday.  Share this and within seven days, you’ll get another Sunday.
It really works!
One of my friends ignored this message, and he got a Monday within twenty-four hours.
Believe me, it works.
Noun-verb agreements for authors
I write.
You write.
He writes.
She writes.
They write.
We all revise.
We are all precious in the sight of the Lord.
He may shake His head a lot, but we’re still precious.
  That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. 

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  1. Helpful info, cj. I especially like the formula for loglines, and plan to practice using it. Happy New Year!

  2. cj Sez: Thanks for stopping by and the comment, Mahala. Some form of that formula was on a site I visited years ago, and I've forgotten where or I would have attributed the author. But the gist of it exists out there on the internet. I'll have to find it and amend my post. (sigh) Happy New Year to you also.


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