Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The One-Sentence Masterpiece

By Rebecca Pratt

This blog is for our signed authors and those wishing to be signed by the Rebecca Pratt Literary Group.  For that reason I will discuss one of the most difficult of concepts—thelogline.

Lets start with a publisher who tells us what they want to see.  "Unless you can distill your submission down to a ‘high concept’ one line logline we are likely not very interested.

“In our experience, if you cannot deliver a one-line pitch, the theme or the concept is not sufficiently differentiated for us. We look for provocative, controversial, different, fun, funky, edgy, different—not all of these. Any of these," Random House.

This has been called a logline, a hook or a one-sentence pitch.  Strictly speaking it isnot a tagline.  

So here’s how we at the Rebecca Pratt Literary Group define and explain it:

What: About 25 words that capture your novel, memoir, or non-fiction book.

Why: To get someone interested in reading your book.

When to use it: The start of a query, or anytime someone asks you, “What’s your book about?”  We use it as a lead-in to your web synopsis and in our communications with publishers.

What it does: A one-sentence summary takes your complex book with multiple characters and plotlines and boils it down into a simple statement that can be quickly conveyed and understood, and generates interest in the book.

What it should include:
 A character or two
 Your choice, conflict, or goal
 What’s at stake (may be implied)
 Action that will get them to the goal
 Setting (only if important)

 Keep it simple. One plotline, 1 or 2 characters.
 Use the strongest nouns, verbs and adjectives.
 Make the conflict clear but you don’t have to hint at the solution.

In your one-sentence summary, do not pitch a theme. Pitch what happens. Examples of themes:

This book explores forgiveness.
This book looks at the thin line between right and wrong.
This book explores the meaning of independence, and asks if it’s really possible.

Here is Nathan Bransford's simplified formula for a one-sentence pitch: "When [opening conflict] happens to [character(s)], they must [overcome conflict] to [complete their quest]."

Lets look at some published books and see what their log line looks like:

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
• A boy wizard begins training and must battle for his life with the Dark Lord who murdered his parents.
 Character=boy wizard
 Conflict=battling the Dark Lord Stakes=his life
 Action=wizard training; avoiding the same fate as his parents

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
• In the south in the 1960s, three women cross racial boundaries to begin a movement that will forever change their town and the way women view one another.

When Faith Awakes by Mike Duran
• Chaos is unleashed on a quiet coastal town when an unassuming crippled woman raises a young boy from the dead, unlocking a centuries-old curse.

Medical Error by Richard Mabry
• Identity theft becomes fatal for a patient and puts a young doctor's reputation and medical practice in jeopardy.

Chasing Superwoman by Susan DiMickele
• A successful attorney and mother of three battles discrimination, exhaustion, and a clueless boss while balancing a career, a family, and a life of faith.

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