Jordan sent us these two log lines.
Undercover as a priest, an FBI agent must root out the mob in a Catholic parish before his feelings for the parish secretary blow his cover.
(protagonist + goal + deadline/ticking clock)
When her priest is murdered, the parish secretary didn’t expect to fall in love with his handsome replacement—or to discover the new priest was really an undercover FBI agent.
(inciting incident + obstacle + black moment)
They're both fine, strong sentences, packed with juicy details and easy to follow. This makes it harder to choose between them.
The first thing I notice when comparing them is that one focuses on the hero, the other on the heroine. (By the way, can you spot the ellipsis in the preceding sentence? Pop quiz!) So perhaps the first thing to establish is whether the book is more about the hero and the heroine, and let that establish the ultimate decision.
Except, well, the bit about the murder in the second log line really snaps, doesn't it? What kind of person would murder a priest? That's a one-way ticket to hell, for sure. Anything that shocking and dramatic deserves a first-row seat in your pitch. So I want that tidbit in the log line.
I have the same inclination about the reference to the mob in the first sentence, but this could be due to my abiding love for mob stories. I don't know that others will perk up as I do after hearing that. Anyone? Or is it just me?
So part of me wants to move that mafia reference down into the second pitch, but there is one possible drawback. When I think of mafia stories, I automatically expect a certain structure. Antihero protagonist, mafia activity shown from the pov of one or more mobsters, strong mafia world-building, themes of redemption figuring in the crisis and denouement.
That's probably not what we've got here. And that's slightly problematic because mafia stories allow us to have mixed feelings about criminals. Drug cartels, gangs, and the like are almost always true villains. Mafioso? Eh. There's room for charming rogues there.
So if the mafia is meant to be a pure villain, I want this signaled in the log line, front and center, before I hear the rest of the pitch. Otherwise, I'll listen to the rest with an eye -- or, to be precise, an ear toward figuring out the way the mobsters will be presented in the text. One possible solution would be to use a different term. "Crime syndicate" might be a good option.
This leads us to something like:
When her priest is murdered, the parish secretary didn’t expect to fall in love with his handsome replacement—or to discover the new priest was really an undercover FBI agent investigating a crime syndicate that secretly operates out of her church basement.
It's longer, but it gives us a clear premise, at least two functional characters, the romantic conflict (forbidden love), a nice "secret identity" hook, even a slice of plot. I assume the heroine will have some trust issues she'll be forced to resolve after she discovers the hero's duplicity, so I already suspect I know something about the internal conflicts.
I have no idea, by the way, whether the mob is operating out of the church basement. That's my own insertion because I also wanted some hint of how the mob was connected to the church. The priest's murder may have been accidental, but the plot is stronger if it's not. Indicating a connection like this right away leads me to a question: did the first priest know the bad guys were right underfoot? Was he an accomplice or an interloper?
So what does everyone else think? Got any reactions/suggestions for this one?