Saturday, April 18, 2009

Log Lines #3

Here's a pair from Julie.

As prominent and powerful figures in the world of magic – both human and non, good and evil – are assassinated, a chaos witch finds herself caught in the crosshairs with only the protection of a demon standing between her and death.
When a hit list targeting the most powerful names in magick - both good and evil - falls in to the hands of the dark realm, a demon relic hunter is assigned the task of finding and retrieving the only human on the list -- a chaos witch whose untapped power will either be the key to stopping the slaughter... of the very thing that destroys them all.

First impressions: I think the first one would make me predisposed to request a submission, and the second one would confuse me.

The first one gives me a strong sense of conflict and connection between the hero and heroine. I like the notion of a chaos witch, though I'm not sure what it means. But I would like to find out. It's intriguing. The phrase is also used in the second pitch, but it stands out a little more in the first. I also like the idea that this evil force is indiscriminate and that the demon is the protector -- these bits, coupled with the phrase chaos witch, makes me think this book will really dig into our preconceptions of what is good and what is evil. That could make for an interesting read, even a challenging one.

The second one gives me a lot of questions. Who made the hit list? Someone evil, right? So does it start in the hands of one evil creature and "fall into" another's? The phrase, the hands of a dark realm, confuses me a little. Are we talking about henchmen or kingpins? And notice that the demon is now a demon relic hunter. What does that mean? Is it a demon who hunts relics? Or a hunter of demon relics?

So I get a little lost in the second log line. But there are a couple of ideas contained in it that strike me as important, and that ought to be included somewhere in a pitch. First, she's the only human on the list. This seems important. Second, her power is untapped, which hints at transformation plot. Third, her power is unknown, yes, but more important, the ultimate effects of her power are unknown. Could be good, could be ultimate destruction. Again, this plays with the theme of preconceived notions of good and evil. You would think discovering latent powers would be a good thing, right? Maybe not. Maybe it's catastrophic. And I really find this entire theme intriguing.

So what does everyone else think? Do you want to reshape that second log line, or just toss it and recommend using the first one? Are there any holes in the first one that need to be plugged?



Jeanne Ryan said...

I have a few things to tighten the first one.

I don't think we need prominent and powerful. Powerful is more powerful by itself.

Same with human and non. It waters down the good and evil, which set aside by the hyphens is very powerful.

Caught in the crosshairs is a cliche.

I'm not sure which is more powerful chaos witch or the only human on the list

The additional stuff from the second log line can go later in another sentence. I think the problem with the second one is it tries to do too much. Broken up, it would flow much better. The end of the second one could be the end of the pitch.

Words I liked from the second one
hit list
untapped power

em said...

I don't think you need prominent and powerful either. Other than that I liked it but, what is a 'chaos witch'?

Riley Murphy said...

I like the first one the way it is. With the use of both powerful and prominent, as it balances the rest of the line out - otherwise you’d be changing the whole darn thing...and I mean, read it. Why would you want to do that?

Did I hear this one before? Twitter pitch maybe? I remembered so it’s gotta be good.:) As for the second logline? It has too much info in it -- and I KNOW first hand that too much information can be deadly -- unless of course, you like being grilled over hot coals?
Personally, I prefer the simplicity of a sunbath to acquire my tan!:D

Babs said...

I agree with Jeanne - 'caught in the crosshairs' is pat. I'd change it or take out. The remainder is good, easy to read and clear.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I like the second one, because I very much like the idea of the demon protector; however,I think the sentence that's chosen should be whichever is more closely related to the general POV of the book.
One thing that concerned be about the second sentence was the presence of an either without an or. Did the ellipses mean that there were things omitted from the sentence, or were they merely there for a dramatic touch? Because the rest of the sentence might effect the general opinion of the sentence.

Wes said...

Your technique of log lines is incredibly powerful and useful. Thanks again for introducing it to us.

Oh, yes, when someone else uses it in their blog, try to remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Julie Harrington said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Harrington said...

Thanks for the comments and feedback so far. I really appreciate it. :)

I'd really intended on writing the one log line (the first one) but then worried that it didn't supply enough information. That's where #2 came in, overcompensating. LOL.

I also purposely made each one focus on a different character -- the first on the female, the second on the male. As the story is a romance, they actually both share equal roles of importance (in my opinion).

Dominique, the ellipses were for that dramatic pause and there's a darned typo in there. I caught it after I hit "send" of course. It's supposed to be ...or the very thing that destroys them all. Not "of." Sorry about that.

Jeanne, Em, I get what you're saying about the prominent vs powerful, I did (as Murphy suggested) include both to balance out the human and non, good vs. evil. But your feedback definitely gives me something to think about as I go tweak and fine tune.

Ah cliches. Love to hate them. ;) I knew it when I wrote it but for the life of me couldn't come up with anything I liked better, so it ended up as the placeholder. I will definitely keep it in mind for replacement.

Theresa, you are totally right about the story addressing the preconceptions of good and evil. It's one of my favorite themes to work with. Good and Evil, honor, loyalty... I love those and like to explore them. It all comes down to shades of gray in this book. Where your lines in the sand are, and what forces you to move them when you thought you never would.

The demon relic hunter is a demon whose specific job is to hunt down relics of interest (paranormal, magical, etc) that they find useful or fear would/could be used against them.

The heroine is, indeed, a chaos witch. Chaos magic is built on the belief that you don't have to stand on the ceremony of, say, Wicca. It's not built on a central belief, but constructed and inspired by multiple beliefs. There is no "rule" governing the magic as is the case with more structured magic. Basically it boils down to the witch using what they want, picking and choosing through the beliefs they want, while melding it with others to get the desired result they wish. Sheer will = desired result.

Her power is unknown, definitely plays an important role in the story, and the ultimate effect could totally be a very, very bad thing. Again, those pesky lines and shades of gray.

As for the side actually calling for the hits and carrying them out... that's another funny thing. On one hand? Evil to the Nth degree. On the other? Actually kind of a good thing. Sort of. If you were one of the ones left alive. But somehow I think the planet would be very, very empty if they were to succeed.

I really liked working on the log line. Aside from helping me shape it for pitching purposes, I think it gave me a great starting point for the query letter and really great help in focusing on what are the most important aspects of the story for the hero, the heroine, the plot, etc. I'm looking forward to getting the book finished.

Thanks again!


P.S. Murphy, you probably think it rings a bell because when you posted yours in response to one of the entries below? I did the same. :) I haven't postd it elsewhere.

Laura Hamby said...

I like the first one the way it is. Wouldn't change a thing, including "caught in the crosshairs". I think sometimes we strive so hard to avoid cliches that we often wind up with prose that leaves the reader thinking, "Huh?"---we'd've been better off using the cliche. As long as the entire ms itself isn't rife with cliches, one or two isn't going to hurt a thing.

Jeanne Ryan said...

one other thing that bugged me. Demon relic hunter sounded to me like someone (human) who hunted demon relics. I'm not even sure if he would have super powers (thinking Wesley of Angel/Buffy) Not sure how to rephrase it.

Also hunter to me implies going after live things, or undead things. Again, not sure what other word to use.

Riley Murphy said...

I couldn't agree more with Laura, about the 'crosshairs', I think it's a great visual! Keep it in - I mean it!

Adrian said...

I guess I'm in the minority. I preferred the second one by far.

The first one didn't read smoothly for me. "World of magic" made me think of professional stage magicians an illusionists. ("Magick" in the second example really helped nail down the type of book we're learning about.) Next, I stumbled over "human and non" a couple times. I don't mind that "crosshairs" is a cliche but that it doesn't seem to fit into the world of demon hunters and witches. "Crosshairs" in a spy/assassin thriller would be fine, but it doesn't work for me here.

The second sample suggested a much deeper story with more layers. Yes, it inspires more questions than the first. But they are questions of curiousity, not "huh?". I *want* to know more about the second one.

Most importantly, the stakes in the second one seem much higher. "Only human" and the slaughter of all these magical figures far outweighs the death of a single character as the first one suggests. That's not to say every book needs such elevated stakes, but if the story does have big stakes, it seems a shame to undersell them in the pitch.

Edittorrent said...

Some excellent points. I'm especially grateful to see the helpful and constructive spirit these comments are taking. We do try to avoid crushing people during pitches. :)

@Wes. Did someone copy this post? Really? I don't know why, but that strikes me as funny. I've been teaching this concept for years are part of a structure workshop. It's not exactly new material.

@Adrian. I noticed the magic/magick thing, too. Important in a written query, I think, but not so much in a pitch. Good point about crosshairs and suspense/spy.

@Jeanne. I disagree that including both human and non, good and evil, is repetitive. I think it actually highlights the theme that the lines are a bit murky.


Edittorrent said...

I meant to also say, @JT, you've done an excellent job of communicating your theme. Even in just two sentences, you give a strong sense of the "big questions" in your book. That's hard to do at all, let alone to do well. Gold star for you!