I'm exhausted from the mad dash to prepare for RT, but I faithfully promised Ian that we would post his log lines today. And there's still about 40 minutes left of today in my time zone, so we're getting it in just under the wire.
So, with no further ado:
1. Three young mercenaries trapped in dead-end jobs get the opportunity for one shot at fortune and glory, so long as they can avoid getting killed in the pursuit of a fragile and highly-prized collectible.
2. With only three collectible bottles left in the entire world, it will take the best wits and skills of three young mercenaries to retrieve one and destroy the other two when it seems like the entire world is allayed against them.
I really like the first one. We could say that "liking" something is purely subjective, but remember, I've heard a lot of pitches over the years. I'll sit through four hours' worth this week alone, and that's not counting the elevator-and-bathroom stalker pitches, the casual mingling-in-the-bar pitches, the you've-got-to-hear-about-my-friend's-book pitches -- really, there's an almost infinite variety of pitches at conferences. It's part of what makes a conference fun.
So I tend to trust my subjective responses because they've been honed by repeat exposure to the pitching process. That said, subjective responses are still, um, subjective.
But once we start to pick apart the sentences, we can see distinct differences between them that might give rise to that knee-jerk subjective response. The first one, for example, starts off with people. Most readers want a story about people, about characters, rather than about concepts or objects. (There are exceptions. Remember that movie that followed a dollar bill around for a day? There were people in it, interesting people even, but it was pretty much a story about the adventures of a piece of green paper.)
The second log line winds through 19 words before we get to the people. By comparison, it feels a bit disembodied and maybe even a little flat. This could be intentional, though.
I also prefer the verb choices in the first one. Not just the verbs, but the verbals. Look at how gritty they are and the way they set up a theme. Trapped, dead, shot, killed. (No, dead's not a verb or a verbal, but it fits the theme. These characters are in Oh Crap Big Trouble.)
In the second, what do we have? Retrieved. Allayed. Seems. Eh. Throw in some wits and skills (what kind?), and it begins to take on a mildly cerebral feeling.
In one sense, that almost detached feeling in the second log line works in its favor. I keep thinking about that bottle. It's the most concrete and tangible object in the log line, so it jumps out at me. Why a bottle? It's just an old bottle, and there are hundreds to be found in every landfill. Right? But then I realized that this sentence might be setting us up to understand that the bottle itself isn't all that important -- the sentence creates distance, right, so we can remain a bit detached from the bottle as a physical object and just accept it as a concept. Think of it like a plain gold ring. It's important because of what it stands for, and this sentence is already training me to think of that bottle as a symbolic object like a wedding band. So if this is a mildly cerebral book about a symbolic object, the second log line might be the better option.
But I still like the first log line better.
What do all of you think? I'm barely awake right now, so I could be missing some obvious details. And Ian needs our help. He'll be pitching this book soon. Let's help him get ready.