After reading your blog post on creating loglines, I had a ton of fun introducing the idea to my monthly writing group. Within a few minutes, the group helped me come up with this logline for my most recent manuscript:
A brilliant neoclassical composer is lured into a shadowy underworld of corrupt implant software and drug-induced raves, revealing ominous secrets about his employer that threaten to ruin his career and force him to take drastic steps to protect the woman he loves.
I'd enjoy getting a few words of critique from you. Thanks!
You're right-- crafting log lines is a great group activity! Now I'll bet they'll all want your help on their log lines.
This is a one-sentence log line, very packed. I probably wouldn't be upset if you went with two sentences. Or you could trim out the words that aren't needed and see if it's shorter then. I really enjoy stories where some innocent is pulled into a honeytrap or whatever, and ends up triumphing over the bad guys.
Let's take it in pieces:
A brilliant neoclassical composer
I'd probably cut "brilliant"-- I at least assume if you're a neoclassical composer, you're probably brilliant. :) But also, it's not interesting, and feels like padding/bragging. As he's going to get lured into something nefarious, I'd think of setting up a conflict with an adjective, like "naive" or "introspective," something that actually says something about who he is that he might get lured into something.
is lured into a shadowy underworld of corrupt implant software and drug-induced raves,
I like the word "lured"-- that really is precisely the "luring" word, drawing the reader in and hinting at the process that will be developed more fully in the story. Also I think it indicates a more cerebral villain, which is a plus.
into a shadowy underworld of corrupt implant software and drug-induced raves,
Okay, here you lose me. I don't know what you mean. I'm with Jewel Tones (commenter) on this-- "implant" means breasts to most of us. What is a term that non-technical types (that includes most editors) can understand? Computer viruses? And "drug-induced raves" -- you mean raves like a music rave? Or a crazy person ranting on the street corner? And what does his being a composer have to do with it? I wonder if it might be better if you could actually write out what happens to him and then start to boil it down. It's the right idea, but how software, raves, and neoclassical music link up isn't clear and can't be explained in a log line. What's his conflict? He's lured into something bad by bad guys. It might actually be more important what about him-- his naivete, his vanity, whatever-- makes him vulnerable to this, or maybe why they bother. I mean, I value neoclassical as much as the next guy, but it's hard to believe a composer is worth much to a villain. What is it that makes him valuable to the bad guy? That's important,and we don't get anything about that.
(I know it sounds like I'm telling you to add to an already long sentence, and I am, but when you have a complex plot, I think you should explain it all and then boil it down. Remember what Hitchcock called "the McGuffin," the object of desire-- he didn't think he had to explain what it was. There was a priceless moment in his Notorious when finally Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman locate what they've been looking for, and she asks what is it, and he replies, "Some kind of ore." That is, the details don't matter much when the action is hot and the emotion is intense.)
Also, I'd probably just go with "underworld". I like "shadowy," but I think you really have to trim this if you want to have it all in one sentence.
revealing ominous secrets about his employer
Do composers have employers? I know, you probably mean his day job. I actually knew a neoclassical composer once, and he made his living as a computer programmer. He did say that a lot of composers did find work writing music for cartoons. (Now I guess it's videogames.) Anyway, I assume you mean his day job employer, but the only profession we've heard of is the composing. Do you need to make that clearer? Is it important who the employer is? I mean, say it's the CIA. That's important. But you might want to hint at what the secrets are. I think you're using modifiers instead of information-- ominous secrets-- and it might be that the information, or at least a hint of it, is what we need here. Not much-- "national security secrets" or "sexual secrets" or "criminal secrets" or "corrupt secrets" or "industrial espionage secrets"-- just something that hints at what the nature of the secrets is.
I'm all for creating an atmosphere with words. But you don't have much room here, and you don't want to be redundant. If the noun says it, you don't need to replicate it with a modifier (brilliant composer, ominous secrets). I wouldn't have any problem with that except I think you're skimping on the important stuff, like what is happening.
that threaten to ruin his career and force him to take drastic steps to protect the woman he loves.
Here are the stakes, which is good, but they're not actually equal-- his career (which one? composing or other?) and the woman he loves. The first kind of feels trivial after such a big buildup-- you mean, it's just his career at stake? I'd probably delete that and go with the woman he loves-- that's more high-stakes.
Watch for cliches that don't say much, like "take drastic steps". What does he have to do? I don't mean actual actions, but can you characterize what he has to do, like "betray his country" or "turn the tables" or "betray his values" or "risk all"?
So... the story sounds really intriguing (of course, I do love this sort of story), but I'd suggest trimming the extras from this and then getting more informative. I truly don't know what the danger is or why he's in danger, or what about him gets him into this situation.
And remember-- two sentences, okay. :)