13 Dec

How to Explain What You’re Writing About

My writing friends, and random people on the writing forums where I hang out, sometimes got trouble explaining what they’re writing about. Especially when someone’s talking to them.

So do I, but I’ve got a solution.

Two words: Log lines.

  • “It’s about a lone ranger fighting terrorists in a sky scraper.” That’s Die Hard.
  • “It’s Die Hard on a bus.” That’s Speed.
  • “It’s about an African girl killing a magic monster to end a drought.” That’s my latest story.

Of course, since I’m a pantser, I often don’t have the log line until after I’ve written “The End”. Which makes it hard to do log lines, so instead, I go with tropes:

  • It’s about a time-traveling historian going back to the worst battle of WWII.
  • It’s about a gunslinger-magician fighting a war in space. (Yeah, I’m writing that one, it’s the latest of my “Warded Gunslinger” series.)
  • It’s about a bartender in an inter-dimensional bar.

So what’s the difference between a log line and a trope summary? A trope summary doesn’t have to have a goal or a reason. A log line usually does.

Bruce Willis wants to kill the terrorists. Sandra Bullock wants to get off the bus. Aphiwe the African-inspired warrior-girl wants to end a drought.

My warded gunslinger is just fighting a war. The bartender in the inter-dimensional bar is just standing around, watching weird shit happen (I haven’t written that far in that particular story).

On the other hand, a log line is dependent on tropes (the Speed one wouldn’t have worked if Die Hard had flopped) so maybe there’s more similarities than differences.

Either way, it gives you a ten second sound bite that will shut up your audience so that you can create in peace.

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