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.