After a break to write some short pieces, I'm back to my work-in-progress, The Superhero Murders. The break has done some good--I've gained more confidence--but I also felt the need to start over in a sense. I'll explain: without reviewing my notes, I'm writing the loglines for the characters and story first. I did this early, but now that I've had some time and have gained some familiarity with the characters, the loglines feel much tighter now.
A logline comes from script writing, but it's useful in any writing. It's a short summary (the word length varies, I aim for around 30) of a character or story. You could also apply it to a scene, a chapter, a relationship or just about anything else.
The benefit of a logline is that it lets me boil the subject down to a simple thesis statement. It gives focus and clarity. I can fall back on it whenever I'm uncertain about how a character would react or how a scene should unfold.
But a logline is more than just a summary. There are some requirements. A logline should hint at character, situation, goal, obstacle, risk and sacrifice.
Here are some example loglines of well-known movies, taken from here. That links also gives more detail on loglines. I recommend it to anyone interested in the writing process.
I find it surprising how well some of those loglines encapsulate their stories. I know plenty of stuff has been left out, but remember: the point of a logline is to distill an element down to its most basic summary.
Over at Scribophile.com, there is a logline group that workshops loglines together.
Once they are published, I will post my loglines on this blog.
For a long time, I hated this discussion, and I think I have an idea why now. Nobody is talking about the same thing here. It's like the Tower of Babel; we're all speaking different languages. I recently watched a few of these discussions unfold almost simultaneously online. As the discussions progressed, I became aware that everyone, even those who sounded wise and experienced, meant slightly different things when they used the words show and tell.
And here's my conclusion: you don't even need those words to discuss the topic.
Or, if you want me to be more blunt, it's a lot of bullshit.
The first thing I see, is that when writers hear that they need to show more and tell less, what it really means is that they aren't evoking emotion. The reader isn't feeling anything; they're merely being informed about what is going on in the character's heart and mind. This is true whether we're talking about action, thought, summary or dialogue.
And it doesn't matter if the line is, "Clair looked hurt," or "Clair wept," or "Clair's heart broke" or "Clair buried her face in her pillow and sobbed for hour".
What matters isn't how it is done so much as whether it evokes emotion. Many writers advise getting into the character's head with a deep narrative voice and working through the actual thoughts. I agree that it is often the best way, but not the only way.
The how-it's-done part comes down to four basic modes (though you could expand them if you wanted).
Writer of speculative fiction. Current work in progress is an untitled dark fantasy novella.