Have you ever wanted to tell people what your visual novel is about, but find yourself struggling on the details and nuances? Are you writing a visual novel that seems to go everywhere and nowhere at the same time? Have you ever posted a plot summary of your work online, only to see ‘TL;DR’ as the next response?
If you said yes to one of these questions, or if you lied and said no, then you could benefit from writing your own loglines.
A logline is a short blurb, a 1 to 2 sentence description, of the core of a visual novel. It’s a concise distillation of the narrative that tells people, especially the person writing it, what the visual novel is about.
Being able to form a logline of your visual novel will help you accomplish many goals within your narrative and convey important and compelling details to potentially interested parties(customers, backers, team mates, etc.)
What I have to say here isn’t an all-inclusive guide to loglines. Think of it as an introduction into the basics of it, and enough to explore and play around with your own ideas.
A logline is typically composed of three essential elements:
- The Protagonists, and something about them. (“An agoraphobic skydiver…”)
- The Antagonists, or external source of conflict. (“A daredevil ex-fighter pilot”)
- The Action the Protagonist is taking, or the opposing actions.
And may additionally contain other elements to convey theme or mood.
- The Setup details (“In a world where animals can talk…”)
- The Stakes (“… or risk turning into a puddle of slime forever!”)
- The Urgency (“… has until midnight to…”)
- Silence of the Lambs:
A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.
- Reservoir Dogs :
After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.
- Breaking Bad:
A high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer turns to manufacturing and selling methamphetamine in order to secure his family’s future.
- No one knows who John Smith is. Unless your characters are well known figures, namedropping your characters won’t provide any worthwhile information. Stick to their story essential details and traits.
- The Antagonist should be a genuine threat. For best effect, emphasize the unique challenge of being the protagonist against the antagonist. An antagonist that is exceptionally good at exploiting the protagonist’s given weaknesses makes for a compelling narrative. Example: A professional arsonist antagonist vs a pyrophobic protagonist.
- Irony is your friend. An ironic premise, pairing, or a protagonist with an ironic trait can help convey the wit and mood of a story. Done right, and this can be very effective at making both dramatic and comical ideas shine.
- If you’re struggling with your logline, there may be a problem in your idea. The best formed ideas can be expressed simply. Even an intricately woven plot can have a simple to explain premise and concise logline.
- Your logline is about the “A” plot. The B plot, the protagonist’s inner conflict, or sub-plots, should be implied at most. The discovery and resolution of the B plot is part of the fun and full story.
Try writing a few loglines of your own. Here are some prompts to get you going. Try them all and see which one you like the most.
- Write a logline where the protagonist and antagonist are polar opposites.
- Your protagonist has 24 hours to achieve their goal. Write a logline incorporating this urgency with an antagonist that reinforces it.
- You have two protagonists and the stake is their romantic life/future. What external and internal forces drive them apart, and what do they have to do to save themselves?
- Think outside the conventional. The only thing that can resolve your conflict is a high-stakes spelling bee.
- Think of your favorite movie, show, book, or VN, and try to write a log line for it. Bonus points for finding the original logline after to see how they match up.
If you’re still struggling, give these videos a try!