How To Write A Hook Line Or Logline

by Michelle McLean “Arche Type Writing”

In this article, we are going to discuss how to create a hook line for a novel. It is important to remember that every story is different. Some will need a little more information, and others can get the point across in three words or less. Well…maybe a few more than three words, but you get my drift.

First of all, what is a hook line?

A hook line is exactly what it sounds like – a line that will hook someone into wanting to read your book. It is basically the same thing as a logline, which is a one line summary of a screenplay or script. Since we are creating these for a novel instead of a script, we’ll call them hook lines. They can run two or three lines, but no more than that.

Why do you need one?

Your hook line, like a logline, takes a story full of complex plotlines and high-concept ideas and breaks it down into a simple sentence that can be quickly and easily conveyed to a wide range of people. Your hook line is your first pitch in getting someone interested in your book. It can be used as the first line in your query letter, to help hook the agent into reading the rest of the letter and requesting information. And it is especially useful for those pitch sessions at conferences or lunches. When a prospective agent or editor asks you what your book is about, your hook line is your answer. Because it is a simple line or two, it is also handy for those family dinner parties when Grandma asks what your book is about.

How do you create a hook line?

This is actually easier than it sounds. You do not need to condense your entire book into one sentence. But you do need to give enough information that the agent/editor/curious acquaintance you are addressing gets the gist of your book and is interested enough to want more.

Elements of a Hook Line

  • Characters – Who is the main character? What does that main character want? What is his/her main goal?
  • Conflict – Who is the villain of the story? Or what is the main obstacle to the main character obtaining their goal?
  • Distinction – What makes your book different then all the rest? What is the unique element of your story that makes it stand out? Is your book a romance between a young man and woman? What makes them different?
  • Setting – for a novel, adding a little about the setting, time period, and possibly genre (if it’s not obvious) is a good idea. For example, the hook line for my book, which is an historical romantic suspense, could begin “A young woman in Victorian England…”.
  • Action – Your hook line needs to have action, excitement. For example, which hook line catches your interest more?
    • A woman has an affair and runs off with her new beau.
    • A neglected wife and mother has a torrid affair with an ex-con and kidnaps her children as she flees across the country with her lover.

The difference is the inclusion in the second example of action and description words. The woman becomes a “neglected wife and mother.” She has a “torrid” affair. The beau is an “ex-con,” implying a world of danger and crime. She doesn’t just run off, she “flees,” kidnapping her children in the process.

Examples:

Here are a few examples of loglines from well known movies. (Yes, I know we are creating hook lines for a book, but the concept is the same, and examples of loglines are easier to find).

  • When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an insane and corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (Gladiator)
  • In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed. (Minority Report)
  • A 17th Century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England’s daughter and reclaim his ship. (Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love, must outwit her abusive fiancé, and find a way to survive aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea. (Titanic)
  • A comedic portrayal of a young and broke Shakespeare who falls in love with a woman, inspiring him to write “Romeo and Juliet. (Shakespeare in Love)
  • An archeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

For your own hook line, you need to decide which elements best convey what your story is about. It is interesting to see how adding different elements affects a hook line. For example, take a look at these two movie loglines.

  • After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home. (logline by Brian A. Klems, click HERE for the link)
  • Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again. (Log Line attributed to Richard Polito of the Marin Independent Journal, who writes humorously sarcastic briefs for the paper’s daily TV listings)

Both of these loglines are for the film Wizard of Oz, but they each give the film a distinctly different tone. Personally I like the second one best 😀 but the first probably gives a better idea of what the film is about.

It might take a little while to get your hook line perfected, but if you stick to the main elements of your story (the main character, the villain or conflict, what is unique about your story, and spice it up with a little action), your hook line should almost write itself. Just to show you that ANYONE can do this, (because if I can do it, anyone can), the hook line for my book is below.

  • A young woman in Victorian England is swept into an illicit affair with a reformed thief and must find a legendary necklace to ransom her life and the lives of those she loves from a corrupt lord.

Can you spot the elements?

  • Characters – a young woman and her love interest who is a reformed thief.
  • Conflict – a corrupt lord (the villain) is threatening her life and the lives of those she loves unless she can find a legendary necklace.
  • Distinction – my story is not just a romance, but has a big dose of suspense and mystery thrown in. The love interest is not a typical man but an ex-thief, and while the romance comes in with the affair, it is an “illicit” affair (implying something out of the ordinary, something forbidden).
  • Setting – Victorian England. And the description of the story gives obvious clues to the genre – Victorian England = historical; illicit affair = romance; a treasure hunt/mystery and lives threatened = suspense….Genre = historical romantic suspense.
  • Action – instead of saying my story is about a girl and guy who fall in love and search for a necklace, I describe the love story as an “illicit affair;” the necklace is “legendary,” the lord is “corrupt,” the love interest is “a reformed thief.” All these little elements help make the hook line more exciting, more interesting. And that is what will help hook the interest of potential agents, publishers, and readers.

To read more, please visit www.ArchTypeWriting.com

8 Comments

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  1. Profile photo of hhusted
    hhusted says
    July 29, 2014, 5:47 pm

    I clicked the link to submit my logline, but got a “Page not found” error. How do I submit my logline?

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  2. June 9, 2014, 6:44 pm

    […] How To Write A Logline […]

  3. Profile photo of The-Student
    August 26, 2012, 12:40 pm

    Well, no wonder everyone on this website is confused. Don’t feel bad. I just looked and even Wikipedia incorrectly references film in its description of what a logline is. I’ll be fixing that, but for now, read this from above:

    “In this article, we are going to discuss how to create a hook line for a novel.”

    Of COURSE you have to all of the above in your NOVEL LOGLINE IF YOU WANT SOMEONE TO POTENTIALLY WASTE HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS READING A NOVEL.

    Last time I checked this is supposed to be a SCREENWRITING website where aspiring screenwriters can post SCREENPLAY LOGLINES and SCREENPLAYS. The definition of a SCREENPLAY LOGLINE being ENTIRELY different than a NOVEL LOGLINE.

    I pulled this up doing a quick Google search. There are hundreds of these out there, this is just the first one I found, and is actually a very good definition. Keep in mind, this is how to write a SCREENPLAY LOGLINE and does not apply to NOVELS, which are completely, totally, absolutely different than screenplays. The ONLY thing that is similar is our hope that the author tells us a good story. That’s it.

    From http://simonjmichael.com/loglineadvice.html

    “A logline is a one-line catchy way of describing your movie to someone interested in buying your script. Many people assume the logline is a summary of the movie when in actuality the main purpose a logline must serve is to convince someone to take a look at your screenplay. It’s basically a one-line pitch for your story.

    Blake Snyder, author of Save the Cat, says “The number one thing a good logline must have, the single most important element, is: irony.”

    Snyder shares this logline as a demonstration of the irony:

    A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend – the logline for “Pretty Woman””

    So, there it is. If you want proof, do some research. Or, if you have questions feel free to message me. What I will NOT do, though, is argue whether or not what I’ve said here is fact.

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    • Profile photo of jusork
      jusork says
      August 26, 2012, 1:39 pm

      “even Wikipedia incorrectly references film in its description of what a logline is.”

      What does this mean?

      Blake Snyder may say irony is the most important thing, but every respectable logline definition I’ve read has always said the logline is meant to clearly but compellingly tell what your script is about.

      Simon J Michael actually lists some good logline links in his reference page. And they all agree with this website. One of them is Michelle McLean’s who wrote the article that this website has used.

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      • Profile photo of The-Student
        January 1, 2013, 10:27 pm

        ““even Wikipedia incorrectly references film in its description of what a logline is.”

        What does this mean?” – jusork

        jusork, do you recognize that there is a difference between a novel logline and a screenplay logline? Read the article above… it’s referencing a novel logline. Screenplay loglines and novel loglines are different and serve different ends and they should be submitted and judged separately (which is why I left the site – it is entirely unhelpful to a screenwriter to be improperly judged).

        It looks like there’s been an update on Wiki, or I may have missed it the first time around. Anyway, it does now mention two different uses for a “log line”. To save you the trouble it says and I quote “In Hollywood jargon, a logline is a one-sentence summary of the pitch for a proposed film or television program. Such a sales pitch is often used by a screenwriter to secure development support from a studio executive.”

        Very, very rarely will a screenplay logline have a good excuse for being more than 40 words, and if you’re following the rules of a “hook” it should read in one sentence. Just think about it, the logline is mainly going to be used at the upper portion of a query letter. If the logline is clunky, needlessly lengthy, not well-written, or worse of all doesn’t follow professional guidelines, why would they think your screenplay would be any different?

        My guess is people underestimate the power of a great logline and think it’s just supposed to be created in a few minutes. When read, a logline should present a clear, compelling, but brief glimpse of the hero, his goal, and what stands in his way. It does not lay out a plot, or provide any in-depth synopsis, although it should hint at these things or you’ll risk wasting the producer’s time if they request your screenplay. The logline is an emotional hook, which in order to have the greatest effect needs emphasis on brievity. Think about it. If it takes a person two sentences to say something they could have said in 25 words, what does that say about their economy of writing? It’s an immediate tip-off to the reader that their screenplay will be no different. Length vs. brievity: which one do you think will have the bigger impact in the reader’s mind, or even better, his emotional response?

        I have since found a source I like much better for the definition of a logline. I found this on a web search one day in my desire to write the absolute best logline I possibly could for my screenplays. I actually wrote an article for publishing after originally visiting this site and learning of its improper handling of screenplay loglines, and had it professionally edited, but then decided that the below article would be all anyone would need. I reference the first few pages over and over whenever I’m creating loglines, or rewriting them. After the first few pages, there are tons and tons of examples of obviously successful screenplay loglines. If those same loglines were judged on this site, they would receive low marks for not “telling you the whole story” or “being too vague”. I’m just not convinced that the community at this site fully understands what they’re judging – a novel logline or a screenplay logline. It can seriously skew a young writer’s view as to what to include in his query letter, which could ruin his chances of having his screenplay read. Hopefully no one here wants that??

        The website: http://twoadverbs.site.aplus.net/
        The article: http://twoadverbs.site.aplus.net/logline.pdf

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  4. Profile photo of amanitas
    amanitas says
    July 9, 2012, 11:08 am

    How does one enter the “free logline” that is promoted on your page? There is no where to submit this free loglline.

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  5. rickemg says
    June 6, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Good article on loglines. I think that you got it down to a science. Thanks

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