Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Logline Critique Session Two: #19

TITLE: Johnny Steam
GENRE: YA Steampunk

When Johnny takes his steam bike for a midnight ride, his only goal is to escape the workhouse and his apprenticeship to the Dark Horse Mines. When he fires his coilgun to rescue Araminta from slavers, he thinks he's lost his escape, because her wounds require that she return to the workhouse. He doesn't know he's about to make a vow to rescue her little sister from the slavers. He doesn't know there's a war coming. And he certainly doesn't know that soon he'll have to choose between saving that girl, and his new life in the Clockwork Resistance.


  1. This is quite long for a logline, and has a lot of sentences. They're well-written sentences, though, and definitely give a sense of the sorts of conflicts and stakes involved.

    I don't think "Araminta" or "Dark Horse Mines" need to be named.

    Also, the "takes his steam bike for a midnight ride" feels very calm and relaxing. Who doesn't like to take their bike for a ride? I think it'd be punchier if it felt like a desperate attempt to escape from the start, rather than a picnic.

  2. I think this sounds great, but is perhaps too detailed for a logline?

    Like Tami above, I think maybe the part about Tami and her little sister could be left out, so you have Johnny's escape going wrong, then moving straight onto the war.

    I would leave the Dark Horse Mines in, because I LOVE the name. Great steampunk atmosphere.

  3. I agree with Tami. It's well written, but long. It feels more like a query than a log line. As for how to specifically pare it down, I have no idea. I've been staring at it for a few minutes, and I'm not sure how to fix it. Helpful, right? Maybe if you focus on how rescuing the girl leads him to the resistance, and what his choice becomes.

    Best of luck.

  4. I really liked this a lot, but it's too long. I loved the calm of the opening line, and then loved the increasing tension in those last sentences. I'm wondering if you can eliminate some of the the middle to heighten that contrast. Something like this:

    When Johnny takes his steam bike for a midnight ride, he doesn't know he's about to make a vow to rescue a little girl from slavers. He also doesn't know there's a war coming. And he certainly doesn't know that soon he'll have to choose between saving that girl, and his new life in the Clockwork Resistance.

    Okay, obviously I lost some important details there, but I wanted to show the power of your calm against the heightened conflict.

    Good luck!

  5. Ditto what everyone else has said. Just wanted to add I remember seeing an excerpt from this a few months ago on this site, and I still like it:)

  6. I thought everything you need is here, but you also have some things you don't need - the bike, repeats of slavers, the workhouse and the mine. (Just mention one)
    It could be cut down without losing anything important I think.

  7. So his goal here is to rescue the little sister. The stuff before this needs to either go or be re-worded into a short half-sentence describing what incites him to reach for the goal. After that, you can say that he might not be able to reach the goal because of the war and that, if he doesn't, he will have to face this life in the Clockwork Resistance (we need to know why this is a bad thing, by the way!)

    One tiny thing: don't use "he doesn't know" in loglines. It's implied that he doesn't know any of this is going to happen before it happens and it kinda washes the effects of it.

  8. Too long; too much squeezed in. Condense and clean up.

  9. What's Araminta's relationship to Johnny? Why does he risk himself for her and her little sister?

    This gives me a good sense of the voice of the book, but as others have said, it's too long. While I like the steam bike and the Dark Horse Mines, the first two sentences seem like the setup for the story. Consider starting with the vow to save Araminta's sister and going from there. Good luck!

  10. I think you can get across that this is steampunk without using more than one telling detail in this logline.

    Similarly, "apprenticeship to the Dark Horse Mines" isn't really nessary since you say he's in a workhouse.

    It would have been clearer to me if you skipped Araminta's name and just called her a friend or his sister. I'm not familar with whether the name Araminta is usually a man or woman's name, so the sex and the main character's relationship to this character is more important to me.

    Good luck. The story sounds cool.

  11. Woo hoo! Someone else who is writing steampunk. :) The genre needs more love.

    I like what you've got, but it reads more like the opening paragraph of a query to me than a logline. There's too much detail and there's multiple storylines mentioned - pick one and stick to it.

    The real action seems to be when he fires his coil gun onwards (who is Araminta?) And don't tell us what he doesn't know. Tell us what he does know.

    Just a suggestion, but it should read something like this: "When Johnny [escapes from his job] the last thing he expects is [inciting incident, where he meets Araminta]. The next thing he knows, he's [thrust into xyz quest]and he if doesn't succeed [war!] "

  12. You're trying to jam in too much world building detail and it's a bit confusing. Also, if he's a workhouse employee, how is it he can afford a steam bike and coil gun? Generally workhouses indicate poverty.

  13. I agree with the above comments. You don't want to give the whole plot--just the hook. Entice the reader to want to read more.

  14. This sounds interesting, but way too long for a log line. It's incredibly hard to chop out words and phrases, espcially the ones you've grown to love (I know), but you must. Try reading this through, backwards if you can, and you'll discover what you can chop. The repetition of 'when' doesn't work, but the repetition of 'know' could be crafted to make this much more dymanic. Best of luck!

  15. I agree with the rest of the commenters. Show how concise you can be.