When David Milch was pitching his series Deadwood to HBO, the executives asked him to sum up his concept in a single sentence. This was his sentence: "Deadwood is about a man learning to fall in love with his wife."
It made no difference to Milch that Deadwood is about 10 things before it's about Seth Bullock's marriage to his brother's widow. Plus we didn't even meet his wife until the second season. HBO wanted a sentence, and he gave them an interesting one.
There is a writing competition for sci-fi and YA novels hosted by www.writersdigest.com that asks writers to do this most difficult task: to sum up an entire novel in one logline. This is hard for me. My book is over 270,000 words. There are ten main characters, many of whom have independent story lines. There are three narrators. Thematically, the book has something to say about space militarization, sustainable farming, ecology and pollution, the role of Heaven in human affairs, postmenopausal women, the two opposing forces within the American soul, the nature of language and humor, thinking robots, alien civilizations, and the generational divide between the young and the elderly. Each of these themes could get its own logline. Maybe I've written a kitchen sink novel. Maybe I need an editor. In any case, here goes:
Logline: My science-fiction novel is the first one to depict a green utopia while suggesting the steep toll such a society would extract from the human spirit.
Maybe Milch's pitch is good because it conveys theme and character. Mine doesn't mention characters. It's hard to pitch a sci-fi novel about farmers. There are a lot of farmers, but also rebel space pilots, not to mention a robot and an alien.
Let me try again.
Logline: In the 22nd century, a gang of geriatric space-industry veterans hatch and elaborate and deadly scheme to launch a rocket to an alien civilization, hoping to prove to the torpid town fathers that their green utopia has stunted the human spirit.
Here is the link to the contest if anyone is interested: