Loglines: The Long and Short on Writing Strong
by Jessica Brown, Screenwriter and Board Member of Phoenix Screenwriters Association
An anxious screenwriter moments away from her meeting with producers without a solid logline, reaches out to a homeless man sitting in front of the building for help, only to discover he is a better writer and is pitching a story similar to her’s to the same producers.
Hmmmmm. Needs some work. But that is my favorite way to write a logline, by rewriting it over and over again. But if you find that too painful to do, try one of these books to guide you through the process of writing a great logline.
The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction by Eric Bork
This is a book that helps you to develop your idea and create a good logline. Mr. Bork shares loglines of successful movies and shows that demonstrate his process of including the essential elements to include in a good logline. He shares multiple examples. This one is my favorite as it highlights the three elements he is talking about:
A man raised as a joyful, innocent elf at the North Pole learns he’s human, and heads off to find his father and his place in the world, in a city where his childlike goodness seems to be rejected: New York. (Elf)
These are the three essential elements Mr. Bork recommends you include in a good logline:
- A quick sense of who the main character is, which makes them seem relatable in some way.
- The “catalyst” that launches the story-meaning the event that changes everything and leads the main character to have to act.
- The nature of the challenge they now must face, their mission in solving it, and its huge difficulty and importance.
Beautifully done Mr. Bork!
Logline: The First Step In Selling Your Spec Script by Craig Griffiths Mr Griffiths writes why a logline is so important to master. He says:
“What is a logline? A logline is a sentence that describes your script in the most concise and simple way. When someone asks you “what’s your script about?” A logline is a written version of the answer to that question.”
Mr. Griffith reminds us that loglines are a sales tool. He warns us to not believe the myth that will surely not lead to a script sale of “leave them guessing” or “never give away the ending.” People who buy scripts want to know what your story is, to see if it works for them. We don’t want to subscribe to the ‘sell don’t tell’ concept. Put it all out there for the buyer to see what they are buying when it comes to your script.
I love his honesty and straight forward approach to crafting loglines. And reminding us that our loglines should not be a “hide and seek” experience for your audience.
Loglines The Long and Short on Writing a Strong Logline with 250 Sample Loglines by Douglas King
Mr. King tells us “Writing a good logline will cause you to purely define the heart of your story and will help you in understanding what your theme and primary story is.”
I use my logline as my “True North” when I get lost in the weeds of rewriting and lose my way of what my story is truly about. For me, I try to nail the logline before I dive into my writing and rewriting. Another great reason to learn how to write a solid logline.
Mr. King also reminds us that the set rules to writing a logline include: * It must only be 35-45 words long.
* It must be only one sentence long.
* Any longer ad it becomes a synopsis.
* Any shorter and it becomes a tagline.
His demonstration of meeting these rules results in this example:
“When a lonely science teacher dies and wakes up in a campground, he must learn, with help from supernatural beings, how to connect with others before the Grim Reaper comes for him. (32 words).
This book contains a variety of loglines across various genres.
Logline Shortcuts: Unlock Your Story And Pitch Your Screenplay In One Simple Sentence by Naomi Beaty
Ms. Beaty simplifies the definition of a logline as “Someone wants something and goes after it against great opposition.” Ms. Beaty also identifies the difference between loglines and taglines. Her examples of taglines might be something you would see on a movie poster:
“Who you gonna call?” (Ghostbusters)
“The true story of a real fake. (Catch Me If You Can)
I love her simple process of how to write a logline: “Write a messy draft then revise until it is great.” The logline of how to write a logline.
Each of these guides have a different approach to how to write a solid logline, yet in the end, they all agree that our loglines need to be clear, concise and give your audience a solid picture of the challenge your protagonist must conquer in the course of the story without hiding the ending.
Another resource to consider when you are crafting loglines is a book or on-line website or app about verbs. You are looking for verbs that will make your logline pop and stay active. There are many resources out there to use when looking for the best verbs for your logline.
Have fun writing your loglines. Grab a few writing friends and bounce around versions. Some of my favorite writers group exercises is helping another writer figure out their logline. It is also a great way to learn from other writers.
PS: If you come up with a better version of my logline and want to share, you can reach me at email@example.com.