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Daily Screenwriting Tips ...Loglines

The Logline: What It Is, Why You Need It, How To Write It.   Email to a friend! Recommend to a friend!

A logline is a one-sentence summary of your script. It's the short blurb in TV guides that tells you what a movie is about and helps you decide if you're interested in seeing it. It's the grabber that excites your interest.

Your logline answers the question: What is your story about? Your friends and others probably ask you this question when you tell them you're writing a screenplay or that you've already written one. You need to be able to state the main concept of your story in one concise sentence.

"But my story is complicated with many plot twists, and I couldn't possibly tell you what it's about in one sentence," you say.

You must learn to express the story concept in one powerful sentence if you want an agent or producer to read your screenplay,

For that reason, your logline is also step number one of planning your screenplay.

Before you even begin to write, you must write down this one key sentence—the logline. Keep it in front of you while you write your script. It will keep you focused on the story when you stray.

So, there are two main reasons why you need a logline:


1. A logline keeps you focused as you write.


2. You need a logline to sell your screenplay.

How does a logline help you sell your screenplay?

When your screenplay is ready to sell, your query letter to agents, producers, and directors must contain a logline. Sometimes, they don't read past the logline. So, if you don't grab them with your logline, you won't have any chance of getting them to read your entire screenplay.

If you speak to a producer, director, or agent, that person will ask you: "What is your script about?" You will have 30 seconds to describe the plot in a captivating way.

How do you write a logline that will interest a producer, director, or agent?

Writing something short and exciting is never easy. It takes practice. A lot of it.  Read and study professionally written loglines in TV guides, newspapers, Variety, Internet film reviews… anything you can that will help you express your story concept in one sentence.

Your logline will usually start out as more than one sentence. It may even be far too long and complicated. That's okay. Leave it alone for a day or two. Then go back, look at it, take a pencil and cross out all the words that don't contribute to the main action or the heart of your story. Soon, you will have pared your logline down to one sentence that captures the essence of your story.

Read it to your friends, your family, fellow writers. Find out if they're intrigued by the logline and want to know more. Getting feedback from others is important. It tells you if you're on track or if you have to go back and rewrite.

Here are three questions to ask yourself as you write your logline:


1. Who is the main character and what does he or she want?


2. Who (villain) or what is standing in the way of the main character?


3. What makes this story unique?

Use action words when writing your logline. Film captures the actions of characters.
Add descriptive words to create an image that will stay in the mind of your reader.


The following examples show how dull loglines can be made exciting by adding descriptive words.

Dull logline: A woman plots to murder her sister.

Intriguing logline: A woman obsessed by jealousy plots to murder her sister, who married the man she loves.

Dull logline: Two lovers plan to flee from their feuding families who forbid them to marry.

Intriguing logline: Two young lovers living in a ghetto defy their feuding families' ban on marrying and plan an escape that propels them toward tragedy.

Young lovers defying their feuding families is not unique. But, putting the lovers in a ghetto setting and adding the element of tragedy to their escape plan gives the story an interesting twist. It's Romeo and Juliet in a ghetto, a setting that helps add conflict to the story.

Dull logline: A woman confronts her past when her illegitimate daughter shows up after twenty years.

Intriguing logline: A minister's wife confronts her long-buried past when her illegitimate daughter shows up after twenty years.

An illegitimate daughter showing up after twenty years is not an unusual plot. But, the fact that the main character is a minister's wife implies conflict, morality vs. immorality, and deception. Defining the woman's past as "long-buried" peaks interest. 

These logline examples all have a hook, something that can stimulate serious interest.  They make a statement about the central problem that will be resolved by the character(s), and they define a concept that gives the story its power to entertain.

Practice Exercise

Use the suggestions in this article to help you write your own loglines. Keep in mind that a well-constructed logline answers three key questions:


1. Who is the main character and what does he/she want?


2. Who (villain) or what is standing in the way of the main character?


3. What makes this story unique?

Here is an example of the way in which a logline can be derived from those three questions:

Logline: Two brothers fight on opposite sides in the Civil War and come face to face on a battlefield. Ask yourself whether this logline answers the following questions:


Who is the main character and what does he/she want?In this logline, one or both brothers could be main characters. Both brothers are fighting a war they believe in for different reasons, and each wants to win.


Who (villain) or what is standing in the way of the main character(s)? The Civil War itself is the obstacle the brothers must overcome because they have chosen opposite sides.


What makes this story unique? The twist comes when the two brothers face each other on a battlefield. An enormous conflict is implied. Would one brother kill the other for a cause he believes in?

Now, as a practice exercise, spend some time creating loglines for the following popular films: 

Jaws, Final Destination, Jurassic Park, and  Raiders of the Lost Ark.


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