How To Write Loglines
A Logline summarizes your story in no more than one sentence.
The term originated at the Hollywood studios, where stories and scripts are ‘logged’ in the Story Department. The logline identifies projects throughout their lives at the studios. You’ll find that loglines fulfill different goals and are written in various ways.
We will follow a specific process to build a logline that contains the most essential story components. Although the result may differ from any others you know, it will serve as a good basis to develop your own logline.
The main reason why we need to be able to write a good logline is to demonstrate that our story contains the essential components.
You use a Logline when you need a focused summary of your story.
A logline can be used when entering your script in a contest, when posting it on script sites or to court agents, when you include it in your query letter. Of course, you’ll have it ready when you step in the elevator with Mr. Spielberg. But why not use it right from the start of your creative endeavors?
Think about it: while you’re still unsure of your concept, wouldn’t it make sense to test your idea in one sentence with others and with yourself?
Here are some of the situations in which a logline may be used:
• when the writer tests (the) concept(s)
• when the writer markets the script to producers
• when the producer markets the project to financiers
• when the sales agent sells the movie to distributors
• when the exhibitor advertises the movie to the audience
• when the distributor packages the DVD
• when a broadcaster advertises the movie in print, online etc.
In each of these cases, people will write a slightly modified version.
The logline is made up of the following components:
• the Hero’s function or role in the story (e.g. a mother, a cop, a scientist)
• the Hero’s weakness and/or how it’s overcome (optional, e.g. headstrong, timid, solitary, cocky, depressed)
• the story’s first major event or ‘Inciting Incident’ (optional)
• the Hero’s goal or main action in the story
• the obstacle(s) and/or the Antagonist
• the stakes (unless implied in the goal/obstacle)
Depending on the purpose of the logline, you will include less or more. The logline in its simplest formula is this: When [a major event happens], [the Hero], must [do the main action]. Let’s have a look at how this works for JAWS:
• Major event: a swimmer is brutally killed by a shark
• Hero (function): a sheriff
• Main action: stop the killing monster
When a swimmer is brutally killed by a shark, the local sheriff must stop the killing monster.
If you find the ‘automatic’ outcome slightly wooden, remember the formula is only there to make sure your concept contains two essential story components: The Inciting Incident (the major event) and the Hero’s Main Goal (the main action).
If your story has a transformational character, do include the flaw in your logline as it is a key to the movie’s theme or thematic premise.
The setting is rarely an essential aspect of the story, so you won’t need to include it.