"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Loglines for Your Screenplay or Book

A logline is a one-sentence summary of your script or book explaining what your story is about. Think of the descriptions in TV guides that tell you about a movie. It's the grabber that excites your interest and helps you decide if you're interested in watching the show.
You must learn to express the story concept in one powerful sentence if you want an agent or producer to read your story. This is why many professionals will tell you to write down this one key sentence before you even begin writing. You can keep it in front of you while you write to remain focused. Then, when you are ready to query, you have the logline ready to capture attention.
The logline (the stories skeleton) generally consists of the following pieces of information:
1. The character – Identifies the hero/heroine. Try to use a well chosen adjective to describe your character such as “isolated farm girl”.
2. Their goal – they may have many, but only mention the most important. If she’s been isolated she’ll need to learn to interact in a social setting. Thus, you are showing conflict which leads to answering the next question.
3. The antagonistic force - You are showing she is in an unfamiliar setting. Woman vs. Environment. Does she also have a rival for her success in that setting? What are the consequences if she fails to live successfully in this new world?
Use action words when writing your logline and add descriptive words to create an image that will stay in the reader’s mind.
Pretend you are scrolling through your TV guide. Which of these would you watch?
Logline #1 – “A comedic portrayal of a young, broke Shakespeare who falls in love with a woman, inspiring him to write "Romeo and Juliet."
Logline #2 – “A journey of self-discovery by a brilliant mathematician diagnosed with schizophrenia who learns to triumph over tragedy and eventually receives the Nobel Prize.”
Logline #3 – “A 17th Century tale of adventure on the Caribbean Sea where the roguish yet charming Captain Jack Sparrow joins forces with a young blacksmith in a gallant attempt to rescue the Governor of England's daughter and reclaim his ship.”
Logline #4 – “An Epic tale of a 1940s New York Mafia family and their struggle to protect their empire, as the leadership switches from the father to his youngest son.”
Did you recognize any of them?
1. Shakespeare in Love
2. A Beautiful Mind
3. Pirates of the Carribean
4. The Godfather

Did you know a lot of newer books contain a logline on the copyright page? See if you recognize this one.
“When seventeen-year-old Bella leaves Phoenix to live with her father in Forks, Washington, she meets an exquisitely handsome boy at school for whom she feels an overwhelming attraction and who she comes to realize is not wholly human.”
This is from the copyright page of Twilight.

Creating powerful loglines is an invaluable tool. For a little fun experimenting, visit http://www.lifeformz.com/cgi-bin/idea/idea.fcgi to see some randomly generated loglines.
Please feel free to share/critique your loglines in the comments.


Bethe77 said...

So fun when you learn something new. Dad always said you should learn something enw everyday.
Thank you for being a part of me learning something new today. I didnt even know what a logline was. Now I do!

Brigitte said...

Aah, loglines. We had to do an exercise with these in my Scriptwriting class the same day we had to learn almost by heart cliché lines to avoid. Man, I love that class.

Aaand I just love you for using Pirates of The Caribbean as an example. :D
POTC nerd, right here.


the writing pad said...

Great stuff on loglines! Will try that link to the randomly generated ones - the mind boggles :-)


Ella said...

Thank you; this was informative and fun! Nice to meet you~

Donna K. Weaver said...

Wonderfully informative post.

shelly said...

And even if you self-publish, it is still something you should practice. It's the first a potential fan sees. If the line doesn't grab them, your piece will never be read. The logline can make or break us.

Very good piece of post advice. Thanks for posting.

Dafeenah said...

Very good advice. Definitely something I need to work on. It's hard for me to get it all in one sentence. Thanks for stopping by!

Shelli said...

I really struggle with this, distilling my story into one single logline. It's a great exercise, and I'll have to practice more, I think.

Paul Anthony Shortt said...

I didn't know about loglines being used on copyright pages. Good to know.

I don't think I've gotten the hang of these yet.

Misha Gerrick said...

I love this post! Loglines are going to be a pain for me to write, because I first had to write the story. And it's a big one.


Unknown said...

Yes, I always struggle with the blurb for my books, one of the hardest things to do.

Unknown said...

An interesting informative post..The Loglines above pack a punch.

Christine said...

Yes, when you've written 80,000 words or more it's difficult to shrink to a sentence. That's why it's useful to do it beforehand. But don't reveal how you get to where you're going.

Spearmint Baby said...

new follower! be sure to link up for our ALEXA blog hop this week:

xo, shari

Marie Anne said...

Keeping it to one line would be tough for me. Mayhaps it's something I should practice.

I could start by making one line comments on blogs.

Or not.

Popping in by way of the A-Z Challenge. I’m blogging at:
Write, Wrong or Indifferent
Marie Anne’s Missives
In the Garden With Sow-n-Sow
Every Day Crochet

KM Nalle said...

Writing loglines is my Kryponite. But, I have a feeling if I can learn to master them, I will have made a HUGE step in my writing journey. I keep trying.

unnamed lad said...

hello Sylvia Ney:)

thank you for visiting my blog and letting me know of your visit. i generally respond much quicker but we're heading south tomorrow in search of a sunny and pleasant weekend and it's been a busy day! i like the design of your blog. it's makes me feel like i'm in a library and generally i would want to read your post thoroughly. but i won't blow smoke...my mind is on packing the rv:)

Robin said...

First, thank you for visiting my blog so I could find you also. What a great post! I have dreamed if writing all my life however did not know much about all of it. This post was fascinating and I look forward to reading more of your blog.

Gloria Grandy said...

I remember taking script writing many years ago and the importance of establishing a character and creating empathy.

Thank you for the follow and appreciate your comment. I have gained so much from joining the A to Z Challenge too.

Charmaine Clancy said...

I'm stuck in synopsis writing punishment at the moment, a log-line will help me get started - thanks :)
Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

Amber T. Smith said...

Great post! I'm at that horrible query writing stage, and you gave some good tips.

Thanks for the follow - I've returned the deed. :)

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