Condensing your 110-page screenplay into a one-sentence idea is no walk in the park. Writing a logline for your screenplay can be a daunting task, but a completed, polished logline is one of, if not THE most valuable marketing tool that you have for trying to sell your script. Construct a perfect logline complete with conflict and high stakes, and wow those readers with the logline formula outlined in today's "How To" post!
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What Is A Logline?
Imagine you only had ten seconds to tell someone the idea behind your entire script. What would you tell them? This quick, one-sentence summary of your entire story is your logline.
Wikipedia says the definition of a logline is a "brief (usually one-sentence) summary of a television program, film, or book that states the central conflict of the story."
Why Do I Need A One-Sentence Summary?
Creating a logline is an often tough, but necessary task for writers both pre- and post-production of their screenplays. During the writing process, a strong logline can help guide you and keep you focused. After you are done writing, a strong logline can help you get your screenplay read or sold.
A reader will often decide after reading or hearing the logline whether or not the idea for your screenplay is worth their time. Lucky for you, there's a tried and true logline formula!
There's a simple logline formula that many writers use to take their initial idea and plug it into something that quickly summarizes their script. Some writers even do this exercise BEFORE they ever type FADE IN. You can rearrange the order, but every good logline features your protagonist, an inciting incident, the end goal, and the main conflict. The logline template often looks like this:
I've also seen loglines templates like this:
Review the movie logline examples below to see this logline formula in action.
How Do I Write An Effective Logline?
- Don't forget the basics - Characters, Conflict, Stakes.
All loglines should include your story's main character (protagonist), the opposing character or force (antagonist) that will provide the conflict, the main character's goals, and the stakes of achieving those objectives.
- Carefully select each word.
Nothing turns a reader away quicker than a dry logline. Make use of powerful action verbs and unique adjectives to describe your characters and plot events. Keep a Thesaurus handy for help and inspiration.
- Make your idea specific.
Chances are there has been another screenplay written that is similar to yours. Be specific with your logline, and identify what makes your story different from others like it.
- Avoid asking questions.
Leave questions out of your logline. It is common for writers to want to use questions to increase suspense, but more often than not, they have the opposite effect. Readers can almost always assume the answer will be yes. There is no point telling a story if the audience already knows how it ends.
- Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
Just like with your screenplay, your first draft won't be perfect. Embrace the rewriting and editing process. Ask trusted friends or colleagues to review your logline and give you feedback. Keep rewriting until you have something you are proud to share.
Check Out These Movie Logline Examples!
- The Godfather
"The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son."
- Pulp Fiction
"The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of dinner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption."
- Jurassic Park
"During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok."
- There's Something About Mary
"A man gets a chance to meet up with his dream girl from high school, even though his date from back then was a complete disaster."
- The Matrix
"A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers."
"When a Roman General is betrayed, and his family is murdered by an emperor's corrupt son, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge."
- The Sixth Sense
"A boy who communicates with spirits that don't know why they're dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist."
- The Hangover
"Three buddies wake up from a bachelor party in Las Vegas, with no memory of the previous night and the bachelor missing. They make their way around the city in order to find their missing friend before his wedding."
"A paraplegic marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home."
- The Dark Night
"When the menace known as the Joker emerges from his mysterious past, he wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, and the Dark Knight must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice."
- American Beauty
"A depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis decides to turn his life around after becoming infatuated with his daughter’s attractive friend."
"A Christmas Elf goes to New York City in search of his biological father, knowing nothing about life outside of the North Pole."
- Don't Look Up
"Two low-level astronomers must go on a giant media tour to warn a complacent society of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth."
Want to learn more about how to write the perfect logline?
Check out a couple more awesome sources on movie loglines:
The complete compelling logline library
Search for your favorite movie or TV show on IMDb! (That's what we did.) Most movies and shows will have a one-sentence description on their IMDb homepage. It's a giant library of logline examples.
Thanks for reading!