What is a Logline?

Q: I’ve recently decided to turn my book into a screenplay and I’ve read several articles that say you must have a “logline” if you want to sell your script. What’s a logline?—Jennifer Bickel

A: Hollywood executives are so busy that they have very little time to spend on anything, including listening to your pitch.  So when you have the ear of anyone who has the power to get your script produced, it’s important to keep your spiel short, simple and specific. How short? You should be able to sum up your 100-page screenplay in one sentence—you read that right: one sentence. 

In the industry, this is called a logline. A logline is a one-sentence summary of your script that consists of three major elements: the character, the character’s goal and the antagonistic force. Here are examples of a few strong loglines (can you name the flick?):

After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.

I’m sure by now you’ve guessed that this logline belongs to The Wizard of Oz. It contains all the key elements:

The character: a lonely Kansas farm girl
The character’s goal: find a wizard with the power to send her home
The antagonistic force: sets out on a dangerous journey

Here’s another example:

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.

This one belongs to the mega-hit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. While it’s a little harder to dissect, you can still see the all the logline essentials:

The character: Captain Jack Sparrow
The character’s goal: rescue the Governor of England’s daughter and reclaim his ship
The antagonistic force: adventure on the Caribbean Sea

Creating a logline is also a good way to tell if your script has substance. If you spend hours and are still unable to come up with a clear sentence breaking down your movie, you have a hole that needs to be filled. Because if all the variables are there, the logline should practically write itself.

Brian A. Klems is the online managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine.

Have a question for me? Feel free to post it in the comments section below or e-mail me at WritersDig@fwpubs.com with “Q&Q” in the subject line. Come back each Tuesday as I try to give you more insight into the writing life.

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