What is a Logline?

Author:
Publish date:

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.

new_agent_alert_tasneem_motala_the_rights_factory

New Agent Alert: Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Tasneem Motala of The Rights Factory) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Miller_1:19

Timothy Miller: The Alluring Puzzle of Fact and Fiction

Screenwriter and novelist Timothy Miller explains how he came to write historical fiction and how research can help him drive his plot.

Batra&DeCandido_1:18

Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.

incite_vs_insight_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Cleland_1:17

Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.

Malden_1:16

Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.