The Value of a Logline

A log line, or logline, is a simple description of a story that is only a sentence long.  It boils the story down to its essence.  Unlike the tagline, which is created as a marketing hook, the logline gives the basic premise of the story.

Here are three loglines for three famous movies:

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire’s world-destroying battle-station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader. (Star Wars)

In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich, community escape a band of bandits. (The Road Warrior)

A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear. (The Revenant)

So what’s the value of a logline?  The logline condenses a story to its basic components: Who is your protagonist? Where is the story set? What is the main conflict?

When you’re pitching a novel or a screenplay, you will need to get to those basic elements.  Your written pitch for a screenplay will often contain a tagline (which I discussed in a previous tip) followed by a logline, followed by a synopsis of one to three pages.

But here is the point: often I find authors who haven’t really considered how to pitch their novels or films. They can’t tell me in one sentence what the story is about. Getting a logline down early might be helpful as you focus on the very basics of your story, and gives you something basic to build upon as you write your synopsis.



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