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.

The Superstars Writing Seminar is coming up next month. This is a writing conference I highly recommend for those who want to learn about the business of writing. Learn more about the conference or register on the Superstars site. I’ll be there again this year as an instructor.

I got an email from Audible recently letting me know that my audiobook Million Dollar Outlines is featured in a “New Year Resolution” Sale running from today through Sunday. If you are an audible member, you can get it for $4.95. Check out all the books on sale here.

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