What is a Logline?
A logline is a one or two line pitch of your story structure (usually under 40 words) that clues the reader into who is driving the narrative (the protagonist), what they want (the goal) and what stands in their way of getting it (the antagonist force). If your film is genre based, you may also have to include a brief set-up that gives context to the world. This all may sound easy, but distilling the complexities of your screenplay into two lines can often be a challenge. Here are some pointers:
- Protagonist - Don’t get bogged down in names which crowd the logline (unless it’s a biopic and the person is well known). Concentrate on character revealing adjectives which can give the reader a window into the main character’s emotional state, such as “a grieving father” or a “lonely architect”.
- Goal - What does your main character want? This is often kickstarted from the inciting incident that leads to the conflict and ultimately the question of your film. For example, the question in Star Wars is “In a galaxy far away, will a young farmer from a desert planet master his dormant powers to save humanity from a world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue a Princess from the powerful and mysterious clutches of an evil warlord?” Turn the question into a statement and you have a log line.
- Antagonist Force - All good storytelling includes conflict. Your logline must include the story element that hinders the main character from achieving their goal. In the Star Wars example above that is the battle station and the evil warlord.
Hopefully you noticed what we didn’t include in a logline - how it ends. A logline is a tease, it is meant to entice you to want to read the screenplay or watch the film. If you give away the ending, you lose the ability to give a satisfying viewing or reading experience.
Make your Logline Accurate
Besides the usefulness of the logline as a selling tool, it’s also incredibly beneficial to the writer to see if they truly understand their story. Being able to concisely identify the main character, their emotional state and attributes, the dilemma or conflict and the obstacle is confirmation that you understand the building blocks of your story.
And when you are pitching your story, you want to make sure that what you are selling is as advertised. For example, take this pitch of The Wizard of Oz:
“A disgruntled teenager runs away from home and finds herself in unfamiliar territory when she accidentally commits a murder. She manipulates three heartless, braindead and cowardly strangers to help her escape punishment and get back home. However, before she reaches her destination, she will murder once more.”
Technically, all the plot points are true in this logline, but it’s not the spirit of the film. A more accurate reading would be:
“A young girl is swept away during a tornado from her home in Kansas and lands in the magical kingdom of Oz where she meets new friends and embarks on a quest to return home and also get her friends what they need.”
Starting your Story with a Logline Generator
A logline is needed after you’ve written your story, but it can also be amazingly useful as a form of idea generation. When you are building a story, you need to figure out the world, the conflict, the obstacles and the best main character to face the journey before you start writing. In a literary chicken or egg scenario, a logline works as both a marketing tool after you’ve written your screenplay and an idea generator before you face the blank page.
There are some great resources online to kickstart creativity.
The Best Logline Generators
Have fun with these online story element logline generators.
- The Internet Movie Logline Creator
- Script Matrix
- Filmmaking Central
- Reedsy Plot Generator
- Random Logline Generator
Logline Generator Book Resources
Here is a list of some valuable reads on generating loglines.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Clear, concise info. Also includes 250 sample loglines you can adapt for your own use.
Insightful information from a proven industry pro. Quick read that packs a punch.
Walks the reader through how to write a logline, common logline mistakes, and provides great examples from existing projects.
Sharp advice is given in a very funny, upbeat and friendly way. This will inspire you to get to the core of your story.
This book is full of examples of how to write a good logline and what to do in different situations. Great resource on writing the logline and more importantly pitching it perfectly.
Writing the Perfect Logline in Review
Here’s the long and short of it. There are three elements that every logline must include: The main character or protagonist, what they want or their goal and what stands in the way of achieving it, the antagonistic force. You should engage the reader with well chosen adjectives that give us insight into the main character and just enough detail to invest us in wanting to know more about the story, without giving away the ending.