Writing a logline should be a nightmare for screenwriters since writing a synopsis that gives the screenwriter freedom to summarize a screenplay on a page or two is a turn-off.
Even for the professionals, when writing loglines, it’s either pieces of paper are folded and sent into a bin or the backspace key on the keyboard would become friends with the screenwriter’s finger.
Here, I’ll give you a little trick which you should use whenever it’s time to face the giant (logline), but first, let’s know the meaning of a logline.
According to Wikipedia:
A log line or logline is a brief (usually one-sentence) summary of a television program, film, or book that states the central conflict of the story, often providing both a synopsis of the story’s plot and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest.
According to Wiktionary:
Logline: A very short summary of a script or screenplay.
Let’s combine both definitions to get what we need as screenwriters.
Logline: A brief summary of a screenplay in one sentence which stimulates the interest of the reader.
Can you now see why writing a logline is a nightmare for most screenwriters? How can you invest much time into writing a screenplay, and a logline is saying “summarize the whole thing you’ve written into one sentence.”
Synopses and loglines summarize a screenplay, but the difference between them is that synopses summarize a screenplay in a page whilst loglines summarize a screenplay in a sentence.
Even though it’s difficult to write even by professionals; screenwriters keep writing loglines every day, so you shouldn’t give up, we’re in this together.
Since we’re done with our logline definition, let’s jump straight into how a logline can be written.
In music, there’s something called a hook; that part of a song that takes you to the moon whenever you listen to the song, that part of a song which keeps playing in your head when you’re asleep, and that part of a song you can sing best even when you don’t know the verses.
A well-written logline should be able to “hook” your reader. It should be able to make your reader want to read your screenplay. If your logline doesn’t have such strength, nobody would want your blockbuster screenplay.
For your screenplay to have such strength, you should have a clear idea of what your story is about. If your logline doesn’t make sense to you, the screenwriter, it wouldn’t make sense to anyone. It all starts with you.
For whatever you’ve written to be called a logline, it must have the following:
- Protagonist: There has to be someone pushing the story forward, and that person should be in the logline.
- Goal: The protagonist should be after something.
- Stake: There should be something the protagonist must do if he/she doesn’t want to get into serious trouble either with life or with someone.
- Protagonist’s Name: When writing a synopsis, the protagonist’s name is what you start with, but when writing a logline, the protagonist’s name should never be mentioned.
- Length: A logline should never be more than one sentence.
- Write-up: Loglines should be written in the present tense and in the third-person singular.
- Adjective: Using an adjective gives the reader a deeper knowledge of your protagonist and why the journey is important to him/her.
Here, I’ll be giving you a simple formula that will help you whenever it’s time to face the giant, and that formula is “PGS”.
[Protagonist] + [Goal] + [Stake]
Let’s analyze some logline examples using the formula.
Logline: A desperate lawyer must find a man who would get married to her despite her profession before she gets to menopause.
Protagonist: The protagonist happens to be the lawyer; this means that the lawyer will be the one pushing the story forward. I hope you can also see the power of using an adjective in a logline.
Goal: The lawyer’s goal is to find a man who wouldn’t be scared to get married to her because she’s a lawyer.
Stake: If the desperate lawyer doesn’t act fast, she would fall into a serious problem with life and in this case, it’s called menopause.
Logline: A fresh graduate must disguise himself to save his late father’s company which is about to be ruined by the acting head.
Protagonist: The protagonist in this logline happens to be the graduate, and once again, you can see how powerful and deep an adjective makes a protagonist to be. Using the word “Fresh” shows that the graduate will make some mistakes due to inexperience.
Goal: The goal of the fresh graduate (protagonist) is to save his late father’s company from ruin.
Stake: If the fresh graduate doesn’t act fast, his late father’s company would be ruined by someone; and in this case, it’s the acting head.
Let me ask you some questions:
- Did you see any character name in our logline?
- Was the write-up more than one sentence?
- Were the loglines written in third-person singular and in present-tense?
- Was the logline difficult to read and understand?
Use the above formula whenever you need help writing a logline, but BREAK THE RULE ONLY WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THE RULE.