The power of any screenplay is having a beautifully crafted logline alongside it. However, writing a logline seems to be a turnoff to most screenwriters, not just beginners but also professionals. It’s very important to note that when it’s time to write a logline, you should be ready to either send pieces of paper to the bin or make the backspace button on your keyboard your finger’s friend because writing a logline that works isn’t something that comes easily. Don’t be afraid; even though it’s a bit tricky, screenwriters write it every day, so you can too.
In this post, you’ll get to know what a logline is, why it’s necessary to write one, and how to craft a compelling one for your screenplay using a formula that has worked countless times for many screenwriters.
WHAT IS A LOGLINE?
We’ll be looking at some dictionary definitions of the word “logline,” and at the end of those definitions, we’ll combine all the definitions to get what we need as screenwriters.
1) Wiktionary definition – “a very short summary of a script or screenplay.”
2) Wikipedia definition – “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.”
Combining the definitions above to get what we need as screenwriters, we can say that a logline is a brief summary of a screenplay in one sentence that stimulates the interest of the reader.
Can you now see why I mentioned it earlier as being a turnoff to most screenwriters, even professionals? How can you invest so much time into writing a screenplay, and the logline says, “Summarise the whole thing you’ve written into one sentence?”
Synopses and loglines summarise a screenplay, but the difference between them is that synopses summarise a screenplay on a page, whereas loglines summarise a screenplay in a sentence.
WHY IS IT NECESSARY?
Here, we’ll be looking at why it’s important to write a logline from two angles: one when writing a screenplay and the other when selling a screenplay.
1) WHEN WRITING: For screenwriters who prefer to write a logline before the screenplay, you’ll immediately know where you should go when writing because it’s very easy to finish a screenplay without knowing what your protagonist’s goal is. For screenwriters who prefer to write a logline after the screenplay, the logline will make you ask yourself, “What is the goal of my protagonist?”
2) WHEN SELLING: From our definition above, a logline is defined as a brief summary of a screenplay in a sentence that stimulates the interest of the reader. If you fail to write a logline as a screenwriter, you’ll have a difficult time finding a producer who is interested in your screenplay. The moment you tell a producer you have a screenplay to sell, the first question you’ll be asked is, “What is the screenplay about?” At this point, the only thing the producer wants to hear is your logline, because that’s the only thing that will stimulate his or her interest in your work and not waste his or her time.
HOW TO CRAFT A COMPELLING LOGLINE?
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 that 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-crafted logline should be able to “hook” your readers. It should be able to make whoever you tell about it want to read your screenplay. If your logline doesn’t have such strength, nobody would want to see 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 won’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:
1) Protagonist: There has to be someone pushing the story forward, and that person should be in the logline.
2) Goal: The protagonist should be after something.
3) Stake: There should be something the protagonist must do if he or she doesn’t want to get into serious trouble, either with life or with someone.
4) The 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.
5) Length: A logline should never be more than one sentence.
6) Write-up: Loglines should be written in the present tense and in the third-person singular.
7) Adjective: Using an adjective gives the reader a deeper knowledge of your protagonist and why the journey is important to him or her.
Due to how difficult it is to come up with a well-crafted logline, the use of a simple formula is very important. Feel free to create yours only when you totally understand it, but for now, here’s the formula to use whenever it’s time to face the giant. The formula is “PGS,” which stands for protagonist, goal, and stake, and the order is [protagonist] + [goal] + [stake]. Using this formula, let’s analyze some logline examples using the formula.
Logline: A desperate lawyer must find a man who will 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 will 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.
I have some questions to ask you after our use of the formula, and these questions are as follows:
1) Did you notice any character names in our logline?
2) Was the write-up longer than one sentence?
3) Were the loglines written in the third person singular and in the present tense?
4) Was the logline difficult to read and understand?
Use the above formula whenever you need help writing a logline, but feel free to only break the rule when you understand the rule.