What are the most simple steps to writing and understanding loglines?
Welcome to our ongoing Learning from the Masters and Industry Insiders series where we seek out and feature excellent videos, interviews, and discussions of the art, craft, and business of screenwriting and pull the best words of wisdom, writing tips, and screenwriting advice.
Here we turn to D4Darius and his video How To Write Compelling Loglines to find the most simple and concise steps that screenwriters can take when trying to craft the perfect logline for their screenplay. We pull the best information from the video and elaborate on his points.
What is a logline? In short, it’s a summary that best communicates the core concept, character(s), and story of your screenplay.
1. Come Up with the Logline Before You Write the Script or Treatment
Yes, the logline will likely change after the script is written and after agents or managers get their hands on them. But it’s good to go into the writing process knowing the core concept, lead character, and core conflict.
2. 25-50 Words Long
The least amount of words that you can use the better. And make no mistake, writing compelling loglines is a challenge for every screenwriter. It’s difficult to condense a 110-page screenplay into 25-50 words. But it’s a necessary task.
The logline is the first element of your script, beyond the title, that Hollywood reads. And they often depend on the logline to determine if your screenplay is worth spending time on or not.
But they need to make that decision quickly because there are so many screenplays out there. They need a filtration process to weed through all of them and reading loglines is the fastest way to accomplish that because the loglines will tell them if your script has a concept, character, and story that they want to pursue.
And it helps you, the screenwriter, communicate what your screenplay is about without going off on tangents and overly long explanations.
3. Remember That Loglines Are Hooks
This is a forgotten element to loglines. Loglines aren’t just summaries of the script’s story. They should be written to hook anyone who reads it, compelling them to want more.
Loglines shouldn’t tell the reader everything. Instead, it’s best to focus on just enough to where they want to learn more.
4. Loglines Should Communicate Four Specific Things
When Hollywood reads a logline, they want to know four things:
- Who is the protagonist?
- What’s the goal, conflict, or major problem that they face?
- Who is the antagonist or what obstacle is in the way of the protagonist’s goal?
- What’s the genre?
Those are the four elements that loglines should embrace, the most important one being the goal or objective that the protagonist has because that is the backbone of your whole screenplay.
5. Don’t Include Names
Character names have little to no meaning within the logline.
Instead of using a name, communicate another identifier. Refer to them as a lawyer, cop, soldier, father, mother, mechanic, or whatever other identifier that applies.
You can even throw in an adjective to give the reader more context — jaded car mechanic, an alcoholic ex-superhero, a depressed gangster.
6. Insert Stakes or Ticking Time Bomb
There’s nothing more exciting than extreme stakes or a ticking clock that the hero must face. Not all loglines need to or can utilize this logline element, but if your story has them, so should your logline.
7. Loglines Will Change
Loglines are always changing. When you finish your script, it’s likely that elements of the screenplay have changed since you first wrote the initial logline before you started writing.
The loglines will also change when producers, development executives, agents, and managers are brought into the mix. They know how to market scripts so that knowledge can be applied to better the logline.
Watch the whole video for more elaboration on these seven steps!
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