Ever been faced with a friend who says, “What are you working on?” and suddenly, you’re completely tongue tied? You realize you have no idea how to describe your project?
“It’s a romantic comedy about a woman who… falls in love with this guy, thinking he’s a bouncer, but really he’s a spy and they go to Europe and then this woman tries to….” Despite the fact that you know your story is good, it sounds completely insane?
Writing a logline or premise for your writing project can be hard. It’s really about drilling down to the “hook” or the “concept” and conveying it in a way that reveals the conflict and creates a question the listener wants answered. A great logline can attract producers, agents, or publishers. It can also help you focus and shape the plot of your book or movie.
Whether you’re drinking beers with friends, or talking to a potential buyer, it’s your job to have this core description of your project at the ready.
Here are some examples of great loglines for books…
WILD (memoir) by Cheryl Strayed. A young woman, caught up with drugs, decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail to heal from the death of her mother.
LIT (memoir) by Mary Karr. A woman who has the perfect marriage and son, can’t outrun her apocalyptic family of origin. She descends into hellish alcoholism, and finds an unlikely faith.
MY BRILLIANT FRIEND (fiction) By Elena Ferrante. The story of two women, growing up in Naples Italy, and how their friendship is tried by the male dominated culture around them.
ROOM (fiction) by Emma Donoghue. A young girl, held captive for years by a pedophile, fights to free herself and her 5-year-old son, only to have to face the world.
Here are some great loglines for screenplays (taken from the 2015 Black List)
ROCKET by Jeffrey Gelber and Ryan Belenzon. Roger “The Rocket” Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, has 4,672 strikeouts, 354 wins and a record 7 Cy Young awards. This is the story of why he is not in the Hall of Fame.
SEPTILLION TO ONE by Adam Perlman and Graham Sack. While a former FBI agent is working in the fraud unit of the Texas State Lottery investigating a woman who has mysteriously hit the lottery jackpot three times, he falls in love.
I hope you’ve noticed that what forms the strength of most of these loglines, is that we can see the conflict, AND there is some irony involved.
A woman mired in drugs, goes on harrowing trip into nature.
A baseball player who is a star, doesn’t make the Hall of Fame
An FBI agent falls for a crook
A writer who tries to create the perfect family has to face the dark tortured family she came from.
A female friendship is put to the test by a male dominated culture.
Do you see how the logline reveals the central conflict of the story, has some ironic twist, AND creates a dramatic question that the listener wants answered? Also, by revealing the central conflict, your logline can inspire the writing of specific scenes, and inform how your story builds to a climax (where this conflict will be resolved.)
Take Action! Think about your logline. What is the central ironic “hook” that’s going to pull in the reader or viewer? How can this hook help you find the shape of your story so you can describe it to people? Can we see the central conflict? Is there some twist that makes us smile or wonder? What’s the question you’re posing that will make the listener want more?
Loglines aren’t just sales tools, they’re writing tools. They can help focus your story and provide a springboard for the creation of scenes and plot.
Happy Logline Writing!
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