Screenwriting : Logline Hell by Pablo Diablo

Pablo Diablo

Logline Hell

Happy New Year to all you fellow writers!

I am finally going to admit it. I am the worst when it comes to writing loglines! I overthink the whole concept and just find myself drowning in my own thoughts. I've tried to write my own loglines from current movies in an attempt to compare/contrast; but it's a no-brainer that they are both bland and forgettable, like we're talking screenwriting 101 tragedy.

After attending a couple literary manager virtual seminars, I know must have a killer logline. My problem is not the story; rather, it's selling the good bits to get someone to be excited to read the full script. Anyone have any good leads on websites that have helped you fellow writers?

(*before you can mention it: I know S32 has a logline seminar. I'm unemployed at the moment and don't got that cash moneys to spend.)

Christiane Lange

Loglines are hard. No leads on websites, but having read a ton of them, it seems to me that one key is including the obstacle. No-brainer, I know, but easy to get sidetracked. It has to set up the tension that will drive the story.

Barry John Terblanche

Hi, Pablo. A happy new year to you too. I hope this site helps you?

Rohit Kumar

Check this image.. Might help. So "Genre + Main Protagonist + A Goal + Obstacle + What's important' = Log line and it should be 23 to 30 words that's all it is. No rocket science

So say, make a starting sentence with kind of feel to what Genre it is, and than who is the lead protagonist story is revolving around. And what's the "want" based obstacle they experience and what's most important for them . I found this from Author: Michael Lengsfield of University of East Anglia 2016.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Hey Patrick. The logline is everything! You're a bit wrong in saying "my problem is not the story; rather it's selling the good bits..." If a logline isn't coming easily it means there is something you don't know deeply enough yet about your characters (at least that's my experience). For example, only when I was confronted with a St32 friend in the Writer's Room saying 'what's her WOUND' did I realize her wound was my wound and BAM my ability to pitch the entire story was turned on its head. I connect when pitching way better, and that all flowed from a way better logline. So, here's my formula you can use (there are others, probably better, this is just what I use these days): when a _________ (one adjective for your hero...should hint at their wound/flaw) ____________ (your hero, their position in life, do not name them) has to _________________ (inciting incident) she must _________________ (hint at key obstacle/ antagonist) or (hint at stakes...these will grow throughout the series). That's for TV. For example: When a dperessed playwright fixates on an elusive logline, he must combat the demons in his head, or risk losing sight of the story forever.

If it's feature it's a bit easier, you can be more explicit and just stick to hero, antagonist and stakes. If it's a feature it should outline the important beats in your first act (yes, in one sentence lol), and perhaps be a bit flashier.

A manic depressive playwright battles his own mind for control over the story of a lifetime.

Loglines is an artform. Like Patronica said, it's a beautiful challenge! Just keep messing with it. Post your logline for us here on this thread. I've had GREAT feedback from the peeps here and some of my loglines are directly quotes from Stage32 suggestions. Happy 2021! Just Keep Writing!

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Try to stop thinking about the logline as storytelling, and just a clinical representation of the first half of your script in simple terms. After (inciting incident i.e. meteor fall) a (protagonist with descriptor i.e. brave lumberjack) must (objectives i.e. save his town from aliens) or else (stakes i.e. the FBI will nuke them off the map).

Aray Brown

I resonate with this post! Loglines are hard. You can have the inciting incident, protagonist, protagonist goal, the obstacles and stakes and it still isn’t compelling enough or still might not be formulated right. I hate writing loglines. Yea I said it. But I know it’s just as important as creating content. As for advice, I concur with Nick. The worst thing you can do is overthink. I speak from personal experience.

Phil Hollins

Pablo the best thing to help me out was a few months ago when Stage 32 hosted a logline contest. They had Zoom calls where three execs would chose there favorite logline and explain why, while we could all watch. Then each exec selected their favorite. I won one of them. If they still have the videos, that would really say it all. Good luck and happy New Years!

Aimee McGuire

I feel this so hard. I struggle big time with loglines too!

JJ Hillard

I've found StudioBinder to be a useful resource for lots of film-related topics:

Pablo Diablo

Thank you everyone! It's great to see everyone's different styles. I was finally able to come up with something that is a good start!

William Martell

A city born policeman must overcome his fear of water in order to protect his family and resort town from a giant man-eating shark.

Thrown together years ago as an illustration for an article in Script Magazine, back when it was on newsstands around the world.

What's difficult about loglines is making them sound great. But even a workmanlike logline like the about will work because the concept is great. JAWS has a great story.

The elements (and you don't need all of these in the logline) are: Protagonist, (is forced to deal with) Emotional Problem, (in order to resolve) Physical Problem, by a Deadline, or Something Terrible will happen (the stakes). if you make a list of those elements in your screenplay, you can assemble a crude logline. Then play with it until it sounds as if a human wrote it instead of a robot, and focus on the great high concept of your story.

What will get you reads is the great idea at the center of your story - a giant shark feeding off the vacationers at a beach resort, and a city cop who hates the water has to stop it.

In my book LOGLINES, TREATMENTS and PITCHTING I note that the biggest problem that people have with loglines is usually the story itself. It's unfocused or doesn't have a unique concept - it sounds generic because it is generic. Since you say that the story isn't the problem, you should easily be able to take those elements and come up with the robotic logline... then work on it until you have something that highlights that unique but universal concept.

Good luck!

John Ellis

Here's some free resources:

Read through these and you'll pick up the similarities in what they say is important in a logline. Hone in on those universal lessons and craft yours from those fundamentals, then hone in more. And more...and more... :)

Writing loglines is definitely a craft that writers must learn.

Ben Madeley

Completely agree with JJ Hillard and they are also free!! Very useful site when it comes to all areas of writing.

Pablo Diablo

Totally agree, Thank you JJ, that StudioBinder website was very useful. Same with Rutger's recommendation of!

Pablo Diablo

Also, Stage32scripts and RB Botto posted on Instagram a video with WME Story Editor on what makes a good logline too if you want to check it out.

Kacee DeMasi

I must be the odd person out as I LOVE writing loglines. There is so much great information online just put 'writing a logline' in the search bar and hundreds of websites will appear. Best of Luck :)

Barry John Terblanche

I battle with loglines. I always have too much to say (write) in a sentence or two. :-/

A. S. Templeton

Never fear! A tight logline includes only these elements:

- Intriguing protagonist

- Interesting situational change

- Unusual emerging threat or stakes relative to:

- Interesting antagonist (person or challenge)

Do it in 33 words or less, preferably a single sentence, no more than 3 clauses.

One logline of Hanna (the 2011 feature, not the 2019– series) adheres to the formula: A sixteen-year-old girl who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.

Intriguing protagonist:

A sixteen-year-old girl, raised... to be the perfect assassin.

Interesting situational change:

dispatched on a mission

Unusual emerging threat/stakes relative to an interesting antagonist:

ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.

Jim Boston

Pablo, another way to construct a logline goes like this:

1. Who's the protagonist?

2. What's the protagonist trying to do?

3. What does the protagonist hope to accomplish? What's the goal? (And you might want to add the things/people stopping him or her.)

And Kacee, you're not alone at all: I absolutely enjoy putting loglines together!

Dan MaxXx

Pablo Diablo was the WME editor, Chris Lockhart? Search Google; he wrote a 40++ page document explaining the purpose & construction of loglines.

Barry John Terblanche




Before [STAKES].

A. S. Templeton

"What's the protagonist trying to do... hoping to accomplish?" is not necessary or desirable in a loglne. It is enough that Hanna sets off on a mission across Europe; for details, read the synopsis or pitch.

"Situational change" is the general kickoff to the present narrative, whereas "inciting incident" is a special case belonging solely to the cliched Hero's Journey written according to Save the F***ing Cat.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Here’s Christopher Lockhart’s paper on how to construct a logline: Hope it helps! ;)

E. Lamoreaux

Hi Pablo. Loglines are tough and they take a while to master. Fortunately, I've been able to figure out a simple strategy to describe a plot in a single sentence. Basically, it should involve a conflict that the protagonist needs to overcome (i.e. "When a problem occurs, our hero must use their skills to solve it"). I learned this from using InkTip's Logline Lab, where they divide types of loglines as either "Story-Driven" or "Character-Driven," the latter of which has a character's decision that moves the story along. While this feature is only available for registered users, it is free to use and it should help you in crafting a good logline.

Tully Archer

If you're a learn-as-you-go type person, maybe get a group together and pitch it over and over, adjusting based on their feedback, until it's improved? Not instead of other peoples' suggestions, but on top of if you like a hands on approach. :-) Best of luck!

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