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Screenwriting : Questions regarding loglines by Rosalind Winton

Rosalind Winton

Questions regarding loglines

Hi Everyone I have just finished adapting a short story into a screenplay. I've never done it before, but I think I've done okay and now I want to write a logline for it. My questions are, what is the acceptable maximum amount of words a logline should be, should the logline incorporate the beginning, middle and end of the story, or is it okay to just give a brief description of what the core of the story is about? I have looked at various loglines, but I'm not sure what the rules are. Thank you, I appreciate any advice.

Michele Trainer

following :)

Jack Middleton

Loglines are one or two sentences that give an idea of your story. This is a good place to start when trying to create loglines...... http://www.raindance.org/10-tips-for-writing-loglines/ I have seen several articles on how to write loglines, and it is not real easy to sum up a story in one or two sentences. Takes practice.

Rosalind Winton

Thank you so much Jack, this really is a great help, I very much appreciate your reply. I've learned a lot just by reading this article... better get to it then, got a lot of work to do :) Thanks Michelle, I look forward to seeing your advice.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Hi Rosalind! Well, the general rule of thumb for number of words in a logline is 35 words or less. One sentence is ideal. :) Here's a great resource, an article written by Christopher Lockhart on how to construct a logline: http://www.twoadverbs.com/logline.pdf. This article also explains the purpose/goal of a logline; what makes a good logline and what makes a not-so-good logline. It also includes a ton of logline examples, even some poorly written ones and then explains how to fix them. Again, it's a great resource. I hope it helps!

Jack Middleton

Glad that was able to give you some help. BTW - I have a couple scripts that I uploaded in my profile area, under log lines. Amanda is one I am currently working on - I would appreciate some direction if you want to give me some advice. You probably have lots more experience at this than I do.

Rosalind Winton

Thank you so much Beth, I'm so excited about this project and may come to you again for more advice later on if I may. Jack, I'd be delighted to help. As well as being the official editor for Stage 32, I have my own editing business and I have edited and advised authors on everything from full length novels, novellas, children's YA and picture books, non fiction, articles, blogs and websites. I also edit screenplays and TV scripts for members of Stage 32, so I will take a look at your scripts as soon as I can and will get back to you :)

Jack Middleton

Thank you so much Rosalind. No hurry, just if you have the time. I used to be involved with a screenwriting group, but there are none in the area that I have moved to. It's good to know you have so much editing experience too - I know some writers in this area. :-)

Beth Fox Heisinger

Personally, I don't care for the second Lockhart article...

Joe Fiserano

Hey Jack, I have read your loglines and I could chime in if you want. Amanda is a name and it is best if you do not use it in your logline. Names are a no no in loglines, since we don't know the character. You need to use the space in the most efficient way as you can. Instead of a name, you should introduce your character to your potential audience. Who is Amanda? Is she a teenager or an adult? You have to make this clear to define your demographic or else, you will be too vague and confuse people. For instance: A veteran alcoholic lawyer discovers a cover up and bullies the giant insurance company, to save her mother from incarceration. Now we know the protagonist is not a teenager, her mother is in trouble and an insurance company is involved, which is the conflict. We wonder why she is incarcerated and what did the insurance company do, so this intrigues us to learn more which is the hook. If your character is young or middle aged, then mention that to make things clear. You wouldn't want to watch a teenager flick while expecting an Erin Brockowic story, or vice-versa. Also, father's funeral is not a must to know here. It doesn't matter where she is going yet, what matters is the reason why we should care? I gave lawyer as an example because the logline doesn't have any info about what her profession is. Try to include your protagonist's flaw in your logline if you can. Two friends bargain for what? Who are these two friends, are they thieves, con artists etc? Again, too vague with little information. Also we have no idea if they are 10 or 55 year olds. It defines the target demo, so don't ever skip this. Very important. Loglines should give us an information and be as clear as it can about the "genre." Now what you have written can be almost anything including comedy, horror, action, thriller etc. Tell us what this movie is about so we can decide to learn more or not. The way it's written is too vague. Again, where they are going has no importance for us yet. It is not the most important part of your story. You have to focus on more important things than location. Nobody would care at this point if they were going to Belize or Bora Bora Islands. For instance: Two con-artists mistakenly steal identities which has a bounty on, put by a notorious gang. I totally made up the gang and con-artist part because i have no clue what your story is about, but I hope you got the idea. To make it short, introduce your character, define the genre and give us a hook. Cheers.

Rosalind Winton

Hi Joe Wow, thank you so much for your detailed reply, though it's to Jack, I learned from it too. My problem is, that this story I'm doing is a short story that has been written in rhyme, it's called The Bear On Lonely Lake and the protagonist and antagonist are the same character. It's about an old man who retires to a cabin in the wilderness after his wife dies. He's miserable and he doesn't want to have any contact with anyone at all, he lives off the land and just gets through the days enjoying nature. Then, a young family build a house and move in nearby and through the time it takes to build the house, the old man becomes more and more resentful, so much so, that he hatches a plan to run them out. He pretends there's a wild bear on the loose and he makes fake bear tracks to prove the point, while he's doing this, the little girl from the family sees him and thinks he's playing a game, but the old man shouts at her and scares her, he realises he shouldn't have done that (because guilt sets in) and he takes her home. The Father of the family insists on going on a hunt to kill the bear and the old man tries to persuade him otherwise (more guilt), but the Father is adamant and the old man, not wanting to lose face, agrees. They go off, even though the weather is bad and after some hours, a snow blizzard sets, eventually, the storm becomes so harsh that the Father can't cope with the cold and he collapses. The old man, who is strong, manages to lift him up and with great difficulty, he carries the Father back. After a great struggle they reach the gate of the family's house, but the old man is now so weak, he can't carry on. The little girl comes out of the house and helps to carry the Father to the house. Once inside and warmed up and well again, the old man explains to the mother that if it wasn't for her little girl helping them, they might never have made it. The mother explains that the little girl was in bed all night and had not helped them at all and they realise that the little girl had been more of a spiritual being for them when they were in trouble. The old man sees the error of his ways and it is touched upon that the old man was actually 'the bear' (with a sore head). The old man accepts the family and he becomes very good friends with them and he no longer mourns his wife to the detriment of being happy again. So I've got my work cut out for me with this, but I really am going to give it my best shot using all the advice I've been given and by reading the links and articles everyone has been so kind to send me. I'll let you all know what I come up with. Thank you so much everyone for all your help, I really do appreciate it very much indeed.

Joe Fiserano

A little girl teaches an old man a lesson about sacrifice, resentment and friendship.

Jorge J Prieto

Rosalind: Try to include in your logline, Who the story is about (protagonist) Who he/she strives for. What stands in his/her way (antagonistic force) Use words like "struggle" because it presents the goal. Example: Ordinary People - After being institutionalized for a suicide attempt, a teen struggles for sanity and closure but must overcome his greatest adversary first - his mother. Always keep the protagonist active in the forefront of the logline. Btw, I hate writing loglines and have read 100s and still struggle when it comes to writing my own. I'm better at writing other writers. Lol. Go figure, girlfriend. Hope I helped you.

Jorge J Prieto

JOE is right, don't use characters names. Sorry, I had not read above comments.

Jorge J Prieto

One more thing: I try to always add a "but" or "however" in order to raise the stakes. Okay, I'm out of here.

Rosalind Winton

Peter, yes, I agree, the conflict is 'of himself' if that makes sense and through the story he does battle with his conscience. I love your analogy of the brick wall and pot hole, that's a great way to describe it and I'll certainly bear that in mind as well. Isn't it amazing how just one or two lines of writing can bring about so much discussion? Jorge, thank you for your advice and yes, I hate conjunctive words, 'and', 'but' etc...specially when people begin sentences and paragraphs with them in their work. As an editor, I always correct that and I will certainly keep that in mind when composing my log line. I have written a lot of synopses for my clients so that they can send their work to publishers and a synopsis has to give an outline of the story in one page and that's difficult enough, having to do the same thing in one line is very daunting, but I'm going to accomplish it. Thank you again everyone.

Jack Middleton

Thanks Jorge. It is amazing that, as I read somewhere, someone can write a 120 page script and have such a hard time with one or two sentences.

Shawn Speake

My man, Sam! Nothin' like gettin' it summed up in one sentence - how 'bout it! Great to see you today

Jack Middleton

Alright. I re-wrote those log lines based on comments here.... thanks a lot everyone.

Patrick M McCormick

Three sentences describing a bit about the central character, his/her conflict and the outcome. If you Google "Logline" you will find plenty of advice.

Shawn Speake

I appreciate google, but this is a case where I would get my advice from the pros on S32. I believe a pro can get it in a sentence, so that's what I try to do. https://www.stage32.com/profile/185490/scripts_screenplays

Chris Thomas

I believe it's up to 3 sentences that explain the story(s)...it also has to be interesting and hook the reader. Not an easy task. I've read/heard that often times you should start with the logline, and build outline/script from there.

Gerri George

One can also get inspired (and educated) - definitely by online classes via Stage 32. Also, useful is by looking on IMDB at the loglines of the most successful movies within your genre. If you can write it in one sentence, as Shawn says, that's great. I haven't been able to, yet, but it's ideal. Although I don't write comedies, I love the best of them. I just watched "Miss Congeniality" film on cable. Here's the logline: An FBI agent must go undercover in the Miss United States beauty pageant to prevent a group from bombing the event. (I'm a huge Sandra Bullock fan). "Miss Congeniality 2 Armed and Fabulous" logline: After Cheryl Frasier and Stan Fields are kidnapped, Gracie (Sandra Bullock, with her FBI partner Regina King) goes undercover in Las Vegas to find them.

Doug Nelson

SCREENWRITING RULE #1: THERE ARE NO RULES TO SCREENWRITING. Having said that, screenwriting is deeply rooted in custom and tradition which many take to heart as being rules. As a Producer, your logline needs to show me the basic story, about who is struggling to what end, You can name your he/she central character – or not (I prefer not.) Show me her basic struggle and how it ends – probably in a sentence or two. Remember that when you meet me in the elevator at the St. Francis in San Francisco, you need to intrigue me before I get off on the fifth floor.

Rosalind Winton

Thank you everyone, so much.. I'm taking on board all your advice and I'm working on it as we type... with everything you guys have told me, I should come up with the best logline ever written lol.

Jack Middleton

Rosalind, You can do it.

Doug Nelson

Patricia – That sounds pretty good to me and I'm not surprised that it's been picked up – congratulations are in order. As a producer, it raises a lot of questions in my mind and I find it sufficiently interesting that I would stop to inquire further – and isn't that the point? I would likely pass on it because I don't think it's my kind of story. Getting a great script into the hands of a simpatico producer and/or director is the whole point. Not every script is for every producer just as not every producer is right for every script. Nice going Patricia

Rosalind Winton

Thank you Doug and Pat, I was trying to write it last night, it's soooooo difficult, even with all the advice. I'm not giving up though, it will probably take me longer to write this one line than it did to adapt the story into the screenplay in the first place lol.

Rosalind Winton

Patricia I've just read the whole thing top to bottom, thank you soooooo much, this is a real help. It's amazing to read the loglines of well known films and seeing how they are constructed and what information is in the log line, I was particularly interested in the 'slice of life' section, which is what I think the story I'm adapting falls under... back to it lol.

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