How to Write Loglines That Sell (With Examples)
Are you a budding screenwriter? Perhaps you're looking to make a break into the world of movies or TV dramas?
If you have an excellent idea for a film script or TV show, you'll need to come up with a compelling logline if you're ever going to have a chance to sell your idea.
Writing loglines can be difficult and is something that many writers struggle with.
This guide will look at precisely what a logline is and will help you learn how to write the perfect loglines. We'll look at some winning movie loglines and tell you why they worked so well.
What is a logline?
Simply put, a logline is a line of text which is used to sell your movie, documentary, or TV show idea.
A movie logline could be considered as a concise, one-line synopsis.
Because loglines are brief, you should be able to experiment with many variations quickly.
Many people struggle to know what to write, which is where using a formula can come in handy.
Writing a logline is simple, but writing a winning logline that will sell your movie is challenging.
Loglines are just one or two sentences in length but should capture precisely what the movie is about.
You'll need to include something compelling that draws the reader in and makes them feel like they MUST see your film.
A good logline will describe what the characters are like and give details of the movie's genre and central conflict.
Why do you need a logline?
If you're working on a screenplay or movie script and asked what it's about, you'll be able to hand over your logline to a potential buyer.
It's a good idea to write your logline when you first develop the plan for producing your movie.
The most important thing about loglines is that they should be concise and straight to the point. Don't include vague information that isn't necessary.
What's the difference between logline vs. tagline?
Your logline will help give details about your movie characters and storylines, whereas a tagline helps to get the potential viewers excited about watching the movie.
A logline is a pitch that helps to sell a movie to the filmmakers and producers, whereas a tagline sells it to the general public.
A tagline is a witty one-liner used on movie posters to make people want to go to the cinema to see the film. Taglines are written by the marketing department to fill up cinema seats and sell DVDs.
In contrast, loglines are written by the writers to sell their ideas to the movie industry.
How to create strong protagonists
Your story's main character should be someone the audience can identify with or someone that they love to hate. This way, the audience will feel invested in the character and their story.
Whether you're writing a murder mystery or a love story, the protagonist should be a fully developed character. When writing your logline, you should give the reader a glimpse of your protagonist's personality.
The first part of your logline is all about the protagonist and should tell the reader who the main character is. Choose a characteristic that makes your protagonist unique. Use that characteristic within the logline.
Using a name is meaningless, whereas choosing a character trait, job description, or personality type will help generate more interest in your storyline and sell your movie.
Tips for writing a strong logline
A good logline will tell us precisely what the character wants from life.
Are they looking for the love of their life? Fighting baddies or trying to escape from a drug raid.
The best logline introduces the character's purpose but leaves unanswered questions that make the reader want to watch the movie to see what happens.
Loglines should be enticing and exciting rather than bland.
If you were to write "a woman sets out to climb a mountain," this states the character goal but doesn't tell us much else. It's too broad a statement and is a bit bland; it doesn't create enough interest.
This logline could be developed to make it healthier by creating a specific goal.
"A woman sets out to climb a mountain to rescue her child before it's too late."
This adds more interest. The reader is likely to have unanswered questions, such as where is the child? Why does the mother need to climb a mountain to reach her child? Is the child at the top of the hill? Why may it be too late, is the child in some kind of danger?
This will make the reader want to watch the movie to find out more and answer them.
It's also a wise idea to have something at stake in your storyline and add it to your logline.
In the example above, the woman's child is at stake.
The reader is left to interoperate what 'before it's too late' means. The woman's relationship with her child could be at stake, or even the child's life.
When writing a logline, it's best to use the active voice rather than a passive voice.
This makes the logline seem more enticing. If you're having trouble writing a logline, there is a logline template that can help.
Fill in the blanks on the following formula to write a great logline.
Screenwriting software can also be used to help you generate a compelling movie or documentary logline.
When [add an inciting incident] happens, [protagonist description] decides [action taken] against [an antagonist].
While using a logline generator, formula or software can be helpful, it's essential to make your tagline unique.
Recipes are great for generating ideas if you're stuck but can often create a bland logline similar to other peoples. You'll want to make your logline stand out from the crowd.
You could try adding irony or two very different characters that would be considered chalk and cheese.
You could also place characters in situations where they are out of their depths. This will make your storyline more interesting.
For example, there is irony in Silence of the Lambs, as a serial killer is trying to capture other murderers.
Examples of good log lines
Here are some examples of sharp log lines that have been used over the years to pitch and sell some fantastic movies. You can also try Googling some of your favorite films to see how the logline was written.
Pirates of the Caribbean Log Line
"When a charming pirate is imprisoned, he must go on a mission to help save the Governor's daughter to reclaim his freedom and his ship."
Django Unchained logline
"With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner."
Spy Kids Logline
"When two top spies are kidnapped by their evil nemesis, there are only two people in the world who can rescue them… their kids!"
Napoleon Dynamite Logline
"A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their high school while dealing with his bizarre family life back home."
The Silence of the Lambs Logline
"A young FBI cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive help to catch another serial killer who skins his victims."
It can be challenging to write a strong logline that stands out, but with a bit of practice, you'll soon be writing a fantastic one-liner that will sell your script. It's a good idea to practice writing a logline for everything you write, even for short films, as this will give you more experience of writing log lines.