Imagine it’s the late 1930’s, the heyday of the old movie studio system. You’re a young screenwriter sitting in the opulent office of the producer, hoping to get your story green lighted. His desk is piled with scripts and stacks of scripts litter the floor. Overweight, in a pinstripe suit, he sits back in his executive chair smoking a cigar. His fat round face is pinched in an expression of irritation. “OK, kid, you got three minutes?”
You swallow, open your mouth, and realize your mind has just gone blank. “Well, uh,…” you begin, “I got a script about, a, uh…”
He shakes his head, points his cigar at your nose, and shouts, “Get out kid. Come back with you have a logline.”
As you slink out of his office you wonder, What’s a logline?
A Google of the word yields this definition for logline: “[It] is a one (or occasionally two) sentence description that boils the script down to its essential dramatic narrative in as succinct a manner as possible.”
You’ve probably seen or heard loglines for many movies, for example (taken from the IMDB):
James Scott Bell in his book, The Art of War for Writers, states that, if you’re anxious to start on a new project, you should begin with a logline. He thinks that, “…a potent logline is a must.”
You should consider creating the logline right after researching and outlining your novel, but before the actual writing. Obviously, the logline is not something written in stone. It should be revised as you go along just as you revise your manuscript.
I created the following logline for my new novel, The Peril Protocol: “Dr. Hope Allerd has the ideal job as a fellow under the renowned Dr. Francis Peril, until a tabloid report appears claiming her beloved mentor is the most horrific serial killer since Jack the Ripper.”
Loglines are not only useful in helping maintain focus while you write. Other uses include:
Next time I’ll discuss creating a logline.