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):
- My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) – A young Greek woman falls in love with a non-Greek and struggles to get her family to accept him while she comes to terms with her heritage and cultural identity.
- ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – A meek and alienated little boy finds a stranded extraterrestrial. He has to find the courage to defy the authorities to help the alien return to its home planet.
- Napoleon Dynamite (2004) – A listless and alienated teenager decides to help his new friend win the class presidency in their small western high school, while he must deal with his bizarre family life back home.
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:
- Provides a source for Tweets. At 140 characters a Tweet has to be brief and a short logline can fit the bill.
- A good short introduction of your novel’s theme for blogging, speaking engagements, and book signings.
- Use in an agent or editor query letter. An agent is looking for a reason to stop reading a query letter. A dynamic logline in your query could insure that the agent will keep reading.
- Use as part of your face-to-face pitch to an agent or editor. At most writers conferences that feature agent meetings, they limit these encounters to a few minutes each. Having a good logline will give you a more positive encounter.
Next time I’ll discuss creating a logline.