Log Lines: Saying So Much, With So Little. July 20, 2017

 

I can honestly admit that I was ignorant for so long on the importance of a logline. I’ve KNOWN about them ever since high school, where my Drama teachers read log lines of various movies to us, but I forgot how important they can be to the creative process.

 

I used one on my successful pitch for Genmos, and have written another for each story I have penned or submitted in the last year. I use them in plotting, not just for the overall story, but for EACH act of a short, or EVERY chapter of a novel.

They are vital to me, a simple examination, but each log line I write has helped me to better my writing, helped me streamline, and in some cases, eliminate.

What is a logline?

It is a one-to-two sentence summary of a work that provides both a brief summary of a story. Think of the blurbs you see on Netflix, which you’re trying to find a program to chill to. Those are most often log lines. The singular comments in an old TV guide would be a perfect example too.

 

Now while there are several ways to write a logline, I use the “Who-Does-What-Against-Who” method or the “When” method.

Both are pretty much the same thing.

Tell WHO the story is about, without naming the protagonist. Give some quirks, some history, something to make them different from just, a dude.

Tell who or what their PRIMARY ANTAGONIST OR THREAT is.

Tell what their CONFLICT / PLOT is.

How about an example.

A former thief leads an eccentric band including a blind monk and an enemy robot, on a mission to steal plans for a powerful imperial space station.

Right away we see WHO: A former Thief, an eccentric band including a blind monk and an enemy robot

We see the antagonist: Imperials

We find out the plot: Steal plans for a powerful {} space station

Guess the movie?

Star Wars, Rogue One.

 

Okay, let’s play again.

This time I will enter a bland log line, then spice it up.

Cop hates dude, they fight.

SNOOZE

Now, without telling names, let’s add characteristics.

When he’s targeted by a small-town sheriff, a former Green Beret and Vietnam vet reaches his breaking point and launches a guerilla response.

Protagonist: former Green Beret and Vietnam

Antagonist: small-town sheriff

Conflict: launches a guerilla response.

Guess the movie? RAMBO: First Blood!

 

I Can NOT STRESS how important log lines have become. I encourage you to go ahead and try a few. Use your imagination. If you can create an epic logline, you can create an epic story.

If nothing else, it will help you focus on your overall goal.

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