Logline Hell

on September 1, 2014 in Misc

If you think writing a blurb for you novel is tough–and for me they’re a nightmare–try summing up your magnum opus in a mere log line.


A log line is your first and most important pitch for a screenplay or a TV script.  Think blurbs for people with severe ADD.   When industry folk want to know about your story, you’ve got to pitch it in a mere ONE SENTENCE!  Or if you’re the garrulous type, TWO SENTENCES!

That means you’ve got to cover your story’s crucial elements of the protagonist, antagonist and the goal, and throw in some “sizzle and pop” and “titillation and intrigue” in a few measly words.

back to future

Here’s an example:

An alcoholic ex-superhero searches for his daughter after she is kidnapped by his demented, jealous former sidekick.

Here’s the log line for Back to the Future:

A young man is transported to the past where he must reunite his parents before he and his future are no more.”

Here’s a verbose two  sentence log line:

An expert on cults is hired by a mother and father to kidnap and deprogram their brainwashed daughter.  He soon begins to suspect the parents may be more destructive than the cult he’s been hired to save her from.

By now you may be wondering what my screenplay’s log line is.

I don’t have one yet.

What I do have is 16 pages of a screenplay, which means only about 103 pages to go.  But it’s going kinda fast because I’m having fun telling my story in a format that so different from novel writing.

Still, I’ve got the feeling that by writing my log line now, I’ll be forced to think with crystal clarity about my story, hence the log line will help me write it.

Have you ever done something similar with your own stories, whatever the format?  Like writing a rough blurb early on, or composing a query letter? Could you sum up your novel in one sentence?









13 Responses to “Logline Hell”

  1. I actually find the logline easier to write than the blurb. Maybe because I’m naturally a man of few words. Don’t worry, you’ll nail the logline.

  2. Helena says:

    Alex – You are concise and to the point. No wonder you’re so successful!

  3. A logline first helps keep me on track while I write. I also use a working blurb that usually bears little resemblance to the final outcome LOL.

  4. For my latest, THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT, I wrote my logline for my sidebar: A supernatural Longmire — In Egypt, the dead never rest easy. For my first children’s book, HIBBS, THE CUB WITH NO CLUE, I wrote for my sidebar: What defense is an innocent soul against the Powers of Darkness? Let Hibbs, the cub with no clue, show you.

    It is hard. But like Alex, I know you will do it, and do it well. Think what you would tell an attention-limited friend if you wanted them to go to the movie of your script! :-)

  5. Helena says:

    Carol – Isn’t it funny how what we set out to write changes so much by the time we’re finished? Even with a logline or a full synopsis, it’s “I’m making this up as I go.”

  6. Helena says:

    Roland – I really like the logline for Hibbs. And you really do have a brief, very sharp pitch for all your stories. So smart! I’ve bought a couple and hope to have time to read them very soon.

  7. Helena says:

    Roland – I really like the logline for Hibbs. And you really do have a brief, very sharp pitch for all your stories. So smart! I’ve bought a couple and hope to have time to read them very soon.

  8. When I think of a logline, I am reminded that most publishers prefer simplicity. The reason why Back to the Future’s logline works is because it really is a simple story. It isn’t trying to do too much. I think writers are guilty of packing everything into their stories and that’s why it gets hard to boil things down. I’ve started addressing this in my own writing by setting out to do something simple and then just embellishing it along the way. One fantasy I wrote has a logline that goes like this: “A young thief gets hired to steal a precious object.” Simple, easy, and to the point.

  9. Nas says:

    I start with a logline, then expand that to a synopsis…which gives me a rough idea of what I want to do.

  10. Helena says:

    Mike – You’re right about the logline appeal, and I’m definitely guilty of trying to pack too much into a story. That’s why editing is so important for me: because then I try to trim and cut and shape. But it’s not easy. For movies, the trailer and logline for The Sixth Sense was perfect: Just a little boy saying, “I see dead people.” Wow.

  11. Helena says:

    Nas – You sound more clear and organized then I am. And I don’t write a synopsis until I’ve finished writing the book! Talk about getting things backwards…

  12. Helena: For the record, what creeped me out most about the Sixth Sense is learning about Munchausen Syndrome. I had no idea that this kind of child abuse actually exists.

  13. Helena says:

    Mike – Wasn’t that so very disturbing? I’ve read of cases of the syndrome and for me the child can’t be taken away fast enough from a parent like that.