If you’re a screenwriter, you have a million ideas of plots, characters, and act breaks running around your head. You love to make stories, but in order to make those stories real and tangible, you need to be able to sell it. This is where structure matters, and where necessary components such as a logline come into play. How do you make a logline, and better yet, how do you make one that’s good? I have boiled down the infamous logline into three simple (and essential) steps that can be the difference between a pitch and a sale.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is a logline? A logline is a one sentence description of a series, feature, web series or other creative project. If you can’t say it in one sentence, it’s not a logline yet. A logline is essential in pitching your project, but even before that, it will be invaluable to know before you begin writing. Why? Because your logline distills the essence of your project. It helps you as you make the decisions about where your characters will ultimately go and what they’ll do.
1. Protagonist (Adjective)
Step one: who is your protagonist? Got it? Good. Now, find an adjective to describe him or her. Use an adjective that’s powerful, instantly understandable, and a compelling word. Is your protagonist desperate? Brilliant? Irresponsible? Troubled? Choose an adjective that is sure to drive the action forward.
Example: Let’s use Netflix’s show G.L.O.W. as a model. For Alison Brie’s character Ruth Wilder, I would best describe her at the beginning of the series as “A painfully unemployed actress.”
2. Conflict (Verb)
Next step: find a powerful verb to describe what the struggle or obstacle is for our protagonist. What is our main character aiming to do? Strong verbs that may fit the bill: transforms, pursues, battles, overcomes. This is the part that states why audiences will tune in to watch.
Example: For G.L.O.W. character Ruth Wilder, she “pursues an unorthodox female wrestling gig.”
3. Goal (Noun)
Last but not least: what is the goal of all this? What is our protagonist, who we’ve grown to know and love, ultimately trying to accomplish? Do they want revenge? Love? Power? Survival? Whatever it is, it’s an essential part of your logline, because it helps executives you’re pitching to know exactly where it’s going to go.
Example: What is Ruth trying to accomplish? She is taking a chance on this unordinary job “in order to make one last attempt at living her dreams.”
Now, let’s put it all together:
G.L.O.W. logline: A painfully unemployed actress pursues an unorthodox female wrestling gig in order to make one last attempt at living her dreams.
Piece of cake, right? Not exactly, but it’s definitely worth the effort to spend time making it shine. Loglines are fantastic for defining exactly what makes your project compelling, and now you have the tips to do it right to make it as effective as you can. Now get to it!
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Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.