A while ago, we talked about how a novelist should write a log line (see: What is a Log Line). Well, today I thought we could talk about how a screenwriter should write a log line.
Wouldn’t the log lines be the same? Well, kind of, I suppose.
A literary agent wants to know what your novel is about. Here’s mine for my current novel.
“A vengeful Reaper, hell-bent on finding the key to unlocking Heaven’s Gateway, must choose between good and evil before the town mayor sacrifices the girl he loves and overturns God himself.”
But, a producer wants to be hooked from the outset. Hook them and you’re on your way.
So, how can we do that?
Basically, a log line consists of three things. Seems simple doesn’t it? Nothing in life worth having is simple. *Cheesey grin*.
So, lets take a closer look at what these three things are.
1. A main character, who
2. Has a mission or a goal, but
3. Faces a major problem or some kind of opposition.
First, our protagonist is our main character . The goal is what he/she wants and the obstacle is what is stopping he/she from reaching it.
Two things to remember,
1. The main conflict MUST be clear.
2. Main logline is 25 words or less.
Remember, a log line is usually one sentence, 2 at the very most.
In the movie, ‘The Crazies’, the protagonist is the town Sheriff.
His goal is to find out why some towns folk are going ‘crazy’.
His obstacle is he must fight off hundreds of ‘infected’ people to do it.
This can also be turned around and looked at like this:
In Wrong Turn, the protagonist is a newly graduated doctor.
The problem is he’s crashed his car in the middle of the wilderness and is being hunted by the local inbreeds.
His goal is to find a way out of the woods so he can get help.
In my story, The Legend, the protagonist is a Reaper.
His goal is to open the gateway to heaven and exact revenge on the entities that imprisoned him.
The problem is, to do this, he will have to kill the girl he has come to love.
Now we have that down, is there anything else we need to create that great log line? Hell, Yes!
First, we must be perfectly clear. We may understand what is going on, but the agent/producer is reading our log line for the first time. They have absolutely no idea what our story is about.
And, we must reveal our biggest hook. What is the most exciting or compelling thing about our screenplay? The log line is your time to reveal it.
Last but not least, we want our reader to picture our movie the moment they read the log line.
Here’s an example from the movie Law Abiding Citizen:
The protagonist and the goal:
A family man killed the member of a gang who murdered his wife and child.
The hook is:
Once jailed, he escapes to kill off the rest of the gang, one by one, before returning to his jail cell and thus having the perfect alibi.
So my log line would be: “After centuries of searching, a vengeful Reaper finally uncovers the secret that will open the Gateway to Heaven, only to find that in doing so he has to sacrifice the woman he loves.”
The hook is what will have your reader wanting more. It’s what will make it stand out from everybody else’s.
So, how do you start to write a log line?
Write the hook first. Then you will be able to write the log line so it’s delivery is clear and precise.
Remember, an agent or producer will only request our script if our log line is good. Only then do we have a chance at selling it.
Well, what are you waiting for? Start writing those log lines in the comment section.
Have you had a script requested of the back of a log line? Do you find writing log lines hard or easy? Come on, don’t be shy….you know how I love talking to you guys.