The Logline Dilemma – Does Word Count Count?

For Sale By Writer - The Job Of All Loglines Loglines seem deceptively simple. A single sentence, right?

A sentence that must make people in the industry eager to read your script.

If you’re trying to break in, the logline may be your most effective selling tool – indeed – it may be the only one available to you.

But, strong, effective loglines are deceptively hard to write. Let’s not make it harder than it already is.

Lately, I’ve received queries and loglines submitted for a free “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” via my website with loglines I simply couldn’t figure out. The loglines were so brief and vague that they left me with more questions than answers.

In one case, I could see there was a little something intriguing, but it was so thin I couldn’t get it.

In the other, the writer failed on so many counts that I was baffled as to what was going on.

Apparently, a rumor ran through the online screenwriting community that loglines must be no longer than 25 words. The writers who bought into this spent their time and energy trying struggling to stick to a rule someone made up that I have never heard of in 25 years in the business. I’ve since caught rumblings that the 25 words should include one comma.

Seriously?

Do you think we have the time or desire to count words? We’re looking for ideas for movies! I wish people would stop spreading this kind of misinformation as it hurts writers. That time and energy should be spent making your logline a great selling tool for your script.

One of the baffling 25 word loglines I received – which, despite its brevity managed to include a grammatical error – left me with at least 50 words of questions. I sent them to the writer. To clarify, he added a single word. I still couldn’t figure out who the hero was or what was going on and asked more questions. Finally, he broke down and gave me two sentences that more or less made sense. At least I could figure out what the story was about.

I’ve seen loglines so brief that they were barely a tease, akin to the 40s era cliché of the pretty girl inching up her long dress to reveal a bit of shapely, stockinged ankle and somehow stopping traffic.

I asked one of my 25 word rule logliners to do a rewrite, and he explained to me, “I originally had something like this but figured it gave away too much of the plot.”

Give away the plot! I call this troubling syndrome “doot-doot-doot-doo” after that music cue that signifies something mysterious is about to happen.

This is your one and only chance to convince someone to read your script. Put it out there. Tell us what happens in the story, and be sure to convey what makes it special. For instance, if you’ve got an amazing ending, you have to give it up! Hiding the cool stuff doesn’t work to pique our interest.

If you have a cool ending or big twist, tell us! Would you asked to read The Usual Suspects based on a logline that ended, “Cue mystery music,” instead of “Just when it’s too late, the detective realizes that…”

This is what you have to offer, so put your goods on display, out there for all of us to see. No point in being coy when your ultimate goal is a sale.

Just in case I haven’t buried “The 25 Word Logline Myth,” let me offer up some proof:

Logline Version One – 29 words, two commas:

When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it. (via IMDb)

Logline Version Two – 43 words:

Horror. When a Great White shark terrorizes a quiet New England beach community, the town’s police chief must overcome his fear of the water and join forces with a daredevil oceanographer and a grizzled shark hunter, to hunt it down to save the town.

Which is visceral?

Which includes extraneous information?

Which is the most effective in giving you a sense of the story?

Which communicates the tone of the film?

Which has unnecessary adjectives?

Which has juicy adjectives?

Which makes it clear who the hero is?

Which shows the hero’s flaw?

Which conveys the stakes?

Which logline would make you most likely to ask to read the script for Jaws out of a stack of hundreds of queries?

There is really only one Logline Law – convey your story in a visceral, engaging way that makes us want to read your script.

If your logline doesn’t do that, no sale.

 

Have a question about loglines? Ask it in the comments below.

Want free professional help on your logline? Click here for our Free Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down.

 

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