Loglines Become You
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012

My post, “Talking for Writers,” seems to have gotten writers talking – at least about loglines.  So here are some further thoughts on those pesky, but crucial, marketing tools.

First, they are insanely useful.  If you’ve ever hemmed and hawed at a cocktail party or family reunion – “So, dear, what is this little book you’re writing again?” – loglines are lifesavers.  They are also highly structured, and that’s good news, because it means that, to some extent, you can paint by numbers.  After you read this, you’ll be able to put together a rough draft of your own logline, then polish it to reflect your personality.  It’s got to feel comfortable coming out of your mouth.

So what, exactly, is a logline?

A logline is a one-sentence description of your story.  This is true whether you’re selling a novel or a script – ie: literally selling a story – or selling yourself, your business, or your product.  In that case, what you’re pitching is still a story – the story of you.

A good logline will get someone to ask for more.  That’s it.  If the other person’s eyes light up, if they ask you to send the manuscript, if they say, “Oh! Tell me more!” then your logline did its job.  If there is a confused, awkward pause… Well, it needs some work.

A logline has two parts: first, it prepares the person’s listening.  What I mean is, it lets the other person know what to listen for.  Is this a comedy or a drama?  Is it a screenplay, web series or novel?  If you’re being interviewed, are you about to say something unbelievable, exciting or controversial?  You want to let people know up front what they are about to hear – because if you don’t, they won’t listen for it.

Here’s an example: “Speed is Die Hard on a bus.”  The prep part of that is ‘Speed is Die Hard’ – first of all, you give the title of your piece, and second, you tell them as cleanly as possible the genre.  “Die Hard” wasn’t just a thriller, it was a thriller in a confined space, with a hero facing a smart, ruthless foe.  Exactly right for “Speed.”

The second part of the logline is the single most important piece of information about your piece.  For “Speed,” it’s that it takes place on a bus.  Now, you want to convey this critical information in the most interesting way possible – and ‘on a bus’ hardly sounds riveting.  But in context, it’s excellent.  It’s so absurd.  “Die Hard” was a big movie – how in the world could you pull it off on a bus?

Notice what’s not there.  No hero’s name, no mention of the doomed partner, no hint of the love interest – nada.  Of course those things are important – later.  After someone is hooked enough to say those three little words, “Tell me more.” 

This should be fun.  No, no, I mean it!  The truth is, you already do this all the time.  Whenever you try to convince a friend to see a movie with you, or try a new restaurant, or go on a blind date with your cousin Louie, you are pitching.  You are a writer.  You are good at this.  Go on, give it a shot!


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