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the Writer’s Logline

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In the Writer’s Guide to Comics I explain what a log line is.

In Storycraft to Comics, I explain the fundamental structure to a good logline and give some examples.

On “Loglines: Is my story any good,” I explain the significance of the logline, today, I’m going to further the discussion of their importance, and break down the process of making a successful one.

If you’re not running a logline on your typical story build, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

For those coming to the concept for the first time, a logline is merely a single sentence summary of your story

Too often, even in the shi-shi’est of writing circles, folks abandon the idea of structure to the logline. Instead, they focus on trying to be clever, distilling the story down, not to a technical reflection of the story, but to a flashy or ambiguous hook… a marketing gimmick. Or a one-line pitch (not an actual Logline); “Rambo in space.”

Because most script writers don’t release loglines with their published work, the internet is awash with clever gimmick loglines to the most famous stories and pitches masking as genuine loglines.

Of course these are all writer interpretations.

“A Jersey kid learns karate from an L.A. janitor.” – Karate Kid

I mean it’s not wrong.

It’s just doesn’t really tell us much of anything.

A real logline, one that actually conveys the story, is what I refer to as the Writer’s Logline, and it’s the one you’re here to master.

The Writer’s Logline includes a few specific points.

From Storycraft;

“In strict writing terms, loglines are stated in a single sentence. We capture the story goal and summary with a bit more detail, anchoring it with the main character, their goal, the force working against them, and the stakes if they fail. Stand out loglines usually incorporate a sense of irony. They come across with a clever, fresh angle, which like the high-concept, immediately drums forth visuals and potential.”

Only a writer intimately familiar with his story can write a proper Writer’s Logline, and there in lies its supreme power.

The single sentence summary, forces the writer to distill the story down to its key essence… and when written with purpose, reveals the the full breadth of the story’s CORE STRUCTURE.

If you look closely at this breakdown, you’ll notice the elements of logline are the same elements involved in the conflict of the story. As I explained in Character Dynamics, you can’t have fiction without conflict… as such, getting a glimpse of a story’s conflict, gives a true glimpse into the story itself. 

For some reason newer writers often gloss over, downplay, or outright ignore their MAF and stakes, in effect, killing the conflict of their loglines. Hiding the conflict puts you on the fast track to a totally ineffective logline.

I snatched this one off the internet;


Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Let’s put it to the test;

  • Story goal/summary
  • Main character,
  • MC goal,
  • The force working against them
  • Stakes
  • Irony.
  • Genre. Updated addition! Don’t call out your genre on the nose, but frame it in flavor or subtext. I’ll explain in more detail in a second.

“Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II.”

This has nothing to do with anything. It doesn’t meet any points of our logline structure and really, doesn’t tell us anything about the story itself.

“An American expatriate”

Ok, we’ve got the main character

meets a former lover,”

Again, doesn’t hit any of our structural points… and the verb is incredibly weak.

“with unforeseen complications.”

And again, doesn’t have any real writing/story relevance. Not only that, this last bit is completely ambiguous.

  • Does the former lover have a newborn baby, that’s a complication.
  • Is she a spy?
  • Is she smuggling drugs?
  • Does she have 48 hours to live?
  • Maybe she contracted leprosy?
  • Maybe this is actually a sci-fi story, and she’s an alien. You get the point.

Vague descriptors like this, are wastes of space in a Writer’s Logline.

Hopefully you’re familiar with Casablanca, you know, one of the most famous movies of all time. Ok, let’s rework this logline, using actual structure, trying to capture the actual story.

Before we start, keep in mind, Casablanca is not MY story, so I’m going to take some creative license to make my points. The original writer may very well have had different intent… you may feel different intent… but hopefully you can follow my train of thought, and understand what I’m explaining.

We’re gonna fully unpack the Casablanca logline. Then I’m going to throw 10 tips for creating an effective Writer’s Logline, followed by a rework of another famous movie logline. Lastly, I’m tell you how to avoid the logline stumbling block when working on more dramatic works. Hit the full access page and come learn how to make a logline that works!

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