The Log Line – Strengthen your story with this powerful tool!

As a Facilitator, Story Editor, and Dramaturg, I use the log line as a tool to help me investigate the story that the writer is trying to tell and analyze whether or not they are conveying their idea in their script. Eventually, your log line may morph into the tag line that marketers will use to sell your completed project, but here, let’s look at it as a writing tool that reflects the core of your story.

For new pieces, log lines can be a great starting point to help you focus and clarify the essential elements of protagonist, conflict, and antagonistic forces. As long as they are not written in stone, they will evolve as your piece develops. Log lines also help to ensure you can convey your idea to someone in a few sentences and in so doing strengthen the impact of your mission.

1. “What is your log line?” The formula you use is less important than knowing the key elements that drive your story and make an audience want to watch it. “Who is your protagonist? What do they want? What are the antagonistic forces that stand in their way?”

2. “What are two adjectives that describe your protagonist?” This seemingly basic question is essential to the heart of your piece. A couple of distinct adjectives will reveal plenty about your main character and how they respond to events on their journey.

(Some writers think they have more than one protagonist, or that they are writing an “ensemble” piece, if this is you, please contact me for a Free Consultation.)

3. “What does the protagonist want and how do they go about getting it?” It is useful to identify the protagonist’s goals within the two hours we spend with them, as opposed to their loftier dreams. We are watching the most important story in their lives. The ‘wants’ may shift throughout a story, so it is beneficial to return to this question frequently, especially if you get stuck! What do they want in every scene, in every beat, with every line?

4. “What are the antagonistic forces and what does the protagonist do to conquer the obstacles that stand in their way, or are they defeated by them?” The choices your characters make are the clearest, fastest method of using dramatic action to express moral fiber. A string of choices compels your story forward. Whether or not they get what they want informs your genre.

These are the log line formulas that I use most often…

Log Line Formula from Bill Lundy – Creating the Killer Log Line

This film or play is a [genre] called [title] about [protagonist – using a personality descriptor and a stage of life descriptor] who seeks [goal] despite [obstacle or antagonist].

Star Wars – A science-fiction fantasy about a naive but ambitious farm boy from a backwater desert who discovers powers he never knew he had when he teams up with a feisty princess, a mercenary space pilot and an old wizard warrior to lead a ragtag rebellion against the sinister forces of the evil Galactic Empire.

Log Line Formula from Blake Snyder – Save the Cat

A log line needs… irony, a compelling mental picture, audience and cost, and killer title.

A [flawed protagonist] [takes action to pursue goal] despite [antagonist or obstacle], but when [midpoint that raises the stakes] happens she must learn [theme] before [all is lost].

Ride Along – A risk-averse teacher plans on marrying his dream girl but must first accompany his overprotective future brother-in-law – a cop – on a ride along from hell.

Save the Cat –

101 Best Movie Loglines Screenwriters Can Learn From – ScreenCraft –

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