I’m assuming we’re all savvy writers who all know loglines are not taglines … So let’s put REAL loglines under the microscope in the next instalment of my Top 5 Mistakes series!

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1)  Writers forget 1 (or more) of “The 3 Cs”

Clarity, characters, conflict – in that order, please! Here’s why:

  • Without clarity, we don’t understand what’s going on
  • We need to know who your character/s are to want to get on board the journey
  • We need to know the conflict to understand what your character/s are up against.

EXTRA TIP FOR YOU: I’ve noted writers usually know WHO their character is, but it’s clarity and conflict where they generally fall down in loglines! MORE: All About The 3 Cs In Writing

2) Using Questions

I’ve seen and heard a LOT of loglines over the years … And I can’t think of a time I’ve seen a question in a logline that’s been justified.

By questions, I mean when writers do something like this at the end of their logline:

Will Rachel get home alive?

Can they save the world and destroy the alien?

Will love triumph and Ben take Olivia back?

It’s not difficult to see why writers do this: they think it makes their stories seem more intriguing. BUT IT’S NOT. Here’s why: the answer is nearly always “YES … otherwise = no story”! MORE: 5 Pitching Tips

3) It’s too vague

Vagueness is a MAJOR pitch killer, because it communicates the following (unfairly or not) to your pitchee:

  • You don’t KNOW your story
  • You’re not passionate about your story
  • You don’t know your audience
  • You don’t know what you’re doing

Yikes! You don’t need to come across as any of those … So GET SPECIFIC. MORE: 7 Things Agents, Producers & Filmmakers Can Tell From Your Pitch

4) It’s too long!

A good logline is 25-60 words long.

Not long at all, eh? There’s worse to come. Generally speaking, the more HIGH CONCEPT an idea, the shorter it should be. So in other words, if you’re writing a Hollywood blockbuster-type idea (high budget or not), your logline should be SHORT.

But the opposite of high concept is NOT “low concept”, but CHARACTER-LED. This means if you’re writing a drama, you can probably get away with a longer logline … BUT you’re not out of the woods yet: it will be a harder sell. Sorry! (Not sorry). MORE: Blue Valentine (2010): A Case Study On Drama Screenplay Loglines

5) Letting Cliché stand in for story

So, tell me: what’s the actual story here:

They have to confront past demons!

Then their lives are shattered!

They have to learn to love and live again!

This is the thing: these old phrases are STALE and TIRED – they’re in dozens and donzens of loglines and frankly I’m sick to death of them.

More importantly though, these phrases could actually refer to JUST ABOUT ANYTHING. Seriously. If you want your story to stand out? Again – you need to GET SPECIFIC, STAT.

Breaking Into Script Reading – Back For 2020! 

How do IMy sell-out course, BREAKING INTO SCRIPT READING is back for its FIFTH year in 2019! If you’re interested in becoming a script reader, or finding out more how script readers may assess YOUR own writing – or both! – then this is the course for you. Tickets are on sale now. GET THEM HERE, or click the pic on the left. See you there!

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6 Responses to Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make With Loglines

  1. Amber says:

    Yeeesh, I hate loglines! Thanks for another helpful article though. 🙂 🙂

  2. V. Gosav says:

    Thanks for the article. Great advice as usual.
    I am interested in your “Breaking Into Script Reading” course, but I don’t think I’ll be able to attend it in 2017 (I live in Canada). Do you have a pdf or video of your 2016 course by any chance?

  3. Kevin Michael Reily says:

    If you are a screenwriter, and you cannot write a one sentence logline, that will get your script noticed.
    Why would anyone believe that you can magically write a feature length script worth reading?
    Write a script worthy of an agent, and don’t worry about all the things you cannot control.

    Good Luck.

  4. I had hell with some of my students who kicked against correct formatting because they didn’t like rules!! Also, writing is not just writing. Two other skills help enormously. Dramatic improvisation teaches character creation and dialogue; editing teaches how to start and end scenes.

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