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.
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