How to Write a Log-Line

Logs arranged in a square

Log-lines

In his book, Screenwriting, Raymond G Frensham defines a log-line as a “short, pithy slogan you see on a film poster that captures, at an emotional level, what it’s about, or the kind of short description billings used in weekly TV guides.” The purpose of a log-line is to attract an audience by creating the right expectation in agents, producers, and the audience. Although usually written last, as part of the marketing strategy, your coming up with a log-line prior to starting your story will help you to focus on the main through-line of your tale. Although log-lines, also known as strap-lines, primarily refer to film projects, their functionality can be applied to stories of any format, such as the paperback or kindle novel.

Two Key Elements

Log-lines consist of two key elements: a repeating formal sentence structure and an element of contrast. The following examples, taken from successful movies, demonstrate the effective use of these elements:

‘Honour made him a man.
Courage made him a hero.
History made him a legend.’ Rob Roy

‘Imagine if you had three wishes, three hopes,
three dreams,,,and they all came true.’ Aladdin

‘Someone said “Get a life” – so they did.’ Thelma And Louise

‘This is Benjamin…He’s a little worried about his future.’ The Graduate

‘A story of Love Laughter and the Pursuit of Matrimony.’ Muriel’s Wedding

‘Don’t breathe. Don’t look back. The Dark Side of Nature.’ Twister

‘Everything is Suspect. Everyone for Sale. Nothing is what it seems.’ L.A. Confidential

Summary

Log-lines contain two key features—formal repetition and contrast. Log-lines are used for marketing purposes but they are also useful, if conceived early, as indicators of your story’s through-line.

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2 thoughts on “How to Write a Log-Line

  1. Stavros Halvatzis

    Thanks for the comment, Paul. Yes, people often, rightly or wrongly, and somewhat confusingly, interchange these labels. In his book, Screenwriting, R. G. Frensham refers to these as log-lines.

    Reply
  2. Paul Newman

    Great post, Stavros!

    I know these as Tag Lines. As far as I understand the Tag Line is the marketing Catch Phrase, while the Log Line is a very concise summary in a single line used to quickly tell (pitch to) people what the story is about.

    I frequently write several potential tag lines upfront as essential guides for my story. It’s also rather positive to envision the tag line printed on a movie poster in a theater lobby.

    Reply

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