In screenwriting a “logline” or the “one-line” is the one- or two-line synopsis of your story. It’s the shortest pitch you use to try to get someone to read your script. It’s your hook.
Alex Epstein says in his book, Crafty Screewriting: Writing Movies That Get Made, “Think of it as the sentence that would describe it in The TV Guide.”
Culling from books and articles, I’ve learned the logline should tell WHO the story is about (by describing not naming him/her, unless he/she is famous), what TROUBLE this character gets into, and it should indicate (not give away) the outcome, ie, the TRANSFORMATION of the main character.
“A mother realizes that her teenage son has probably killed someone.”
This one’s great because it tells WHO and what TROUBLE. It may not say exactly what CHANGES happen, but those are inherent. We simply know this mother’s world will change.
Click here to find more examples in this article by Jonathan Treisman on the Writers Store website. You’ll see Treisman has no qualms about giving away the ending in the logline. Folks in the know have differing views on this. Obviously, TV Guide wouldn’t give away the ending, but if you feel you need to give it away to sell your script, then some folks say go ahead. Others say no way; indicate but don’t reveal the ending. It makes your listener want to read your script.
I’m about to head to The Austin Film Festival this month. I have a screenplay, a drama, I’d love to pitch and sell there if all the planets align just so! I’d love your feedback. Here are possible loglines. Which one do you like best? Which one makes you want to see the movie?
- A What if/And then Logline: “What if a birth mother and the daughter she gave up become co-workers? And the adoptive parents thwart the budding relationship – again?”
- A Setting & Tone Logline: “A struggling isolated prep cook in a marina restaurant gets a second chance to mother the daughter she left in infancy, until the adoptive parents interfere, opening old wounds.”
- A Logline Indicating Plot Twists: “A birth mother and the daughter she gave up become co-workers, friends, and rivals. What happens when the details of their history unravel?”
- Departure Point, Texas
- Come Back Blues
- Little Pink Cap
- Reader Questions: What are some tips for writing an effective query letter? (gointothestory.blcklst.com)