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Screenwriting - A Logline Can Make Or Break A Sale

By Expert Author: Billy Alexander

If you want to sell your screenplay to Hollywood, the most important thing you may ever do in your screenwriting career write is a great logline, or several of them. Sure, you have to write a great script too, but without a compelling, killer logline, nobody will read it.
So what is a logline? A logline is a short, usually one sentence, statement of what the story is about. In most cases it should be 25 words or less.
What? Distill your baby, the one you spent months or even years on, into one sentence? Yes, but only if you want to sell your screenplay. Now that I have your grudging attention, here's how to create a logline.
The logline contains three elements: Who the protagonist is and what they want to accomplish; who or what stands in their way; what bad thing will happen (the stakes) if they don't succeed.
Let's examine each of these logline elements.
The Who. Do not name your protagonist in the logline, instead tell us what kind of person they are, which often means employing an adjective or other descriptor. For example: A young girl, a young boy, a cynical police detective, an alcoholic lawyer and so on.
The What. Protect a family, protect a home, win someone's heart, get a job, find the murderer.
The Antagonist and the Stakes. Serial Killer, thief, a domineering boss, forces of nature, a rival crime family.
In addition, the logline should be about the protagonist and what they trying to accomplish, not something that is happening TO them. Even if your protagonist is a passive victim in the firstpart of the story, they must eventually become an active participant in their life or nobody will be interested in the story.
Many great movies feature compelling backdrops that contribute to the conflict of the story, such as a war, a ghetto, a high powered law firm, the Old West. If you can, include the backdrop in your logline to make it richer and more intriguing.
With all of the above in mind, let's write some possible loglines for some successful movies:
Two young lovers associated with rival gangs n the slums of New York try to escape the bigotry and violence that surrounds them to find a better life - "West Side Story" (based on "Romeo and Juliet").
A naive young woman wants to see the world and find true love before her evil stepmother captures and re-imprisons her - "Tangled"
A land lubber sheriff tries to kill a giant shark to protect his family and seaside resort town - "Jaws."
A small boy who was accidentally left alone tries to prevent robbers from breaking into his home during Christmas - "Home Alone."
You may be able to create variations of these above loglines. There are no right and wrong loglines - only those that help sell your screenplay and those that don't.

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