Writing Loglines That Sell

A logline is your story boiled down to one or two sentences (not to be confused with a tagline), and it’s an essential tool to sell your script regardless of format or genre. When a producer goes, “What is your script about?”, you have to get straight to the point.

It may sound easy to write one, but many newbie and professional screenwriters often fail to bring out the most important qualities of a logline: it has to be concise, clear, and catchy. They are often too short or too long, too specific or too vague. This might pass off as sloppiness or indicate that the author doesn’t know what the story is really about. As usual, there is no perfect recipe but guidelines that we can learn from the many examples out there. Let’s take a look at the essential elements that every bulletproof logline should have.

Inciting Incident

This is storytelling 101: something happens to somebody. Good loglines usually cut to the chase and start with that single event that kicks your story in motion and forever changes your protagonist’s life.

After a simple jewellery heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant – Reservoir Dogs.

When a young boy disappears, his mother, a police chief and his friends must confront terrifying supernatural forces in order to get him back – Stranger Things.

You don’t have to state the inciting incident as long as your logline already implies that your protagonist is leaving their ordinary world/life, like Luke Skywalker, from being a farm boy on a remote planet to being a rebel in a galactic war.

Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy, joins rebel forces to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader, and the galaxy from the Empire’s Death Star – Star Wars: A New Hope.


You want to give us a strong sense of who your protagonist is, and the fewer words you use, the better. Many writers lose time introducing the main character, but loglines aren’t a plot summary. They are one-two sentences selling your story’s concept. Describe your protagonist in such a way that it is easy for us to picture the story.

A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder – Rear Window.

A chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer teams up with his former student to cook and sell crystal meth in order to provide for his family, his wife, disabled son, and newborn – Breaking Bad.

It is generally discouraged to use character names because they tell us little about the story and reveal nothing about your character. However, this is different if your script is based on true events or you’re using the protagonist’s name to establish your story’s tone.

A chronicle of Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965 – Selma.

Blacksmith Will Turner teams up with eccentric pirate “Captain” Jack Sparrow to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from Jack’s former pirate allies, who are now undead – Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.


Your protagonist wants to achieve something, and somebody or something stands in their way. Story is conflict, and conflict arises when two forces oppose one another. We empathise with a character’s journey because we want them to succeed. Make sure your logline states what your protagonist is actively after and why it is difficult to get it. Using the active voice also helps us to empathise with them.

A young F.B.I. cadet must receive the help of an incarcerated and manipulative cannibal killer to help catch another serial killer, a madman who skins his victims – Silence of the Lambs.

With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal plantation owner in Mississippi – Django Unchained.


What happens if your protagonist fails? Great loglines instantly hook us because they give us a sense of what is at stake (a human life, the dream of a lifetime, a great scientific discovery, etc.). We don’t want your protagonist to fail because we understand the consequences. This is especially true for action-packed narratives, where suspense plays a huge role.

Following the Normandy Landings, a group of U.S. soldiers go behind enemy lines to retrieve a paratrooper whose brothers have been killed in action – Saving Private Ryan.

Sometimes, the stakes are often implied by the conflict. For instance, we can sense what will happen to Tony Soprano if the people around him find out he might not be as confident as he’s supposed to be:

New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano deals with personal and professional issues in his home and business life that affect his mental state, leading him to seek professional psychiatric counselling – The Sopranos.