For any screen writer, the log line is what will make you or break you. This is because the movie moguls will only buy a script that they’re sure a mass target audience will pay to see, or in other words, a High Concept story. It’s a very smart way to do business, and lately it seems the book publishers have caught on to this nifty trick. That means that not only do we need to write a kick-ass query letter, but we also need a log line that bangarangs.
A lot of what we need to write a great log line can be learned by watching Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, and once the laughter dies down a little bit, I’ll explain. There is a scene in the movie where King Arthur and his knights have to cross the bridge of death, but only if they can answer three questions. These three questions are:
1. What is your name?
2. What is your quest?
3. What is your favorite color?
These questions are quite brilliant for the writer to ask when writing the log line. Don’t believe me. Okay, lets’ take them one by one, shall we.
Question 1, what is your name? I’m sure we can all agree that a good log line will need the protagonist’s name in there somewhere. Would you read a novel with a log line of “The world is about to end and only one person can stop it”? Not likely.
Question 2, what is your quest? This is the conflict. What is the protagonist’s main goal for the story? Will they need to survive a deadly night of vampire attacks or do they need to master their ability before they cause the end of the world? Figure out the quest and we’re almost done.
Question 3, what is your favorite color? Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What’s so important about a characters favorite color when writing a log line? Look at it from another point of view. The color that the protagonist prefers does tell us a bit of their personality. We want to identify with the protagonist, and that’s easier if we know something about them.
With these questions three, we almost have the basics. Only thing missing now is what’s at stake, because let be serious, every story needs something at stake. Add that in, and we have a nice, clean, and simple log line.
When (insert hero and include personality) is forced to (insert quest), they have to (insert opportunity for growth) or (insert what’s at stake).
Of course we can put more in it. We just need to remember that it gets more complicated with everything we add. In fact, the only thing that should never be in a log line is the ending. This is a rule that should never be broken. Remember we want to tease the agent in to wanting to read out story.
Now that we have a few rules, anyone want to take a stab at writing a good log line?