Friday, April 13, 2012


Do you write a "logline" before or after you've written your manuscript? Hmm.

According to Blake Snyder, "A logline is the one--or two-- sentence description of your movie that tells us what it is. It must contain a type of hero (that means a type of person plus an adjective that describes him), the antagonist (ditto), and the hero's primal goal. It must have irony, and it must bloom in our brains with potential" (SAVE THE CAT, p.188).

A logline is also known as an elevator-pitch or a hook.

And it is essential because it's the quick one-two punch that excites people about reading your story. And if you can't pack your story into a tasty-bite-sized-morsel, that could mean there are inherent problems with your story.

Now, granted, I wrote my first manuscript with no logline. I just wrote. I didn't know much about the craft or the industry ... I just wrote. And then when I *thought* I was finished with the ms, I started researching how to get an agent and how to write a great query letter. Oops. That became a huge problem for me, because my story was "too big" to be bottled up so tightly. That wasn't MY fault. ... right? ... I figured the problem was with the system.

But then before proceeding with my second ms, I decided to write the query letter FIRST, just as an exercise ... to see if it was helpful or even possible. Hmm.

That's when I realized how important a BASIC storyline is to the success of the process.

Let's look at one of Snyder's loglines:
"A hen-pecked husband finally gets the house to himself one weekend and loses it in a poker game to an unscrupulous gambler" (SAVE THE CAT, p. 49).

HERO: Hen-pecked husband
ANTAGONIST: Unscrupulous gambler
PRIMAL GOAL: Get the house back which will protect his physical survival needs of warmth, sleep, and sex
IRONY: Finally gets the house and loses it

I challenge you to write a logline right now - off the top of your head - simply use the formula:

A (adjective) (noun) finally gets the (noun) (phrase) and (verb) (phrase) to (adjective) (noun).

And remember to hint at the primal goal and include irony.


  1. Hi Margo. This is a very practical post. I was wondering what the difference was between a logline and a pitch, but you explained that beautifully. It's amazing how it can help to write this first before you throw yourself into your novel.


  2. Yes, Margo, THANK YOU! I think this will even help me come up with a new title for the book I'm about to reissue. Polling tells me that people are avoiding the book because the title puts them off. Once I change the title, we'll see if sales improve. :)

    Marian Allen
    Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

  3. A semi-regular blog-visitor finally gets the enlightenment needed to achieve all his dreams and write like a master thanks to a rocking blog-mistress!

    Oh, the irony...

    1. Hmm. *smirking*

      First: It sounded like a compliment.
      Second: It sounded like a scandal.
      Third: It sounded like you were MOCKING me!

      Sheesh. The nerve.
      JK. haha.

      LOVE IT!

    2. I'm glad you liked it.

      And I was totally going for comedic effect, but I promise I wasn't mocking. It is 100% true that your blog DOES help me and that you ARE a rocking blog-mistress.

      But yeah, me getting enlightenment? Ok, maybe not so much. But that's the fault of the receiver, not the transmitter.

      LOL! ;^)

  4. It never occurred to me to write this first. Great idea.

  5. Great advice about loglines.

    Now I do write my query letter first and try my hand at a logline, but they aren't easy.

  6. Hi Margo! This is fabulous! I hadn't thought much about this, but I think it would help my ms a lot. I'm going to work on it!

  7. I didn't know this had a name. I write it in my header when I start a book. If the story deviates from that "log line" I adjust either the story or the sentence. That's been my "plotting" device. Thanks for giving me a name for it.

  8. Hi Margo!! What a great post for L!! Loglines--well I'm no where near the publishing phase in writing--but I'm learning a lot from reading your posts!! Thank you for stopping by The Writers' Post blog. I'm blogging the A to Z on Wine-n-Chat. I do have a group if you are on FB, called The Writers' Post--you or anyone is welcome to join, where bloggers, authors, etc., join to share their work. If you want to join us now or after the challenge--you are more than welcome! Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog!!

    Cheers, Jenn

  9. Loglines help me with the crux of my story. I didn't used to do it, but now I try to write a query letter after 1-3 chapters. It gives me more focus.

  10. I've heard so many good things about Save the Cat! Glad you posted the tips on loglines, they're definitely hard for me. Btw, I tweeted you about the Boise conference. ;)

  11. There's another version of this: _____?______ wants _____?______ more than anything in the world but ______?_______ stands in the way.

  12. Save The Cat sounds interesting! The logline even more interesting. It's a very useful idea.

  13. This is a great formula! I've seen a few others around the blogosphere, but I like the focus on irony in yours.

  14. I never knew this. Think I'll give it a try.

  15. I hate writing much pressure to get them just right. You have a good formula, though. I'll have to play around with it.

    Great post,
    Michelle :)
    From A to Z Challenge

  16. This is the best information I have ever read about loglines, which is something I struggle with. Very helpful!

  17. I definitely need to get Save the Cat. I hear it referenced all the time. Thanks for spelling out the logline formula - it's helpful to those of us who tend to write by the seat of our pants.