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
BLOOMS WITH POTENTIAL: Absolutely
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.