When industry insiders read a logline, they should clearly see the main character, the incident that started the journey, world in which they live, hurdles that must overcome and high stakes that is the resolution.
What is a Logline Formula?
The secret to logline formula is to include attributes - describe the hero [character traits], the event [dynamic actions] and an [obstacle] to sell your story.
4 Elements of Logline Formula
Logline Formula include these elements: When [inciting event] the [character trait] hero, must [dynamic action] to overcome [obstacle].
1. Inciting Event
The event that sets the story in motion.
- Jaws: When a killer shark unleashes chaos [inciting event] on a beach community, a local sheriff, a marine biologist, and an old seafarer [character trait] must hunt the beast [dynamic action] down before it kills again [obstacle].
2. Character Trait
A character trait is a word to describe the person, do not use their name.
- ET: The Extra-Terrestrial: A meek and alienated little boy [character trait] finds [event occurs] a stranded extraterrestrial. He has to find the courage to defy the authorities [obstacle] to help the alien return [dynamic action] to its home planet.
3. Dynamic Action
Dynamic action is the goal of the character.
- Star Wars: Luke Skywalker, a spirited farm boy [character trait], joins rebel forces [dynamic action] to save Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader [obstacle], and the galaxy from the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star.
Something that stands in the way, the obstacle that needs to be overcome.
- The Godfather: The aging patriarch [character trait] of an organized crime dynasty transfers control [event] of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son [obstacle].
Logline attributes are [character trait] and [dynamic actions] that will make it easier for you to find descriptive words for your logline.
Your logline's character traits are a description of your main character or protagonist.
- List of 752 [character traits] = meek, spirited, aging, etc
To describe the activity that takes place in your script, use Dynamic Actions.
- List of 79 [dynamic actions]= defy, revive, reveal, etc
Logline Formula Types
4 Types of Logline Formula
The attributes in logline formula can be switched around to give the reader what the story is about, who the main characters are, what they want, and what the conflict they need to overcome.
1. Basic Logline Formula
When event occurs the [character trait] hero, must [dynamic action] to overcome [obstacle]
- Life Is Beautiful: When an open-minded Jewish librarian and his son become victims of the Holocaust, he uses a perfect mixture of will, humor, and imagination to protect his son from the dangers around their camp.
2. Character Logline Formula
When a [hero] must [reach his goal] to [overcome the problem]
- Forrest Gump: The presidencies of Kennedy and Johnson, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal and other historical events unfold from the perspective of an Alabama man with an IQ of 75, whose only desire is to be reunited with his childhood sweetheart.
3. Save the Cat Logline Formula
When [inciting event] happens, our [protagonist] decides to do [action] to get [resolution]
- Little Miss Sunshine: When a dysfunctional family reluctantly embarks on a road trip to a “Little Miss” beauty pageant, they’re forced to face their underlying problems and issues along the way or forever lose what truly matters most… each other.
4. Conflict Logline Formula
When [inciting event] occurs, a [specific protagonist] must [objective] or else [stakes]
- Gladiator: A former Roman General sets out to exact vengeance against the corrupt emperor who murdered his family and sent him into slavery.
Logline Formula Examples
5 Logline Formula Examples
A good logline formula consists of the event, the character, the character’s goal and the obstacle to overcome.
- Fight Club
An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soap maker form an underground fight club that evolves into much more.
- The Shawshank Redemption
Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
- The Dark Knight
When the menace known as the Joker wreaks havoc and chaos on the people of Gotham, Batman must accept one of the greatest psychological and physical tests of his ability to fight injustice.
- 12 Angry Men
A jury holdout attempts to prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing his colleagues to reconsider the evidence.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
A bounty hunting scam joins two men in an uneasy alliance against a third in a race to find a fortune in gold buried in a remote cemetery.
Secrets of a Perfect Logline
- the logline must create an image, a visual world in the readers mind
- the audience must have empathy with your character
- the logline needs to create a want to know more
Test your Logline
- When you share the logline with your friends, do their eyes light up?
- Read it out loud to a group of people to see the reaction
- Ask a friend to tell the storyline to someone, then you will be able to hear what part makes them most excited
Use a logline formula to describe your movie's main character, the incident that started the journey, the world in which they live, hurdles that must overcome and high stakes that is the resolution. Logline formula includes attributes such as [character traits, [dynamic actions] and an [obstacle] to sell your story.
Writing a logline is easy if you keep in mind the logline formula, read it out loud to your friends and family to see how they react. The logline describes the character in the readers mind, they understand and empathize with who you are describing. It gives you structure for your screenplay, but most of all, it becomes the pitch to attract audience, film funding and distribution.