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Thread: standard length for a logline

  1. #1
    Banned WritingFool's Avatar
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    standard length for a logline

    Is there an industry standard written or unwritten rule as to how long logline can be/exceed?

    Wondering if 75 words is too long?

  2. #2
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    rule of thumb

    Aim for 25-30 max, 75 is a short synopsis. Remember it's going to be read by someone who has probably read dozens today already and isn't in the mood for War & Peace. Your logline is, in theory, what you'll say to Steven Spielberg when you brush against him in the hotel elevator. If you have to pause for breath, he'll look away.

    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.

  3. #3
    Article Queen scripter1's Avatar
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    One, succinct sentence.

    30 to 50 words.
    Shorter is better as long as it is a complete sentence.
    A sentence fragment doesn't really work.

    Identify the protag, not by name but by character-
    A teenage were wolf
    Put forth the problem (core conflict) he/she/it faces-
    must steal a potion
    And who the antag is-
    from a mad sceintist
    then finally the stakes-
    before the next full moon or remain a monster forever.

    Last part kind of stinks but it's 22 words and hits all the key points.

    Don't throw in too many big or exotic words.

    Like D said, if you met Spielberg in the elevator you want to get his attention and hold it before his floor comes up.

  4. #4
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    The standard acceptable max is as DPat pointed out 25-30 words. You may be able to get away with 35 in some cases, but I would aim for less.

  5. #5
    Article Queen scripter1's Avatar
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    The thing with loglines is

    nobody really comes along and counts how many words it is.

    If it's shorter then 30 but has a rocking concept then it works.
    If it's longer then 45 but has a rocking concept then it works.

    The point of a logline is NOT to see how short you can get a real sentence but to quickly reveal how cool your story is. In one sentence you're supposed to perk someone's interest. You want them to say, "I'm interested in reading more."

    Yes, yes by all means keep it short and to the point.

    Just don't panic if your logline comes in at 46 words.
    If you are creeping towards a third sentence then you should think about the core conflict of your story and really try to break it down to it's most basic plot.
    This will be your logline.

  6. #6
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Hi ho Silver

    We're in personal opinion territory now as opposed to quoting industry standard.

    Agreed, no one's going to count the number of words. But just one glance at a logline tells you whether it's carrying too much weight. By the time you read it, you know it's heavy with detail.

    But the folks who read your query want a logline that THEY can express in one sentence, one breath, 25-30 words, so they can pick up the phone or turn to a colleague or grab an investor and say, "Hey, listen to this one..."

    It's all about an idea in a nutshell -- it's about something that can be passed on to others -- it's about grabbing the interest of people who have read dozens, hundreds, thousands of loglines and just want to see something short and sweet built around an easily recognizable concept.

    So you're not doing yourself any favors by explaining more and pointing out all those vitally important things that make your story so special and wonderful. They also make your logline much harder to remember and explain to others.

    If you prefer metaphors, your logline should be a thoroughbred racehorse galloping to win the ribbon, not a ponderous packhorse weighed down with saddlebags.

    /end personal opinion

    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.

  7. #7
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    It's amazing how often we see really really BAD loglines on message boards.

    I've seen (not here, thankfully) loglines something like "JACK TRAVIS is a cop who rescues a group of businessmen in an elevator before shooting his partner HARRY STEMPLE. He then has to rescue a group of people on a bus threatened by the same MAD BOMBER."

    How can we (and I've done really bad ones too) be so blind to what the interesting parts of our own stories are like ?

    Maybe I should pitch my sequel to Speed: "There's a bomb on an escalator. If they slow the escalator down, the bomb goes off ..."

    Mac

  8. #8
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mac H.
    Maybe I should pitch my sequel to Speed: "There's a bomb on an escalator. If they slow the escalator down, the bomb goes off ..."
    I'm guessing it's a short film. Either that or they luckily discover the building was built over some old mine workings that go down for quite some distance. "Plunge" might be a good title. Or maybe, "The Elevator That Couldn't Stop." Wow, that's high concept money in the bank.

    What's that line from The Simpsons... Milhouse tells Bart he finally saw SPEED, "It's just like SPEED II except it takes place on a bus."

    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.

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    I think I've hit the language barrier.

    When I say 'Escalator' I mean those moving staircase thingies, not a 'lift' (the moving room thingies).

    You know - one of these things:



    See - my pitch makes a whole lot more sense now.
    A bomb on an elevator. What a lame idea !
    Mac.

  10. #10
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    oops

    I was still on the lower curve of my morning caffeine intake when I read your message.

    Why, that does make all the difference. So is the device linked electronically to a pedometer but nobody on the escalator knows who's wearing it? Or is there a weight sensor that stops them jumping off and running for their lives?

    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.

  11. #11
    Article Queen scripter1's Avatar
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    I love logline posts.

    You never know what direction they will go in.

    Ha ha ha ha.
    Lazy steps at the entrance to a health club.

    D, I really liked this statement > "It's all about an idea in a nutshell-"
    And you threw the horse analogy in just for me didn't you?

    The logline should look short enough so that it doesn't send up red flags that it may be packed with unnecessary info.

    Yes, 76 is probably too long.
    Care to post the log WF and we'll rip it........
    er, see if we can help you with it?

  12. #12
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Meester MacKay, he ride Old Thunder

    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    And you threw the horse analogy in just for me didn't you?
    Ayup. I would've brushed you down and fed you corn and beans if necessary to get the point across.

    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    Ha ha ha ha.
    Lazy steps at the entrance to a health club.
    It's like a Before and After picture ad, you might need the escalator to get in here, but once we're finished with you, you'll be sprinting up and down those stairs!

    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    nobody really comes along and counts how many words it is.
    This is true - but a quick eyeball of the logline will give you a good idea how long it is. A 25 word logline will be a line to a line and a 1/2. When you see a logline that looks like a short paragraph instead of a sentence or two - you KNOW it's longer than 25 words - and in most cases it's because the concept has not been distilled down to it's essence the way it needs to be.

    Sending a long logline is like starting out with a demerit, because the readers thought before even reading it is - that's not a sentence or two - I need a story that can be pitched in a sentence or two.

  14. #14
    Article Queen scripter1's Avatar
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    No beans thank you

    They give me gas.
    But I always enjoy a nice brushing.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW pstudios's Avatar
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    It's just my opinion, but I think 25 words should be a good length.

    The above sentence is 15 words(leaving out smiley). Much more than 25 wouldn't fit on a movie poster. I've noticed the shorter the better, as long as shorter gets the message accross, which sometimes it doesn't.

    Jennifer

  16. #16
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Don't confuse the tagline, i.e. movie poster blurb, with the logline -- the verbal selling tool that suggests what story and conflict are about.

    I was going to use the tagline for WAR OF THE WORLDS (from IMDb.com) as an example but it's just 3 words: They're already here.

    The plot outline, which is probably closer to the logline, is: "As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival." Which wouldn't appear on the poster but describes what the film's about.

    Damn, no tagline for Mr. & Mrs. Smith -- the plot outline is, "A bored married couple is surprised to learn that they are assassins hired to kill each other."

    Hmm, here's Bewitched's tagline: Be warned. Be ready.

    Plot outline: "A producer remaking the classic sitcom 'Bewitched' unknowingly casts an actual witch for the lead role."

    Ohmigosh that disappoints me, I thought they'd go for a remake of the original series, no way I'm going to see this!

    How about a more manly film, Schwarzenegger's PREDATOR from 1987:

    Tagline: Nothing like it has ever been on earth before.

    Plot outline: A team of commandos, on a mission in a Central American jungle, find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial warrior.

    That's more like it! I'd pay to see that, yeah. Oh, wait a minute, I did...

    ...With thanks to IMDb.com
    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.

  17. #17
    Article Queen scripter1's Avatar
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    See,

    now we have exposed one of the roots to the logline problem.

    TAGLINE What you see on the movie poster. Yes, the shorter the better.

    LOGLINE What you use in your query letter or other attempts to get someone with money interested enough to request the script.

    Look, the logline HAS to be long enough to convey important info but not too long. Typed out in Courier font, 12 point type, standard business letter margins with no indentions the sentence should run about a line and a half to two lines.
    It can be two sentences but most are one sentence.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    30 to 50 words.
    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    Typed out in Courier font, 12 point type, standard business letter margins with no indentions the sentence should run about a line and a half to two lines It can be two sentences but most are one sentence.
    Typed out in 12 pt Courier a 50 word logline is 4 to 5 LINES. Sheesh, Scripter even your own advice shows your own advice to be bad.

    Submit a 50 word logline at your own risk.

  19. #19
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Yes, I see

    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    Look, the logline HAS to be long enough to convey important info but not too long.
    I'm not sure whether what you're saying here is intended to acknowledge what's been said above or is a new argument against aiming for 25-30 word loglines. If you're complaining that it's a pain in the butt to shrink your loglines to 25-30 words then you're absolutely right, it is! But this thread kicked off with an "industry standard" question, and that is the industry standard, like it or lump it. If you're advising an unoptioned/unsold/unrepped spec writer to go higher then you're not doing them any favors. Everything about their query letter must impress, and that includes the logline size.

    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stories, screenplays, novels, insanity.

  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW Enigma's Avatar
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    Let's hear a....

    [QUOTE=dpaterso]... aiming for 25-30 word loglines. If you're complaining that it's a pain in the butt to shrink your loglines ... then you're absolutely right, it is!/QUOTE]

    .. big AMEN to that, from someone used to taking 125 words just to say hello!
    http://www.myemc.com/enigma/

    A friend will bail you out of jail but a real friend will be in there with you, saying, "... Man, that was fun!"

  21. #21
    Article Queen scripter1's Avatar
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    Okay,

    I've been looking over the loglines on various boards posted by those offering feedback.
    I looked for decent loglines that reveal character, conflict and basic plot.
    Those loglines have run between 22 words (the one I posted earlier about the werewolf) to 30 - 35 words.


    I wrote out a few loglines just the way I would if I were submitting them and a 35 word logline took up three lines.


    So yes, 40 and certainly 50 words would be way too long.
    My mistake.


    I've never focused much on the actual length of the logline but always concerned myself with the CONTENT.

    Even if you've worked very hard and gotten your logline down to 30 words give or take a few but you've only told a portion of your plot and not revealed conflict then the logline has failed.
    Economy of words is important but it is the CONTENT that matters most.

    I believe a new writers energies are better focused toward understanding conflict, how to develop it and then how to express it.
    Last edited by scripter1; 07-07-2005 at 02:43 AM.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    Even if you've worked very hard and gotten your logline down to 30 words give or take a few but you've only told a portion of your plot and not revealed conflict then the logline has failed.
    Economy of words is important but it is the CONTENT that matters most.

    I believe a new writers energies are better focused toward understanding conflict, how to develop it and then how to express it.
    What does any of this have to do with the price of tea in china? This is a thread about logline length - not "Scripter's beliefs about where a new writer's energies should be focused"

    And who are YOU to make the judgement of where a writer's energies should be spent. You were WRONG. AGAIN. You gave bad advice and incorrect information. AGAIN. And yet you continue to hold yourself up as someone whose knowledge-base is such so that we should take YOUR word for what a new writer should be focusing his energies on.

    Next time might I suggest doing the research PRIOR to giving your answer or better still - letting those who actually know what they are talking about give the information instead.
    Last edited by IWrite; 07-07-2005 at 03:43 AM.

  23. #23
    Scribbler SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scripter1
    Even if you've worked very hard and gotten your logline down to 30 words give or take a few but you've only told a portion of your plot and not revealed conflict then the logline has failed.
    Economy of words is important but it is the CONTENT that matters most.
    I believe a new writers energies are better focused toward understanding conflict, how to develop it and then how to express it.
    Point taken, but they still better express it in 25-30 words.

    And, conflict doesn't have to be laboriously spelled out, just suggested. You don't need to show the explosion, just hint there's a hand grenade.

    Let me requote the opening of that logline I read years ago and which has still stayed with me after all this time: "A man and woman on a blind date from hell..." -- I dunno who they are or what specifically happens but with these words alone, the potential-conflict-o-meter needle swings into the red with the promise of fun to come. I think it's amazing that I still remember the logline -- that's how clearly the writer managed to convey his idea in a nutshell. Now that's something to aspire to. Makes my own loglines look positively stupid.

    -Derek
    Derek's Web Page - stupid loglines, screenplays, novels, insanity.

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