Script Coverage Chronicles – May 2016: Three Common Logline Mistakes

I’m trying something new today. For purposes of illustration, I’m writing a logline for this blog entry – a “blogline” I guess.  It’s going to contain several common logline mistakes.  Here goes:

A cantankerous but kind screen-scribe overcomes the interloping of a baneful blog goblin to share some hard-won wisdom about loglines in this hilariously clever blog.

Any guesses as to what I did wrong?  A couple mistakes should be clear from the logline itself.  A third should become evident after reading down the page a bit.

1. Puffery

My first mistake is telling you my blog is “hilariously clever”. 

There’s nothing in this logline to suggest I’m so terribly clever.  There’s no reason for a reader of this logline to believe that out of all the writers who toot their own horns I’m the one who’s simply being honest.

Phrases like spellbinding, gripping and laugh-out-loud belong in reviews, not loglines. 

It’s great to have confidence in your work, but real confidence shows when you convey your story simply and cleanly and let your creativity sell itself.

2. Wonderfully Wacky Word-Smithery

My second mistake is throwing in all the poetic alliteration and those big words – cantankerous, interloping and baneful – to show how smart I am.

We’re writers, right?  And so we rightfully spin sentences that whirl and swirl in wild flight, right? 


Not in screenwriting.

And definitely not in loglines.

Loglines are simple sales pitches.  They work best when they’re unadorned and crystal clear.

Phrases like “cantankerous but kind” may sound snappy at first, but they often just get in the way.  And I’m not actually cantankerous at all.

3. Catchy But Not Matchy

My third mistake is an important one to be aware of, and I see it a fair amount.

This particular mistake is impossible to spot when reading the logline alone. But by now you may be getting a sense of it.

Log lines do more than simply get someone to read your script.  They set expectations for the product you’re selling.  This is why you need the log line to match your screenplay spot on.  In other words, it needs to very accurately describe your script.

And for purposes of illustration, my logline for this blog needs to match what’s in it.

So where’s the interloping blog goblin?


Too late, Grog.

By now, most readers have already decided (consciously or unconsciously) that my blog didn’t deliver on the promise of its logline. 

If you mention an antagonist in your logline, that antagonist needs to be a big part of your screenplay – and should probably arrive in Act One.

Loglines have to be accurate – accurate about genre, accurate about the primary characters, accurate about the plot.

Even if you come up with a great catchy logline, if it doesn’t match your story, you’re selling a product you’re not in a position to offer.

It may be that instead of changing the logline, what really needs to change is your script.  Either way, the bottom line is:

If you’re gonna sell, match the logline well.