How to Write Loglines, Story Outlines, Synopses

The first step in a pitch is usually the ‘logline’, one or two sentences that sum up the show in a nutshell. This will give the listener a handle on the project and shows your understanding of the show’s basic elements. A logline that is too long or complicated is immediately confusing, so try to boil your show down to a premise that presents the setting, main character/s and central conflict in a way that sparks the imagination.

HOW TO WRITE A LOGLINE

A logline describes your film in (ideally) 27 words maximum.

Too short, and your log line may lack vital elements to attract a reader.

Too long and it stops being a logline.

The intention is to interest and excite the reader, giving them a solid idea of the project.

It should describe:

  • 1) Your main character (Protagonist)

The best description for your protagonist can be their role in life and an adjective that describes their most active and identifiable characteristic.

Usually, the names of your characters are not necessary in a logline. But sometimes, their names may suggest the world in which the story takes place especially sci-fi/adventure names (e.g., ‘Darth Vader’, ‘Prince charming’).

  • 2) What is their main goal?

There are basically two kinds of goal: External and Internal.

An External goal is something in their world.

An internal goal is an inner quality or obstruction they want to change

Ideally, these two goals are linked or in conflict

  • 3) Who or what is trying to stop them from achieving their goal? (Antagonist/Obstacle)

This may be an individual, a group, the entire world of the story, or a force (e.g., love, a stammer, fear of failure)

It’s best if the Antagonist/Obstacle is equal to or greater than the protagonist (or at least that’s how it seems to your protagonist)

Elements you may include in your Logline (if they’re key to communicating the idea):

  • an adjective that describes the protagonist
  • the Protagonist’s role in life
  • the story’s first major event (the ‘Inciting Incident’)
  • the Protagonist’s weakness and/or how it may be overcome
  • the Antagonist/s main objective
  • the Stakes – what happens if your Protagonist fails
  • You needn’t mention that it’s an adaptation or sequel in your logline. That quality will be covered in other parts of your pitch.
  • Make sure your idea comes across as original in your logline (e.g., the protagonists of stories about the zombie apocalypse face the same external goal. It’s their internal goals that make the difference.

Another short document you might send in an email page is a short ‘Story outline’, 50-100 words That add a little more depth and detail to your still very brief explanation of your story…

HOW TO WRITE A STORY OUTLINE

50–100 words that describe your idea.

For a narrative series or movie, add details of story, plot, characters, conflicts, stakes and perhaps the inciting incident.

For a TV show (i.e., gameshow, reality, lifestyle) add host info, target audience, a little formatting (what happens, when and why)

For a documentary, add details of the subject matter and your investigative intention.

  • You needn’t cover the entire series/story in an outline. Express the main elements of the series/story, focusing on the characters, conflicts and stakes that evolve.

Another document you can send to prospective team members or producers can be a ‘1-pager’, Utan one page (500 words maximum) document describing your story in linear order as it will appear on the screen. (E.g., The story of Back To The Future would be described as ‘Marty’ experiences the story)…

EPISODE / MOVIE SYNOPSES

Typically, a 500-word document (approx. one page) that sets out your story.

  • Written in present tense, it describes the main story and major subplots
  • Broad descriptions and outcomes of action and events
  • Intentions of characters can be explicitly described though they will often be shown in the script through character action and dialogue
  • Dialogue is rarely used in a synopsis because it takes up too much space

For more writing & pitch tips, The Cheeky Monkey – Writing Narrative Comedy