Here is a really interesting tweet (copied in full because I can't get a link to work!) about constructing loglines from @baddestmamajama
1. Try Making It About The Core loglines get cluttered when there’s too much extraneous information and details. Start your process by cutting everything but the core plot/relationship. “A boy bonds with a stray dog.” “A group of casino workers team up to rob their boss.”
In a lot of loglines, you’ll see details of side plots and specifics crammed in there. “A boy, from Nova Scotia, whose friend moved away, meets a stray dog in junkyard over the summer and sneaks him into the house”. All of that may happen, but it’s too much detail.
A logline is an advertisement for your script the way a billboard is an advertisement for the movie. Get the side characters and extraneous details out. Just give me the boy and the dog so I know what I’m looking at.
2. Adjectives Suggest Conflict A well-placed adjective is a trick to shorthand the theme or the emotion of the script. Consider: “A boy bonds with a stray dog” Vs. “A lonely boy bonds with an aggressive stray dog.” Ooh! Conflict!
3. Try to Make It One Sentence This is brutal! And subjective! Two is plausible, but I see a lot that are three or four or five, and that is RIGHT OUT. Even just as an exercise, try a one-sentence version. It’ll help you clarify the core of the story. Just trryyyyy.
4. But An Opening Clause Is Your Friend What if when you break it down to the core plot or relationship, it still doesn’t make sense without an additional piece of info? This happens with period pieces and sci-fi a lot, and the opening clause is your best friend. For example:
If the core story is “two shy people fall in love” and that doesn’t cover it, instead of going to two sentences, clause that motherfucker: “Amidst the bawdy early days of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, two shy courtiers break all the rude rules by falling in love.”
An opening clause lets you get an extra piece of info across, and, to my eye, looks a bit dressier than a straightforward sentence. It’s also, IMO, the best place to introduce a ticking clock element- look at these two versions:
“A rookie cop must lead a perilous rescue mission to save the mayor’s son from kidnappers planning to execute him in 24 hours.” Vs “With a ransom deadline running out, a rookie cop must lead a perilous rescue mission to save the Mayor’s son from execution by brutal kidnappers.”
For me, using an opening clause to immediately establish tension is one of the best ways to energize a dull logline.
5. Consider Begging For Help It can be hard to objectively parse your own story. There’s two good ways to get help. Have a friend who has read the script brainstorm with you, or pitch the logline you have to someone who hasn’t read the script.
The second can be useful because a log that needs more work usually will raise logistical or tonal questions. If someone responds by saying “wait, so the SPACESHIP can talk?” Or “wait, so is it a comedy?” Suggests you have clarity issues to fix. Listen for what confuses them.
Those would be my basic starting suggestions on how to craft a logline. I’m sure you can find many great logs that break my method, but this will hopefully at least get you started if you’re having trouble.
As always, YMMV, no I am in no position to be giving anyone advice, yes I do know Quentin Tarantino probably does it differently, and I’m sure in your specific case, I am wrong.