Gerald Hanks Filmography

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Screenwriting Advice: The One Word Your Logline MUST Have!

One of the topics I frequently see in screenwriting discussion groups revolves around rookie writers looking for feedback on their loglines.

The VOTE Method provides a clear formula that helps writers develop compelling loglines, but it doesn't quite go far enough.

In case you missed it, the original formula goes like this: 

[Protagonist] [uses Tactics] against [Obstacles] to [achieve Victory] so that they can [fulfill Emotional Need].

The "new and improved" formula contains a "special ingredient":

[Protagonist] must [achieve Victory] by [using Tactics] to [overcome Obstacles] so that they can [fulfill Emotional Need].

For instance, the revised logline for Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse would look like this:

A teenager with spider-powers must save New York City by teaming up with heroes from alternate universes to defeat a squad of super-villains so that he can learn what it takes to be a hero.

This revised formula gives us a logline for Rocky that looks like this.

An underachieving boxer must last for fifteen rounds against the World Heavyweight Champion by using unconventional training methods so that he can win the love of a young woman.

For 1917, the logline would look like this:

Two young soldiers must deliver new orders to the front lines against enemy troops and air attacks by crossing miles of bombed-out territory so that they can save their fellow troops, including one soldier's brother.

So what's the difference between the "original recipe" and the "new flavor"?

The difference is a four-letter word:


Your story doesn't move forward because your protagonist "chooses" to pursue a Victory. 

Your story moves forward because your protagonist MUST pursue that Victory.

In the traditional "Hero's Journey" story structure, the "threshold" represents the point at which the protagonist MUST pursue their Victory. When they cross that threshold, they MUST try to overcome their Obstacles, apply their Tactics, and fulfill their Emotional Need.

In Act I, your protagonist may waffle and waver over whether to go after what they want, but they MUST pursue that Victory for the story to start. 

This aspect shows why "MUST" makes for a vital component in the logline. 

  • "MUST" shows the reader the Victory the protagonist has to pursue, as well as the Emotional Need that the protagonist MUST try to fulfill in that pursuit.
  • "MUST" signifies the urgency and drive behind the pursuit of the Victory. 
  • "MUST" tells the audience that the protagonist will do anything to achieve that Victory, no matter how dangerous, violent, illegal, unethical, or just plain stupid.

This logline formula can also help writers overcome "writer's block". Writer's block typically comes from the lack of a clear idea as to which direction the story should follow.

This logline formula gives the writer a clear direction for the character, so the issues that could block the writer's progress stem less from where the story is going, and more from how the protagonist will get to where they MUST go.

When you include MUST in your logline, you get your script one step closer to becoming a MUST read.


During this holiday season, Story Into Screenplay wants to give you a gift that will help your writing move forward in 2021 and beyond.

From now until until Christmas Eve, Story Into Screenplay will offer FREE logline reviews (limit one per response) for readers who use the formula described above.

You can submit your loglines through the form on this page. You can also send them in a direct message through the Story Into Screenplay Facebook page, or in an email with the subject "Logline Review" to storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com.

You can also take advantage of the "10 Pages for $10" script evaluation or schedule a one-on-one consulting session with a professional script reader by contacting Story Into Screenplay through any of the methods mentioned above. 

Keep writing! Good luck and have a great holiday season!