Wednesday, May 07, 2008


I was over at Zoetrope, just messing around, when I stumbled across a question about loglines that I realized I could help answer. The problem the author was having with the logline, whether they realized it or not, was that the script was a story about endurance, not necessarily goal achievement. I like to write stories about how people endure difficult life situations, so I come up with this problem a lot. How do you write a strong logline when your story is quieter than the average clearly stated goal story? Here's the advice I gave:

I think the hardest thing about this sort of logline is that your characters seem to be *enduring* more than they are chasing some sort of concrete goal. I think the weakest aspect about the various loglines suggested is that the accident, not the characters and how they are affected, is the focal point. Try putting the characters first, then give them some sense of agency and urgency. Someone once advised me to use the word "must" in your logline.

Even if your characters do not have clearly distinguished goals (ie The 4:05 or Collapse), you can still infuse your logline with a sense of agency and urgency. Characters who are doing something under threat. I actually just cleaned up my logline for The 4:05 today because I submitted it to Zoetrope. It went from something like "When a man struggling with extreme paranoia encounters a cynical young woman, their chance meeting brings them both to the life crisis they needed" to "When a chance meeting and failed first date bring a troubled young man and a struggling young woman together, their fight to find real friendship in each other leads them to the darkest places inside themselves." Can't you see the difference? In the second version, there is a sense of the characters being active, "fighting," with an entwined sense of urgency, as the intimacy they need in each other brings them closer to the secrets they have hidden.

That's why "must" works so well as a key word in loglines. It has both agency and urgency. Infuse both of those into your logline, and I guarantee it will be a lot stronger and many times more interesting

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