Sunday, July 8, 2007

Deconstructing Loglines

I came across this article a long time ago and I find myself returning again & again to the basics contained therein.

Basically, according to screenwriter David Anaxagoras, the six essential elements of an electrifying logline are:

1. Tone and genre
2. The protagonist’s identity and motivation
3. The inciting incident
4. The main obstacle or central conflict
5. The protagonist’s ultimate goal or desired outcome
6. The stakes, or what happens if the goal is not accomplished

So a prototype logline would look something like this:

TITLE OF MY SCREENPLAY is a GENRE with overtones of TONE about a PROTAGONIST who HAS A FLAW/MOTIVATION when THE INCITING INCIDENT HAPPENS and s/he must then overcome THE MAIN OBSTACLE in order to accomplish THE ULTIMATE GOAL or else there will be CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES. >Great Article here.

Thus: “Tootsie” (1982) is a comedy about an unsuccessful actor who masquerades as a woman in order to get work, but in short order lands his dream job, becomes a star AND falls in love with the leading lady!

If a logline is too revealing, parts can obviously be removed. It’s just a prototype after all. An element can be satisfied with just one word (e.g. an adjective like “lonely” salesman when describing the protag because it reveals character). Also, not all of the six elements need to be spelled out - some are just obvious or their absence contribute to the sense of fun.

As per Blake Snyder’s very excellent “Save The Cat” philosophy, it’s a great idea to get the logline established early. If you have read the book, you’ll know Blake Snyder has four essential elements; they happen to differ from the above list, but the principle is the same. Paint a compelling mental picture and with the addition of a killer title, the results will ensure focus throughout your story’s planning stage.
PS. I can’t recommend his book enough.

Lastly, if you want to read yet more (LOL) there’s an article called “I wrote a 120 page script but can’t write a logline” by Christopher Lockhart. >Great article here.


Fantastic Forrest said...

I found your very interesting blog whilst trying to construct my novel's logline for a writing class assignment. This post was most helpful.

I'm sorry you seem to have abandoned the blog. Lots of good stuff here!

I was surprised when I read your profile that you live (or lived, perhaps you've moved) in Vancouver too.

John Robert Marlow said...

Another thorough article on how to write a logline can be found on the "Make Your Book a Movie" blog: