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Progression of a Logline

June 6, 2017

frustrated-writer1

What is a logline? It’s one sentence (on rare occasions 2) that succinctly sums up your entire script… perfectly. And if we’re following the rules, keep it to about 30 to 35 words. Sounds easy, right? Most writers find that it is one of most difficult things to write. How can I sum up my entire script, all the nuances, all the action, all the heartstring pulls in just one 30 word sentence?! You don’t. You keep it to the inciting incident, the protagonist, the objective of the protagonist, and the stakes.

I’ve mentioned in a previous blog the template for creating a decent logline given by Blake Snyder. The problem with this template is that it makes your logline entirely too long, but it’s a good place to start. For more tips and templates on creating a perfect logline, read this article by screenwriter Noam Kroll.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me document the many iterations of my logline. I have not yet written my story, but I do have a vague outline. This is good for having a solid idea of what your film is about. This will greatly help you in creating your logline. If you can’t come up with a decent logline, then your story isn’t completely formed yet. Here is the first attempt at my logline:

When cargo disappears along Pakistan’s trade route, a brash ISI spy must team up with an India-born CIA agent to capture an international terrorist before he starts World War III.

I joined a couple of writing groups to help me with my logline, just to get some feedback from other screenwriters. I’ve posted links to those groups below. The first comments I received were: What’s the cargo? Is it nuclear? Biological? And what’s ISI? Is that like ISIS? Not just from one person, but multiple people. After reevaluating my choice in words, I realized that the cargo was not important to my story and I needed to make sure it was understood what an ISI spy was all about. Insert, my next attempt:

Investigating thefts along a trade route, A Pakistani special agent finds she must partner with an India-born CIA agent to capture an international terrorist before he starts World War III.

If you can, try to get second opinions from folks other than the one’s that provided feedback the first time. Don’t eliminate the first group; just make sure to get other opinions on the new iterations. My next comments were as follows: What are the personal stakes for the protagonist? Be more descriptive. My first thought was, World War III seems like pretty high stakes, but I’ll see what I can do. Then it dawned on me, it really wasn’t personal for my protagonist. Coming up, third re-write:

Investigating possible terrorist activity to prevent World War III, A brash Pakistani special agent must set aside her trust issues to work with an India-born CIA agent or risk losing both her career and country.

Now it was personal! Now we see that, not only does my hero have trust issues, but she’s being forced to work with someone from a country of which she is at odds with. And she’s brash on top of it? Personal. Descriptive. It’s starting to come together, but it’s still not quite right. And it’s pushing the limits of the word count. Time to tighten it up:

A brash Pakistani special agent investigating possible terrorist activity must set aside her trust issues to work with an India-born CIA agent to prevent World War III.

That’s it! Right? I check one last time with my group. It feels a little flat. The trusting issue is descriptive of the protagonist, what’s the physical hurdle she has to overcome? “To prevent World War III?” That’s a bit cliché, don’t you think? Damn it! You’re right. So I think long and hard, what’s the obstacle for my hero? This is what I finally came up with:

A brash, untrusting Pakistani special agent is forced to partner with an India-born CIA agent to stop a relentless and unstable international terrorist from plunging the entire world into war.

Boom! That’s it! Now that’s a logline that’ll grab you by the… throat. And it’s right in the 30-word sweet spot. Hopefully this demonstrated progression will help you when it’s time for you to create your logline. I did have a little extra time and toyed around with a few story title ideas. Let me know which is your favorite:

Entangled in a World of Deceit

Revolutionary Deceit

Universal Truths and Deceit

 

This week I’ll be working on character development. Until next week, keep writing!

 

As promised, here are links to the groups I joined:

Screenwriter’s Treefort

Logline Centeral

Script Advice Writer’s Room

 

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