By: Allen Palmer
In an earlier post I gave tips on how to write a logline but even people who’ve read that article have been sending me loglines that aren’t as strong as they should be. So here is a companion piece to help sharpen your understanding of one of the screenwriter’s most powerful tools.
I love the logline. Specifically, I love the logline that’s just a single sentence of no more than 27 words. I love it because it helps you identify the dramatic conflict at the core of your story and it helps you test whether your concept is sufficiently simple and compelling to attract a cinematic audience. But there are good loglines and there are ordinary loglines. Here are the 6 most common mistakes I see – and how to avoid them.
Most common logline weakness #6: Too complex
Take a look at this logline I pulled from this week’s TV guide for the Keira Knightley flop, Domino:
While being profiled by a reality TV crew, a teenage-model-turned-bounty hunter and her companions get in over their heads tracking down those responsible for an armored car robbery.
That’s a single sentence and remarkably it’s only 28 words. But is it simple? Reality TV crew? Model turned bounty hunter? Armored car robbery? Of course, if you’d questioned the writer, they would have said, “But this really happened!”, because it did. But if I’d been pitched this, I would have responded with the immortal words of Sydney Pollack in Tootsie, “Who gives a shit?”. It’s too complex and, what’s more, none of the elements complement one another.
By contrast, take a look at Inception. The plot of this Christopher Nolan blockbuster is, depending on your point of view, either breathtakingly or mind-numbingly complex, but the concept is simple. Here’s my take on the logline for Inception:
To regain his estranged children, a guilt-ridden dream thief risks his life to overcome heavily armed cerebral defenses and plant an idea in a business mogul’s mind.
Plant an idea in someone’s mind? If you haven’t seen the film, you’ll have no idea how he might do that but it’s an intriguing quest, yes?
Your plots can be complex but your logline must clearly and simply express the big idea that’s central to your story.
Most common logline weakness #5: No external quest
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