Posted by: steveonfilm | January 26, 2011

27 Words

A member of my “amateur screenwriter’s group” posted an interesting article yesterday about log lines. It’s from the Australian website/film blog Cracking Yarns and I thought it was just fantastic.

What’s a logline?

Cracking Yarns sums it up like this:

The logline is a single sentence description of your film’s basic story… You might also hear it referred to as the concept or the premise. It’s the concisely written version of what you say when people ask you the question, “So what’s your film about?”.

I think that’s a pretty apt description. Some people will argue that you can use two sentences. But I’ve always found that if I can’t say it in one sentence, I’m not doing it right.

I’ve always had a hard time crafting loglines. As with a lot of writers, especially amateur ones, I’ve been crafting them after I’ve finished my screenplay. However, in the last few months I’ve started to agree with the “slave to the logline” camp.

“Slave to the logline” is a phrase that Blake Snyder coined, though her certainly didn’t come up with the idea nor does he claim to. The basic idea is that you come up with the logline before you start writing, or even outlining, your screenplay. This keeps your story focused, your ideas with a central concept, and prevents you from putting together a story that is simply to big to be told.

Is it a perfect idea? No, and it might not be applicable in all areas. But for a new writer trying to crack in and write a production ready spec script, you could do far worse that to follow the “slave to the logline” advice.

Cracking Yarns technique for creating loglines uses a strict 27 word limit. Why 27 words? Because, in the words of the author, “it just works.” The basic formula is this:

When [flawed hero at start of story] is forced to [call to adventure], he has to [opportunity for emotional growth] or risk [what’s at stake].

Now, not every log line needs to use those specific words, and several of their samples don’t, but that formula provides a general template to work with. The blog post itself provides a good amount of background information that will help a writer craft the separate parts of the formula.

If you’ve been having trouble crafting loglines you should check the article out. I certainly found it helpful.

Until next time, keep writing!


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