Screenwriting : Blake Snyder and the Logline by LindaAnn Loschiavo

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Blake Snyder and the Logline

Blake Snyder advises doing the logline before you write your script. He says the "perfect logline" will have an adjective to describe your hero/ heroine; an adjective for the villain; and "a compelling goal we identify with as human beings" (p. 48 STC). Do you agree with him? (Thanks, Pierre, for noting the typo.)

Pierre Langenegger

Do you mean Blake Snyder?

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Yep. Typing with very very long fingernails is a curse, Pierre, as well as thinking while typing. :-D

Pierre Langenegger

:)

LindaAnn Loschiavo

My sense of humor is intact, however . . . (I hope).

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

I think doing your logline first is a great way to go. It's so important to summarize your idea into one or two sentences.

C. D-Broughton

I've heard/seen this from a hell of a lot of pro' writers and think that the idea is basically, if you're unable to pitch/market your idea, why bother to write it? Some will say that questions arising from loglines can make a writer see potential plotholes, but I completely disagree, as these things should be tackled in the plotting stage, not the TV guide summary.

Owen Mowatt

This is another piece of guru advice that seems helpful but is actually useless, as the theory is impossible to prove either way. If it helps you and you re comfortable doing it, then fine, if not, don't. Completely arbitrary IMO.

Laurie Ashbourne

Everyone works differently, I find it useful but by the time the script is done, a logline will usually change (for the better). The important thing is to know what story you are telling, what character is the best perspective to tell it from. What obstacle is going to get in that character's way and how are they going to overcome it (if they are). Whether you put that down in form of a logline, outline, cards, synopsis whatever... the more you have your story map in mind the less likely it is you will get hung up and lost in the middle.

Eboni Dunbar

I agree with Owen and Laurie, I think it depends on how you work as a writer. You can spend too much time trying to make the log line perfect but I think Snyder's point is really about trying to prepare your story before you write, knowing that it will change and won't necessarily be the thing you thought it would be. I don't follow the save the cat method but I think that's the key, knowing the basic way your going can sometimes help you get to the end.

David Levy

I think the logline would change the more one write's their script. So by the end of the script, you may have written a better ogline than what you started with. Everyone has their method that brings them to the same goal.

Owen Mowatt

Exaclty, David. Even if you do start with one, it isn't set in stone, you can change it as the story develops.

Chanel Ashley

Blake may have been successful and writing the logline may have worked for him, but it doesn't work for me, I follow a different route - every writer will have their own way of doing things and I have no doubt following Snyder's example will be embraced by many which is fine, but again, not for me.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Laurie, that quick description of "The Wizard of Oz" was so deliciously malicious. Thanks for posting it. Chuckle chuckle.

Stuart Wright

Blake was all about the marketable script ... Hes trying to get you to nail a pretty strong USP FROM THE GETGO. He's all about the genres (except drama).

LindaAnn Loschiavo

Yes, he's all about the genres and his own categories. EX: "Buddy Love" vs romantic comedy. Even a film like "E.T." would be "Buddy Love" (according to STC).

Gordon Milburn

A logline could apply to thousands of stories as they tend to be fairly generic.(AGREED) Reading is subjective (AGREED) So trying to pitch YOUR story, with your voice, to anyone else and hoping they land somewhere in your vicinity seems more like roulette. High Concept, even less words.

JC Hess

Yes. Then write the synopsis. Then the outline. Then the script. That's my method, and I'm sticking with it.

Danny Manus

I absolutely suggest writing your logline before your write the script. And yes, I do suggest you use an adjective to describe the main character, often along with their profession or their place within the world. And yes, the compelling goal we can understand and care about. All true. Honestly, I'm not sure who would find fault with those things. If you do, you probably don't have a good logline.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

As several folks have articulately stated, crafting your screenplay is a process that requires education and talent. However, anyone who has looked at my work over the past year began that process by reading a logline and synopsis. Writing a logline shouldn't inhibit your creativity. It should merely state what your story is about. If during the writing process, the story changes then change the logline accordingly. If you're interested in getting your work sold, I'm not sure anyone in the food chain would move your script around to others without a logline and synopsis.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

And sometimes to writing screenplays about mechanical clones.

Danny Manus

No offense Alle, but since you still have yet to have a feature film produced or distributed, I'm not sure how you can say you've had "many a successful screenplay". Youve had a few marginally successful short films. very different. Don't knock education unless you've had some. And don't deter those who want to learn instead of just figure shit out on their own.

Owen Mowatt

She was advising someone on another post to give up their day job and concentrate on writing full time, which is by far and away THE most hideous piece of "advice" you could give. If you ever want to advertise how little you actually know about this business, that will hit the nail on the head....every time.

Doug Nelson

Blake and I discussed his book/theories several years back at brunch at the Hollywood Roosevelt. The upshot of which was that many entry level writers were relying on his theories/suggestions as rules handed down from above (he may be doing that now.) When a story idea sparks to life in your brain – write it down. That’s your beginning logline but as the story unfolds, the logline will morph right along with it. When you’ve finally completed your polished script do you need to really polish your logline (commonly called an elevator pitch) that you use in marketing your script.

Stuart Wright

Doug that's how I see it

Stuart Wright

You teach people to write screenplays. But you won't teach someone who doesn't want to learn. Longevity as a writer should get the clone out of you. But in the early stages of your writing life the clone will provide you with a rudder. You can't demand a writers voice, it will emerge when you find it.

Jerry Doubles

Hold up guys, am I weird? I mostly write the entire screenplay before carving the perfect logline-- it confines me to less freedom if I choose to write the logline before the screenplay. The idea boils in my head, I pick up a paper and I "fade in". (That's after drafting the outline) Sometimes, the beginning is clear but the ending might change, you might change the protagonist and shift the antagonist, "maybe". As I stated earlier, "most" of my screenplays started without loglines-- the reverse happen in rare occasions though. What do you guys think?

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Jerry: I think you're confusing suggestions with concrete. When I write a screenplay, I like to have a clear picture of where I'm going with my story. I will always write an outline and logline. Example: Logline: A New York detective investigates a series of prostitute murders in the Five Points, loses his suspect and locates him again twenty years later in London, not having aged a day. However, during the process of writing the screenplay, I've had stories change significantly. For example, when other parties become involved. Here's what I do. I spend ten minutes rewriting a logline. Here's the updated version of my original logline. Logline: a handsome physician accidentally enters a pact with a voodoo God who demands payment in blood in exchange for immortality; and transforms from unwilling participant to unrepentant monster. It's the same screenplay but the logline evolved into something completely different. In the realm of writing, there are many guidelines people offer you. In creating art, no laws are violated in interpreting what works best for you.

Diana Morag Purves

I think a logline is a helpful way of starting to figure out the main essence/theme of your work. It's easy to dive into plot without really nailing down what the theme/message of your piece is!

Michael Eddy

May have commented here before - but loglines are usually something that a lazy reader/producer/studioexec wants to hear to shorthand the process and decide whether he or she wants to even read your COMPLETED screenplay. As the writer - you should not be worrying about a logline - until AFTER you've written something. And even then - until you're asked for it. Write the script! Screw the logline.

Stuart Wright

Michael - there is no such dogma for writers ... Loglines early doors help you understand what's at the heart of what you're writing. It will inevitably change and/need tweaking. If it helps get producers interested to read your script mores the better ... What they meant to do? Read every script?

Cali Gilbert

What a fascinating post. As one just starting out I appreciate everyone's opinions and do agree it's up to how the writer works, and what works best for them. I'm currently writing my 7th book which I'm adapting to a screenplay. Yesterday I was working on loglines to get an idea of the structure of the screenplay as it differs from the book, timelines and details that don't apply to screen. I'll admit it was difficult writing a logline to capture so much information, but as I worked on it I found the process easier as it made me focus on the key turning points of the book. I can certainly see how writing the script first would then probably make me change some things in the original logline and that is fine. I just want to deliver the strongest piece of work in the end. I'm also reading a lot of scripts for guidance as well. Many thanks all.

Phillip "The Scribe Who Cares'" Hardy

Cali: I do believe you have it!

Michael Eddy

Stuart - yes, if you take the time to write it - the LEAST they can do is read it. Every script that makes it as far as their pile. Most have readers anyway - who do the reading for them - write a logline and a synopsis and recommend it or not before it ever reaches the producer's hands. But if it makes it that far - than they should read EVERY script from Fade in to Fade out. That's THEIR job. You've already done yours by writing something good. Don't give them a shorthand.

Liz Warner

I start with a logline knowing that it will change as my story develops.

Stuart Wright

Michael - I understand all that. To have a clear idea of a logline is helpful from start, Middle and finish IMHO

Chanel Ashley

I read your "logline mistakes", Stuart, and it was okay, I thought some were pretty good, but I also Googled logline examples of famous films and I didn't think they were that great either, buggered if I know.

Stuart Wright

The ones for films made are skewed by the film they became. It's about being able to communicated your big idea clearly and sell the USP too. You subscribe to inktip? I've read a number of their loglines/synopses that sold and I'm buggered if I know what sells

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