Eric Heisserer On Loglines

Screenwriter and director Eric Heisserer wrote on Twitter last night about loglines for scripts:

- Notes call now has me writing furiously into the night. But a quick break to talk loglines.

- The short version ("I see what you did there"): I'm terrible at loglines. No way around it. But I can recognize a great one instantly.

- There is a mountain of how-to material out there about constructing an amazing logline. A lot of formulas and rules. A lot works, too.

- One version is the WHEN > THEN > UNTIL model. In one sentence you lob the situation, the complication, and the big conflict.

- Another model suggests you clash your protag's emotional need with your antag's need. Set up both and smash 'em together in 2 sentences.

- Yet another model pushes you simply to tee up the movie rather than summarize it. Hit the inciting incident and drop the mic.

- There is no single method to a great logline. But I can tell you the interesting versions that fire people up.

- The first is the one that plays the big reveal at the end of the logline. You read the conflict and the BOOM, bomb dropped.

- "A frantic father struggles to save his community against authorities conspiring to cover up an unstoppable disaster called GODZILLA."

- That isn't perfect, but that's the WHAMMY I'm talking about. You get the heart and the humanity in the front, then end with the "oh shit."

- Another version uses brevity as its main weapon. It offers a question or a declaration that creates a dozen more questions in your head.

- One of the shortest I'd ever seen: "A man sues God."

- Another variation: "What if your whole life has been in a virtual reality?"

- These can work in certain circumstances, although they fail when applied to script repositories like Black List, because lack of story.

- The strongest loglines speak to the big conflict the protag faces, and suggests the choice they must make without giving away the answer.

- In other words, strong loglines communicate the subtext and theme of your story. Which is why some writers start with one.

- What is really going on in your story? The thing behind the thing.

- Rather than getting into the minutia of word choices and sentence structure, let me toss out some practices that will help.

- 1. Have five trusted friends read your script and ask them to write a logline for it. Compare them, notice what they responded to/ignored.

- 2. Use a fun social game on the logline: Tell your story in one minute, then in three words, then in only one word.

- 3. Pick a favorite movie and pitch it in one sentence to friends. See how many guess the movie, how many agree with your logline.

- All right, that's good for now, I must crawl back to the salt mines for more work. Keep creating, you gorgeous monsters.

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