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This video shows you how to use the logline generator as a development tool to give you an advantage — not only administratively — but in the development of your screenplay story structure.
What Is Logline?
Loglines are vital to your success. I’ve said it before and it is worth repeating, loglines are the business card of your screenplay story structure. If it’s long, confusing, and unclear, your customer (the reader, producer, director, whomever) is going to perceive the script as being the same.
But if it’s short, concise, to the point (aka professional), then you give off a professional impression. Very simple. Nothing else to it. And keep in mind, in this business where thousands of scripts are circulating and vying for attention, sometimes all you have is the first impression. So let’s make it count.
So, let’s go over this logline generator and the 9 questions that it asks so you can use it effectively.
This logline generator is great because it forces you to streamline your concept. It forces you to have a focused narrative.
- Who is your hero?
There are loglines with 4 adjectives and it’s difficult for anyone to track. Bottom line is this: you are not explaining your entire story in a logline, your only goal is to convey a clear concept quickly. That’s why you should keep this part short. For example, lazy bowler, arrogant husband, loving father, protective sister, etc. Usually, 2 words are perfect but 3 can be a possibility if you can’t resist.
So, for this video, let’s create a story. Let’s say our hero is an orphaned teenager. We’ll start here and build on it later.
- What motivates the hero?
In other words, why does the hero pursue the goal?
Now, to be clear, at SAN we huddle around a core philosophy that believes in the fundamental tenets of storytelling. If you are doing an arthouse script, this won’t work for you. We want to craft compelling stories that draw a mass audience. If you can craft a script that can achieve the latter, you increase your odds of success. A compelling story is about a character who wants something more than anything else and has a human/relatable reason for pursuing it. The Free Screenwriting Course for beginners at SAN goes into depth on this topic which you should check out later if you want some real perspective on this matter.
The motivation is the reason your hero pursues the goal. This doesn’t need to be complicated. It should be simple so don’t overthink it. If you are having problems, reflect on your own life. What motivates your goal in life? Is it to take care of your family or your dog? Is it to find a human connection or to live your best life? Whatever it is, this type of simplicity is what motivates characters in our favourite films.
Now, when filling out this section, assume that you have already added the “to” and you’re finishing the sentence. For example, to: spend time with his daughter, feel young again, provide a safe life for her family.
For our story about the Orphaned Teenager, let’s say her motivation is to discover a sense of identity. Simple and makes sense.
A LITTLE NOTE
If you don’t know what motivates your hero yet, that’s totally cool! This is the beauty of the logline generator because it’s going to force you to figure it out. So, jot down all the ideas or possibilities, and let’s go to the next question because motivations mean nothing without this next question:
- What is the hero’s goal?
This must feature 1 or more of the following: a) an event in space/time; b) an object in space/time; or c) a person in space/time.
This may be challenging for some writers as many scripts aren’t specific enough with the goals. This is character development 101. The characters need to have specific goals that can be located in space and time. Goals that are too vague are goals like “finding yourself” or “finding happiness,” which frankly sound more like motivations. The goal for “finding happiness” needs a physical manifestation for the hero to pursue, such as “graduating on stage in 2 weeks” or “meeting her favourite celebrity at the red carpet event on Saturday”.
If you haven’t taken our free Character Development Course, find it and take it after this lesson. It expands on the concept of goals and motivations, which are the foundation of character development. You’ll also get some great stuff from the Free Screenwriting Course for beginners. Even if you’re not a beginner, you’ll appreciate the first couple of lessons.
Now, for our story, the motivation is to discover a sense of identity. It makes sense that her goal is to track down her mother.
- Where is the hero’s goal located in space?
In other words, where will the hero come face to face with the goal? For example, if “graduating on stage in 2 weeks is the goal”, then the answer may be Hollywood High. Or if the goal is to “save the kidnapped daughter in 72 hours”, the answer is Paris.
In our story, let’s just say it’s Los Angeles.
- What does the hero risk if he/she doesn’t achieve the goal?
This question is often directly related to motivation.
If this is challenging to figure out, it’s normal. Just go back to the character. Look at the character’s motivation and the risk associated with not achieving the goal is usually tied directly to the motivation. For example, if the character is motivated by protecting family, they can’t risk losing family. If they’re motivated by spending time with a loved one, then they risk never seeing those loved ones again. If they’re motivated by “feeling young again”, they run the risk of living an unfulfilled life forever.
For this story, since the goal is to track down her mother and her motivation is to discover a sense of identity, what does she risk? Maybe it’s being sent back to the orphanage.
- What is the “inciting incident”?
This is a moment typically happens after the setup, and either disturbs or aids the hero’s motivation. The sentence starts with “when” or “after”. For example, “When his parents get divorced” or “After witnessing a murder.”
Now, to briefly discuss this plot point of your screenplay story structure, the setup establishes the character’s motivation. The motivation disturbed is that event that disturbs or aids it. So, for example, if the character is motivated to live his best life, the motivation disturbed a be, when “he comes out of the closet” or after “being sent to an all boy’s Christian boarding school.” Both serve their function to disturb motivation.
Another example illustrates, if the motivation is to provide for the family, the motivation can be after “losing her job” or after “finding a bag of stolen money”, they both directly impact the motivation. See how that works?
In this story, let’s say the motivation disturbed is that she discovers her biological mother is alive.
- What is the hero’s biggest fear?
This is usually the logical fear associated with the loss of motivation.
If the motivation is to gain acceptance from peers, then the fear can be the fear of “being alone”. Or if the motivation is to protect the family, then the fear can be “losing her family”. This is usually a very logical and simple fear associated with the motivation so don’t over complicate it.
In this story here, the motivation is to discover a sense of identity, then let’s say rejection is a big fear. She’s afraid of rejection.
- Who is the antagonist?
Like the hero, just give 2 words, maximum of 3 if you can’t resist. For example, Brutal warlord, corrupt politician, psychotic convict, rival news anchor, etc.
Let’s say the antagonist of this story is an orphanage director.
- What does the Antagonist want?
Like the hero’s goal, this should be specific.
This should create a direct conflict with the hero’s goal. Now, this doesn’t mean that it needs to have a polar opposite intention. For example, if the goal is to “graduate on stage in 2 weeks”, the goal of the antagonist doesn’t need to be “stop the hero from graduating.” Although that would be okay, most of the time an antagonist is someone in the hero’s life that creates a direct or indirect foil to the hero’s goal, especially in dramas.
So for example, in this story where the orphaned teenager is on a mission to find her biological mother, the antagonist orphanage director can have a goal to stop her from finding her mother, but there needs to be a reason (her motivation). So, for example, it can be to stop her from finding her mother to keep a corrupt secret from surfacing. Or, to stop a secret from going public.
Opportunities With Logline
But look, there’s so much opportunity to expand on a logline like this. This logline promises plenty of potential for conflict. It is amazing because it’ll free you up creatively to write stories that have meaning. I’m getting a flood of ideas for this story all of sudden. What is the secret that she doesn’t want to go public? Does this have to do with the biological mother being someone in the public eye?
There’s a web of lies and conflict that a writer can conjure up from a story like this. And ultimately, the motivation to find an identity has the potential for a beautiful arc, so does the fear of rejection. There’s so much room for growth in a meaningful story about a girl who searches for identity and finds rejection from the one person she seeks approval from, but in the process finds herself. You can see how powerful of a tool this is.
Now that you know how to manoeuvre this tool, go ahead and play around with it. If it’s not easy right away, don’t worry. Stick with it and over time it will become easier to use. Streamlining a clear and concise story concept is a skill that builds with time, but as is evident this a powerful development tool.
So keep this in your back pocket, sign up for the free character development course which will complement this nicely, and get to crafting some great screenplay loglines and writing the best screenplays of your life. Then send it in and become a part of the network. Take part in SAN’s movie-making mission and let’s get great movies made.
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