Today marks the start of #loglinechallenge, which provides a daily prompt throughout the month from which you can create a story idea.
By working these ideas into a logline, writers can practice the craft whilst also honing in on the idea. Loglines are, after all, one of the tools that writers use to check that an idea can hold its own.
Getting ideas down…
Loglines are difficult to get good, and can therefore feel intimidating. But when you first come up with an idea, such as when you are responding to a challenge such as #loglinechallenge, your response will initially be about getting the idea down in any way possible.
Take one of my logline responses to #wordsadayfeb, for example:
11. Elope #wordsadayfeb writing challenge #logline
When star-crossed lovers Emilia and Jenna, daughters of rival TV producers, are forced to elope, their disappearance causes havoc. With one side milking the opportunity for TV ratings and the other falling apart, the search for the girls becomes vital for the survival of not only a materialistic pay check but a mother’s sanity. With Emilia’s greed draining the couple of their resources and Jenna’s anger threatening to land her in trouble, they too need to work out their priorities and their true feelings before deciding whether to permanently cut all ties with their families… Or each other.
Now, this is quite a long idea – too long, really, to be a concise logline. In a way, it’s a very concise synopsis. But whatever you want to call it – it’s an idea, and one of the ones that I managed to get down in quite a well-rounded way.
We’ve got our protagonists, Emilia and Jenna. Their problem is that their love is not approved, and their opposition is therefore their parents; the antagonists. Both sets of characters need to work through stuff; rivalry and differences in order to bring their families back together. Lots of obstacles, lots of friction, and an ultimatum.
I’m quite excited by this idea, and therefore am not too bothered that my “logline” wasn’t necessarily written as well as it could. I still felt satisfied with the challenge response as a story idea.
Condensing an idea…
Honing down and idea/logline is something that can be done via a revision process (perhaps with feedback from others), and is a good exercise when thinking about the idea further or when working out a pitch/outline/treatment.
To improve this logline, I need to condense it even further. Naming characters isn’t necessary, and I can describe the protagonists in a much shorter way if I condense all the adjectives. I could also do with focussing the logline on the protagonists; often easier to do if you start off with them as the subject. But you can also set up the world in the opening if it’s important to the plot. Here’s my attempt at cutting it all down:
Amidst a TV ratings war, eloped teen daughters of rival TV producers cause a crisis that will test their feuding parents’ priorities, as well as their own.
This is much shorter, yet we still know who the characters are and what the issue is. We know the characters will go through a lot of stuff, both physical and emotional. A life for teens on the run will be tough, and so will the search for the parents who are clearly fierce rivals. There’ll be inner and outer journeys for all the characters, and a lot of friction. But underneath it all, it’s a story about love; both for the star-crossed teens and the parents who are torn apart by the loss of their daughters.
Don’t worry about being perfect…
I may have started off with quite a wordy idea, but I now have a much more workable logline. So don’t worry about being perfect the first time you come up with an idea. Just get it down, and see where it takes you.
The #loglinechallenge Facebook group is a great place to share your loglines if you would like some feedback from other members. The first prompt in the challenge is “shell”. Here’s my attempt at coming up with an immediate, unedited response…
1. shell #loglinechallenge
When a lonely kid discovers a strange shell on holiday, containing a strange miniature mammal, he’s taken on a journey into the hidden depths of his seaside resort and makes a discovery that threatens to put the world in danger… Unless he can stop it in time.
It’s a bit repetitive, what with the double mention of “strange”. It’s also a bit vague, but I’ve managed to avoid those pesky open-ended questions that can sometimes muddy a logline. I’ve managed to tell a bit about the kid – he’s lonely. Probably doesn’t have any friends and could be unpopular. The strange miniature mammal is quite a hook – even I’m curious to know what it could be! Hidden places and a threatening discovery are mentioned – this is clearly an adventure… Could be scary. And our kid is the one who needs to save the world… Awesome! But what will he have to do? What is threatening the world? How is the strange creature involved – is it good or bad?
Raising intrigue is important…
An idea that, when read, can create these sorts of intrigue questions is always a good sign. The fact that a protagonist (kid), problem/opposition (threat via strange discovery/creatures) and a goal (to save the world) are identified are also plus points. It’s still a bit vague regarding the antagonists/opposition, but we can form a few ideas from it as to what these might be.
I’ll need to revise this logline to make it better, but as a challenge response I’m pretty pleased with the idea I’ve come up with from the prompt. It’s one that does excite me a little – so is a viable idea for my “possible projects” collection of ideas.
So, what’s your response to the first prompt for #loglinechallenge?