Guys, I got nothing today. I’ve been playing catch-up all weekend after being sick last week, as well as trying to read all of your loglines. The logline thing has been tricky. A lot of the things I assumed were obvious are obviously not obvious. So I have a tall order this Thursday trying to come up with an article that’s going to explain how to a) come up with a good idea and b) turn it into a good logline, because we only have A WEEK AND A HALF before we have to start writing a screenplay!

I’ve just been reading so many amateur scripts lately that never had a shot because the idea wasn’t big enough, interesting enough, unique enough, or movie-friendly. The hope with my three-month screenplay challenge is that when you finish your script, it will actually have a chance in the marketplace. And if the idea isn’t good, you won’t have that chance. Nothing you wrote during those three months will have mattered. So here are a few things to keep in mind.

1) Something has to be original about your logline. Stop sending me loglines with witches, zombies, aliens, and vampires that don’t have a single original element. The biggest faux-pas made so far in the loglines I’ve received is that I can look at the logline and say, “I’ve already seen a movie similar to this.”

2) “Strange attractors” are logline crack. Bringing dinosaurs back to life. A guy is blown up every 8 minutes on a train until he solves a mystery. Michael Jackson’s life story told through the point of view of his monkey. They’re not required, but if you have one, your logline will stand out from the rest.

3) Irony is your best friend in Logline Land. A billionaire ice cream magnate who loses his empire and must take a job as a shoe salesman isn’t nearly as interesting as an ice cream magnate who’s lost his empire being forced to support himself by driving an ice cream truck.

  • smishsmosh22


    • Eric Boyd

      1367th… Oh, sorry. I got this confused with yesterday’s comments :)

      • smishsmosh22

        yeah make this Part 3 of Thursday’s post…

    • E.C. Henry

      With ya there, smishmmosh22. I too count on Carson to inspire me more than I’d like to admit.

    • Daivon Stuckey

      It was a bit much. Probably at least 90% of those loglines won’t even turn into finished scripts, I bet.

    • Orange Pop

      I got lost on the last post… So many comments. Impressive though in terms of how popular that post was for any blog. Let alone a screenwriting one.

  • klmn

    OT. Questions for Kindle users. I’m thinking of getting one to read some of the older material for my research. I have been using a “Kindle for Mac” program, but now I want to keep my computer screen on my writing program.

    What has been your experience? Any recommendations for which one to get? WiFi or 3G? If I buy the ad-supported version, how intrusive are the ads? PaperWhite?

    There’s supposed to be a new one coming out on April 27. Read any reviews?

    Thanks in advance.

    • ASAbrams

      I’m not sure I can give you very much relevant information. I have a Kindle keyboard e-reader–not a tablet nor the Paperwhite. I like my ‘old school’ one because my eyes are sensitive to looking at lit screens. Most people prefer the PaperWhite version though. Mine has WiFi and 3G. The WiFi is over whatever service you’re already connected to, but the 3G is Amazon’s ‘Whispersync’ service you have to pay for.

      It was a present, so it’s the ad-supported version. On my model, the ads only show full page on the screensaver and a small banner at the bottom of the homepage. Not intrusive at all. In fact I had to actually pick up my Kindle to make sure there was one on the homescreen. The only times I’m annoyed by the ads are when they are romance covers and I’m in public.

      I’ve read no reviews on newer versions.

      • klmn

        Thanks. Very helpful.

  • Howie428

    OT– I have converted one of my scripts into an experimental format that can be read by people who don’t have a background in reading screenplays. I’m hoping this can bring more readers to these works and give screenwriters a different source of income. Perhaps a screenplay that succeeds in this format would get some attention from the industry.

    I have published it here…
    (Note that the look inside preview doesn’t show the format particularly well.)

    • confused

      I have to be honest, I could not understand a word of that synopsis.

      I’ve read it a few times and it’s completely lost on me.

  • Scott Crawford

    Having sat through several “show your logline” SS articles, I think the quality of loglines this time ’round have been – on the whole – a lot better.

    I’d say the majority, with superior execution, would make for great screenplays.

    Biggest problem, for me, were the super dark screenplays, like snakes running around a maternity ward eating all the babies. You can (sometimes) tell which writers don’t have children of their own.

    Also a problem were sci-fi or fantasy stories (of which there were a lot) that made a lot more sense to their writers than they did to anyone else.

    • Terry

      I noticed you shied away from a lot of the dark loglines. Why is that?

      A lot of existing movies have ridiculously more darker stories than anything posted yesterday. I don’t understand the issue.

      • Scott Crawford

        It wasn’t so much dark as SUPER dark, lots of stories about girls being attacked and running away, and then being attacked again, and… those things don’t really appeal to me anyway, not much of a story.

        There were also stories about 8 year olds or other very young characters, they might have worked better with older characters. I just think kids dying (albeit fictional) is worse than some people seem to think!

        The other issue is you’re going to spend up to 3 months working on a story, do you really want to be in that dark place for 3 months? When the article comes around “How to add light relief to your script” what are you going to do then?

        Finally, the dark script ideas tended not to have the same potential for character, theme and general entertainment that many of the other ideas had.

        Of course, this is just my opinion and others have theirs.

      • klmn

        Snakes – and reptiles in general – are mostly fascinating to little boys. In reality they stink, some of them are poisonous, and are useful only for getting attention.

        Any good bird dog would point ‘em out as a public service.

    • Mayhem Jones

      RE: “dark screenplays”, I think writing (in general) is catharsis to many.

  • Altius

    Found yesterday’s loglines largely underwhelming. Good points from Carson about needing to set the bar higher, and the hooks that catch our interest.

    Also, highly recommend devouring everything on Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot’s old site. They’re big proponents of the “strange attractor” and know success with both quality scripts and summer blockbusters.

    • klmn

      Old site? Do they have a new one?

      • Altius

        I don’t think so.

  • Favorite?

    What was everyone’s favorite logline from yesterday?

    • Scott Crawford

      Here’s the thing, and don’t stop other people having a vote, but I don’t think it’s THAT helpful to pick a favorite. It is – if you’ll excuse the expression – very millennial, I’ve noticed, to pick a favorite or to crave being the most liked or the person with the most votes.

      What’s wrong with being #11? You’re still doing well.

      Moreover, we all know (though may not say out of kindness) not everyone who pitched a logline over the past few days will make it to full screenplay, at least not with that logline. Many will drop out or switch to another idea. So picking a favorite logline now is irrelevant until that person can turn that logline into a workable script (which is the problem with a lot of very good loglines, that they’re often more entertaining the final story).

      I do have a few favorites, that I can remember, but I think it’s better to say that most people did a good job and have a big challenge ahead of them.

  • klmn

    This is a big help in focusing our loglines. I expect they all will improve as we write the scripts.

    • klmn

      It’s already helped me craft a new logline I’ll be submitting for AOW this week.

      • Scott Crawford

        Care to share, klmn bear?

        • klmn

          You’ll have to wait till it appears on AOW. Which may be never.

          • Scott Crawford

            Good luck!

  • Daivon Stuckey

    Curious how these “tournaments” are going to go. Perhaps there should be judges to help Carson out?

  • S D

    Carson: for this Thursday’s logline article, it would be great if you could craft loglines for two great scripts that are not logline friendly to show how to do a logline for a great story that is hard to explain:

    The Shawshank Redemption


    Collateral Beauty

  • Levres de Sang

    “Stop sending me loglines with witches, zombies, aliens, and vampires that don’t have a single original element.”

    Maybe this search for originality might also do its best to exclude CIA / FBI agents, retired hitmen, Mexican drug lords, ex-Navy Seals, and dead wives designed only for our sympathy.

    On a more positive note, it’s great to be reminded of the powerful “strange attractor”.

    • Daivon Stuckey

      Also, someone having a family doesn’t automatically make them interesting and deserving of our attention.

    • Scott Crawford

      But you don’t want to kill all fun. If you combine those elements with ORIGINAL elements, they could all work.

      I think it’s a question of looking at some of these more familiar stories from a different perspective.

      I love Die Hard-type stories, make no bones about it, when people pitch “Die Hard at the Hollywood Bowl,” I get a massive boner.

      But I’m aware that there have been so many Die Hard imitations that you really need to come up with a different take on it. I’ve got a few ideas of how you could do that. It’s like musical genres, they need to evolve.

    • klmn

      I wonder if that statement originated in feedback on the 25.

    • Orange Pop

      Always tons of those ideas you pointed out. Most of it comes down to execution though.

    • klmn

      Of course those are the subjects that most here love. Certain winners on AOW.

  • ASAbrams

    For writers who have found writing buddies for mutual help with screenplays, where do you go to find them? I have a novel-writing buddy and that has been an immense help. But I have no idea how to go about finding someone to help give one-on-one feedback on ideas, loglines, outlines, drafts, and scripts written. Suggestions?