Translating Loglines into Story Spines


Review and Reiteration

Writing is an iterative exercise.  A script is never nailed in one draft.  A script is honed through repetition, sculpting away what’s not needed until all that remains is story we want to tell.

We’ve discussed everything from Plot and Story to Dialogue, Narrative, Themes and Metaphors.

With all that in mind, let’s do a little reviewing and see how we can apply what we’ve learned as we go forward.

It Starts with a Strong Logline

In Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat,” Snyder lays out what he believes to be the components of a good logline.  I think he’s pretty spot.  They are:

  1. Irony

Irony is humor.  Humor surprises us and engages us.  It’s what hooks our interest.

  1. A Compelling Picture.

Snyder argues that a good logline is able to succinctly capture the whole movie in the telling.  In other words, upon hearing or reading a logline, we should know what kind of movie to expect.

  1. Audience and Cost.

Snyder makes the case that the logline should give us a sense of who this movie is for and what it’s going to cost.  In other words, it should tell us what genre the movie falls into and what kind of budget the movie will demand.

  1. A Killer Title

Snyder was the master of this: putting the concept into the title.  On one hand, the Marketing Department of a studio might end up changing your title.  On the other hand, it’s the first thing someone sees when they pick up your script.  As Snyder argue, it should pique the reader’s curiosity and make him or her want to turn the page and start reading.

How Do We Get There?

Just like a script, a logline isn’t created from nothing in one attempt.  A good logline takes time.  Your goal is to find the most economical and clearest way to communicate Irony, Compelling Picture, Genre and Cost to another person and punctuate it with a Title that makes them want to read your script.

As such, a logline is a selling tool.  But it is also a writing tool.  The process of finding the perfect logline and title is the first step toward honing your ideas into a plot and story that will stand out and compel a reader to respond.

Once we have our outlines written, then what…?  How do we check our work?  How do we make sure that we are implementing the ideas of our outlines in the best way possible?

Form Follows Function

Before we can build our outlines, before we know what to do with all the images and exciting moments swirling around in our imagination, we need to create a context for our ideas.  We need a structure that maps out our stories.

The Spine of the Story

This structure is often referred to as “The Spine” of your plot.  It the spine of your story upon which all the muscle and sinew of your plot can be attached.

This spine functions as our map.  It tells us the steps we need to get from the beginning of our script to the middle and all the way to the end.

Elements of a Story Spine

What are the essential elements of a Story Spine?  We discussed them a few months ago, but it never hurts to review them.  In fact, going back to your spine while writing is the best way possible to check your work.

Next week, we’ll examine the essential elements of a good story spine and look at how to use them to check our work and make sure that our story and plot are heading in the right direction.  Until then, what are the ways that you check your work and make sure you’re following your plot to the climax of your story…?


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