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05/30/2006 - CATCHY LOG LINES

It's Friday night, your friends are all busy, and you decide to make a batch of popcorn and see what's on television. Rather than aimlessly channel-surf, you dig out last Sunday's TV section from the newspaper or hop online at http://www.tvguide.com. Among the listings you find:

The cast members of a sci-fi series are mistaken for the real thing by aliens in desperate need of intergalactic protection.
A mentally challenged man fights to maintain custody of his 7 year old daughter.
An actor is recruited to impersonate a newly deceased South American dictator.
An island theme park featuring cloned dinosaurs becomes a place of terror when a security system malfunction sets them all loose.

What do these four mini-summations have in common? Not only are each of them short but they entice us with situations that invite major obstacles and impending crisis:

What will happen when the aliens discover their heroes are fake?
Will the father lose his little girl in court?
How long can the impersonator fool a rebellious public?
Can the humans escape their prehistoric predators?

This is the crux of a catchy logline-a tease that presents us with an intriguing question that can only be answered by watching the film itself. In the business of screenwriting, a great logline is what compels a reader to request a synopsis which, if also well written, then leads to a request for the full script. A logline is from 1-3 sentences and always written in the present tense. One of the easiest ways to learn to write a solid logline is to write it first as a question. Example: "What happens when a child has a higher IQ than her mentally challenged father?" This will keep you from the first-timer's habit of trying to compress your entire plot (including its outcome) into one tell-all sentence.
A logline is only the bait that lures them close enough to your boat to catch.


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