Of Logs, Lines, and Worlds
Between dealing with the prerelease for the new My Little Pony CCG expansion (Canterlot Nights, available next week at your friendly local game store) and facing down an invading swarm of bees (which our beekeeping friends blogged about here, thus saving me the effort), I’ve been able to scrape together a total of maybe six minutes of free time. And because I’m me, I spend those six minutes thinking about how storyworlds and loglines.
In movie and television script-writing, a logline is a one-sentence summary of your script. No matter how complex or nuanced the actual script, you must be able to boil the story down into a single sentence that not only summarizes the plot, but intrigues the reader to want to read the script or watch the production. It’s both a guidepost (for you the writer) and a sales tool. It is, quite specifically, what your story is about.
A few minutes of Googling will provide dozens of logline examples. Here are a couple I found on this website:
- When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an insane and corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (Gladiator)
- In a future where criminals are arrested before the crime occurs, a cop struggles on the lam to prove his innocence for a murder he has not yet committed. (Minority Report)
- An archaeologist is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. (Raiders of the Lost Ark)
The recurring pattern is that each of these focuses on the stories’ characters, their conflicts, and (explicitly or implicitly) the setting in which the story takes place. Hey, that sounds familiar… In fact, it sounds very similar to what I wrote about defining a storyworld’s premise.
So a storyworld’s premise is equivalent to a script’s logline: they’re both single-sentence distillations of a much larger, more complex creative endeavor. Great! But… how does that help us build better storyworlds?
A good logline can keep you focused on what’s new and important in the story, but it can also form the foundation of your story’s synopsis. In the land of movie scripts and elevator pitches, a synopsis is a short (usually one page) summary of the full story. It fills in some of the blanks left by the logline, fleshing out specific characters and touching on the story’s beginning, middle, and end.
By the same token, a good premise can form the foundation of a storyworld’s overview, which is (of course) a short summary of the world itself. In fractal fashion, an overview expands on the premise to show characters, specific conflicts, and specific aspects of the setting. Because it’s a whole world of stories, we don’t need the standard beginning/middle/end bit.
So what does this overview look like, exactly? That’s a good question. And in the six minutes I can scrape together in the next week, I’ll be pondering an answer.