What a Great Logline Looks Like: April 2016 Edition

As you all know, the LA Screenwriter Logline Competition offers amazing prizes from the Writers StoreVirtual Pitchfest, WeScreenplay, Script Pipeline, and Talentville. For the May competition, we’re adding to that prize package:

Everyone who enters the May Logline Competition will be entered into a drawing to win one of 5 FREE ENTRIES to the Big Break Screenwriting Competition AND one of 5 FREE COPIES of Final Draft 9

Big Break is one of the most respected screenwriting contests out there — the regular deadline is June 30, so get your scripts ready to enter! And Final Draft, of course, is an absolute essential for any screenwriter. Every entry in May is another chance to win! So get crackin’!

But on to the main event:  The April Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is John “Shirley” Miller with his logline for CATALYST, an hour-long sci-fi pilot:

Exiled on the Martian frontier, a hotheaded mercenary sparks a war with Earth when he kills his wife’s murderer, but he must fight his way back home when he learns his wife is still alive.

We love this idea because it’s high concept, full of irony, and easy to imagine as a hit TV show. Love, murder, and interstellar warfare — what could be better!

About John (johnshirleymiller@gmail.com)

John “Shirley” Miller has worked in locations for television and film since 2009. During this time, he also attended UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting, after which he sold two features for a pittance. Just this year, John was admitted into both USC’s and UCLA’s Screenwriting MFA programs. He now leads a writing team composed of published short-story writer Justin Gold and practicing psychologist Elias Barghash to develop Catalyst for a television (streaming or otherwise) audience.

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Mario Kersey with his logline for THE MAD MAIDEN, a sci-fi:

When the prophesied savior of an alternate Earth is assassinated, his warrior daughter must track down his doppelganger on our Earth in order to keep the two worlds from colliding.

This logline manages to take a very big idea and express it clearly and creatively in just one sentence. Beautifully done!

About Mario (textitanium@yahoo.com)

Mario Kersey is a legendary swashbuckler in his daydreams.  In the “real world” he writes various things that attempt to convey his experience.  He’s also working on a couple of screenplays that have been bugging him for a while.

Next, we have Shane Giles with his logline for WHERE I ONCE BELONGED, a musical comedy:

When stealing the music of The Beatles prevents the birth of his future wife, an opportunistic time traveler stuck in 1985 recruits a now homeless John Lennon to help him set things right.

Beatles movies are notoriously hard to get made, but this idea is so fun and creative that it’s sure to make an awesome writing sample. And if it ever DID get made, we’d definitely go see it!

About Shane (Shane_gls@yahoo.ie)

Shane Giles is a law graduate from Waterford, Ireland, currently living in Vancouver and working in procurement. He is interested in amateur astronomy and writing.

The May Logline Competition is now open! Get those loglines in for detailed feedback and a chance at great prizes.

Contest Logo 1 copy

Source: LA-Screenwriter

What a Great Logline Looks Like: April 2016 Edition

As you all know, the LA Screenwriter Logline Competition offers amazing prizes from the Writers StoreVirtual Pitchfest, WeScreenplay, Script Pipeline, and Talentville. For the May competition, we’re adding to that prize package:

Everyone who enters the May Logline Competition will be entered into a drawing to win one of 5 FREE ENTRIES to the Big Break Screenwriting Competition AND one of 5 FREE COPIES of Final Draft 9

Big Break is one of the most respected screenwriting contests out there — the regular deadline is June 30, so get your scripts ready to enter! And Final Draft, of course, is an absolute essential for any screenwriter. Every entry in May is another chance to win! So get crackin’!

But on to the main event:  The April Logline Competition results are in! Check out these great examples of how to write a logline:

THE WINNER

Our winner is John “Shirley” Miller with his logline for CATALYST, an hour-long sci-fi pilot:

Exiled on the Martian frontier, a hotheaded mercenary sparks a war with Earth when he kills his wife’s murderer, but he must fight his way back home when he learns his wife is still alive.

We love this idea because it’s high concept, full of irony, and easy to imagine as a hit TV show. Love, murder, and interstellar warfare — what could be better!

About John (johnshirleymiller@gmail.com)

John “Shirley” Miller has worked in locations for television and film since 2009. During this time, he also attended UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting, after which he sold two features for a pittance. Just this year, John was admitted into both USC’s and UCLA’s Screenwriting MFA programs. He now leads a writing team composed of published short-story writer Justin Gold and practicing psychologist Elias Barghash to develop Catalyst for a television (streaming or otherwise) audience.

THE FINALISTS

First, we have Mario Kersey with his logline for THE MAD MAIDEN, a sci-fi:

When the prophesied savior of an alternate Earth is assassinated, his warrior daughter must track down his doppelganger on our Earth in order to keep the two worlds from colliding.

This logline manages to take a very big idea and express it clearly and creatively in just one sentence. Beautifully done!

About Mario (textitanium@yahoo.com)

Mario Kersey is a legendary swashbuckler in his daydreams.  In the “real world” he writes various things that attempt to convey his experience.  He’s also working on a couple of screenplays that have been bugging him for a while.

Next, we have Shane Giles with his logline for WHERE I ONCE BELONGED, a musical comedy:

When stealing the music of The Beatles prevents the birth of his future wife, an opportunistic time traveler stuck in 1985 recruits a now homeless John Lennon to help him set things right.

Beatles movies are notoriously hard to get made, but this idea is so fun and creative that it’s sure to make an awesome writing sample. And if it ever DID get made, we’d definitely go see it!

About Shane (Shane_gls@yahoo.ie)

Shane Giles is a law graduate from Waterford, Ireland, currently living in Vancouver and working in procurement. He is interested in amateur astronomy and writing.

The May Logline Competition is now open! Get those loglines in for detailed feedback and a chance at great prizes.

Contest Logo 1 copy

Source: LA-Screenwriter

5 Tools for Improving Your Second-Language Writing Skills

How do you start writing in a foreign language? Swear off writing in your own.

At least that’s what I did when a teacher — not the inspiring kind — decimated my love for both reading and writing in my last year of high school.

I grew up in USSR, the country best known in 1980s as both the “Evil Empire” and as the nation where Moscow’s subway often featured more readers than Lenin’s library.

I was no exception. By the age of 16 I read most of my parents’ 600-book strong library, I dabbled in poetry writing, and I had penned a few short stories. I didn’t think of writing as my profession, but I didn’t discount it either.

Until Svetlana Vassilievna, my Russian language and literature teacher, decided to embarrass me.

Who needs literature?

We called her Baba Yaga — after a Russian fairytale character who kidnapped children and threatened to eat them — for good reason. In class she tolerated no opposing arguments, discouraged creativity, and berated every mistake we made. During recess she preyed on us looking for transgressions of uniform, behavior, or both.

When one day she overheard me say that I wouldn’t need Russian literature in the university I was applying to, she decided to teach me a lesson. She began failing me.

After my mother, horrified at the prospect of an F on my school transcript, intervened, Svetlana Vassilievna offered a makeup opportunity. She had me stand up in front of the entire class, glared at me through her large, round glasses, and for fifteen minutes quizzed me about class struggle themes in Dostoevski, Tolstoi, and Mayakovski.

I wanted to die.

A change of perspective

When I came home that day I burned all my short stories, ripped up my poems, and decided there would be no more reading — or writing — for me.

Then I moved to the United States and had to include an elective in my pre-med curriculum. Creative writing was the only course I could fit into my schedule.

During the first few classes, I sat there perplexed: Not only did my fellow students engage in open discussions with the professor, speak their minds, and ask questions, but the teacher also gave actual instructions on the craft of writing. At the end of that semester I wrote a paper on Mrs. Dalloway and Taoism. I got a B+.

I was hooked.

Since then, writing — but only English writing — has accompanied me through my master’s degree and several careers in non-writing fields.

In my free time I translated Russian poetry into English and wrote short stories.

When I moved abroad and couldn’t find a job, I began writing full-time. The result? A debut novel, several personal essays in national outlets, a screenplay, and a finished pilot.

I never went back to writing in Russian and although I still make mistakes common to non-native English speakers — “a” and “the” continue to elude me — I now write in English full time.

The following have been, and continue to be, invaluable in my journey as a writer in a foreign language:

1. An active community of writers

Ever since I began writing I’ve made sure, wherever I’ve lived, to get together with people writing in English on a weekly basis.

Not only do these groups guarantee a constant creative atmosphere; they also offer a continuous stream of writing samples I can read, provide input on, and learn from.

There’s also the added bonus of making friendships, but you probably already knew that.

2. Writing workshops and retreats

If you can afford it, take one. Most likely it’ll be the best several days you’ll ever spend. You’ll learn from some great writers, have a chance to hear what they think of your work, and make new contacts in the writing world.

3. An aversion to cliches

If you hail from another country and have been speaking another language for most of your adult life, chances are you are not aware of cliches in English.

My first stories were littered with them. I couldn’t figure out how to recognize which phrase made a cliche and which one didn’t.

After struggling for a few years, I decided that the best way to avoid those pests would be to come up with a different turn of phrase for every potential cliche.

4. Active reading

I read my favorite essays and stories with a pen in hand. Whenever I see a word I don’t know or a sentence structure that mesmerizes me, I record it. Then, either while walking or waiting for a bus or exercising, I practice making sentences with it in my head. Next time I write something I often discover that word or that structure has somehow made it into my narrative.

5. A dictionary and a thesaurus

There are moments when I’d be writing and suddenly instead of an English word my brain would produce a Russian word.

If after a few minutes of concentration I still cannot remember the English word I want, I open a dictionary (or go to Google translate) and look up the translation of that Russian word.

Then I check the thesaurus for the synonym that feels right.

And finally? Don’t wait for something inspiring — or someone inspiring — in your life to give you a push. It may just be the opposite that does the trick.

Are you fluent in several languages? Which do you prefer for writing?

The post 5 Tools for Improving Your Second-Language Writing Skills appeared first on The Write Life.

     

Source: Writer Life

6 Steps to Better Linear Storytelling

by Fin Wheeler

Last week, Fin told us the truth about non-linear storytelling. This week, Fin expands on that idea with six steps to improve screenplay structure with better linear storytelling.

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1. Read complex classic literature

When you’ve read a few well-known classics, you realize that story is story; it always has been and always will be.

Reading classic literature help trains your mind to think in long-form. We live in a world where the vast majority of advertising, entertainment, and news clips are (very) short-form storytelling. It really is essential for aspiring storytellers to nourish and develop their understanding of long form.

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2. Read contemporary best sellers

Last year I read the twenty best selling Jack Reacher thriller novels by Lee Childs. It gave me a valuable insight into what the public want and like from their action/thrillers, and what they look for in their everyman anti-heroes.

Pick a handful of titles from the New York Times Bestseller list in genres you wouldn’t normally read and get sucked into them. Reading the top rom-com novels will help you improve the emotional journey of your action characters. Reading courtroom dramas will give you a much clearer idea about the use of interiors and exteriors in your screenplays, and the way non-chronological storytelling is routinely used to liven up courtroom dramas.

3. Read produced screenplays

Unfortunately, writing for screen has changed radically in the past few years. A 120-page script was acceptable ten years ago, but these days a screenwriter can only earn their first feature credit on a 90-minute film. So read recently produced screenplays. It’s an invaluable way of understanding the mechanics of storytelling for screen.

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4. Breakdown a TV episode

It’s not enough to just passively watch a million movies and binge entire television shows, you have to take out a pen and notebook, sit down with no distractions, and annotate episode after episode.

Pick one of your favorite shows, something you’re familiar with. Jot down the scene number, location, cast, if the scene related to the A, B, or C story, and the point of each scene as it plays. You’ll have to be quick because some scenes whiz by or dissolve into the next while you’re still trying to get the pen cap off.

Try not to pause the program. The point of the exercise it to make storytelling choices and decisions as quickly and effectively as possible. If you’re writing for TV, breaking story needs to become so natural that it’s a muscle memory chore, but you also need to be able to articulate the choices and decisions you’ve made when asked. This exercise is perfect for building that skill set.

Once you’ve mastered the television episode, try it with a feature length movie.

You should now have a much more solid understanding of plot points, breaking story, and identifying which elements are A/B/C story. (A story is generally the plot, B story is generally the emotional journey. Any subplots must pay off at the climax. TV dramas and sitcoms have their own set structure.)

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5. Write a screen adaptation of a fairytale

One of the major reasons why aspiring screenwriters find it so hard to get the knack of linear storytelling for screen is that they are trying to improve both their concept creation skills and storytelling skills at once.

We all want to tell our own original stories; it’s the desire of all humans. But it can be confusing and frustrating to try and learn the complexities of screenwriting while you’re also trying desperately to wrestle with the angst of revealing your own personal stories.

Fairytales are perfect because everyone knows at least a dozen fairy stories. Plus, the plot points and the ending are already fixed. You don’t have to create them then worry if they’re a good enough. Pick a tale, say Cinderella, and break the story down into Acts and scenes.

If you’re a bit hazy about how to outline in three act structure, don’t worry. Even award-winning screenwriters reference screenwriting manuals from time to time.

Children watching television

6. Tell your plot/story to someone with a short attention span

Another way to hone your story skills is to tell your plot to someone with a short attention span. It can be a painful blow to the ego, but the learning curve is steep. Kids are a great audience for this. If they wander off, you may have too much fluff between the salient plot points.

If you like a scene, but it has no point, cut it. If you’re finding this too hard to do because you consider everything you write to be beautiful and precious, you need to toughen up. Time is money. Producers simply don’t have the time to wait for you to mature to a point where you can respect their knowledge of the industry and respond properly to their request for script changes.

You don’t have to discard all the darlings you slash from your script. You can store them in a file you keep all to yourself. Alternatively, you could decide that you like all your non-essential scenes, and you’re only interested in screenwriting as a hobby, not a profession. Plenty of people find happiness and creative fulfillment just creating stories for themselves.

Creating compelling long-form professional screen stories is a complex art form, but with practice you can understand and implement the rules of linear storytelling in fresh, inventive, and exciting ways.

~

Fin Wheeler is a member of the Australian Writers’ Guild and has a feature in development.

Source: LA-Screenwriter