If your logline makes more sense after adding “they fight zombies,” it’s not ready yet.

Most people pitch loglines that are all first act, no second act.

Here are a few anemic loglines that were all submitted on reddit at one time or another. The bolded part is where I added zombie fighting.

  1. Three Irish teenagers attempt to impress girls and make new friends whilst navigating the minefield that is 21st century adolescence… by fighting zombies.
  2. A lonely real-estate mogul rallies against a group of belligerent teens who refuse to let their youth center close down, even though it’s falling apart and is dangerously not up to code. Then the teens turn into zombies.
  3. In the late 1800’s, on a city of ships, a Civil War veteran must rescue and protect his daughter from those who run the city and those who toil beneath it… vicious zombies.
  4. A downtrodden sushi chef seeks to escape New-New-Nagasaki and the slavery of making MegaTuna-Tummy-Snacks (secretly made from the organs of drug-stuffed prisoners), but the SuperDuperYakusa will not let their addictive bestseller go so easily… so the chef must fight zombies.

They’re incomplete because I don’t see what the second act is. Hence adding some form of “they fight zombies” makes the premise, the stakes, and the second act clearer because it adds something where there once was nothing.

These loglines are more complete:

  1. A notorious food critic’s jealously-guarded anonymity is threatened when he is forced to spend the day reviewing fine dining restaurants with his stoner brother-in-law.(Given that the stakes are his anonymity and putting up with annoying family, adding zombies would trivialize the established stakes and make less sense)
  2. A lazy stoner runs for public office to keep marijuana illegal so he can continue selling weed instead of getting a real job. (This suggests an election comedy, and is pretty complete. The lazy stoner fighting zombies isn’t going to be that much different than a driven mechanic fighting zombies, so adding zombies doesn’t make it more sensible).
  3. Lisa Prescott, the last woman alive after a violent plague, is a fugitive for refusing government pressure to have children. Guarded by a handful of traitorous soldiers, all vying for her love, she searches for sanctuary. (Given that the premise is “last women alive in a world of desperate men, adding zombies muddies what’s already there).

Compare “the last woman alive” to “the man protecting his daughter.” They’re similar, but the former is more fraught because we know the world and we know what’s specific about what she’ll be facing. In the latter example, the zombies make things more specific.

A logline should suggest an answer to this simple question: “How does the character go about accomplishing what he wants to do?”

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

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