on keeping a log-line book

I keep tiny notebooks of log-lines. These are brief kernels – nay, seeds – of a story.

For instance:

A bored office worker finds himself stuck in a carpool with his most annoying co-worker.

Or:

Ted wakes up in the morning to find a werewolf drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper at his kitchen table.

(Aside“Ted” and “Lucy” are my go-to placeholder names. It’s rather helpful, as sometimes just trying to think of a name, even if it takes ten seconds, can mean losing your crazy train of thought.)

I write these log-lines down, one per page. Maybe I can flesh them out into something later; maybe not. Sometimes I will make myself sit down and come up with, say, ten log-lines. Then, I will sit there and think of them, just to write them down then forget them.

It’s a simple exercise, the point of which is really just to start thinking. It helps focus what I’ve got rattling around in my head. A lot of the ideas are terrible, but sometimes just writing them down so I can forget them is a good way to deflate that bloat that creeps into your creative process.

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There are so many log-lines I have that I just know I will never write. Mostly because they are either a joke that only I found funny, or because they just seemed too gimmicky, in either structure or conceit, or because, as much as I would want to read them, they aren’t the sort of thing I could write.

These are a few of those unpolished gems. If they somehow strike a chord with you, by all means, write away. Just promise me you’ll let me read the results!

 In a big “whoopsie” moment, NASA accidentally destroys the moon, wreaking havoc on planet Earth.

A series of passive-aggressive post-it notes left between two roommates escalates quickly beyond control into an all-out war.

Desperate to get home to London for a wedding during the Icelandic volcano eruption of 2010, Lucy finds an ad on Craigslist posted by Ted, who is driving from Greece to London and is looking for a carmate to share the cost… these two strangers navigate a traveller-ridden Europe in a race against time.

Lucy suspects her boss is writing a novel… about her.

Ted collects porcelain dolls but can’t relate to people… until the precocious kid next door arrives with intent to harm.

An atheist and a creationist who fell in love at first sight are at the end of their first date and are about to discover each other’s beliefs.

Two Bridget Jones-ish roommates are suddenly put upon to take care of a friend’s baby for the weekend.

Little Red Riding Hood reaches the cabin in the woods to duel her arch nemesis, the Big, Bad Wolf, but this time, he’s brought back up, so she summons the rest of “The Hoods,” Yellow Riding Hood, Blue Riding Hood, Black Riding Hood and Pink Riding Hood (the boy), and when their powers combine…

Two geeks argue over triple word scores as the Apocalypse sounds off all around them and they just want to get one last game of Scrabble in.

Machines are taking over the world, one pocket calculator at a time. Calculations are wrong! Computer run time errors predicate doom! It is the most passive-aggressive Terminator ever.

As an old cat reflects on his nine lives well led, the Ghost of Nine Lives Past visits and shows him how he could have led a more selfish, vain, greedy, cat-like life.

In a fit of idealism, a typesetter for a famous 16th century printer places a typo in a copy of the bible… which leads to blasphemous consequences.

Ted changes the world when he discovers a film developing fluid that allows people to have conversations with photographs. Suddenly, history is changed, he’s rich and famous, but then he discovers an old roll with the grandfather he never knew. Does he want to delve into his own family’s secret past?

A woman and her husband’s best friend are on the verge of an affair. Just as they are about to tell him, he dies suddenly and they are stuck on how to proceed.

Delighted with how he got spoiled for his birthday, twenty-three-year-old Ted fakes a terminal illness in order to manipulate his family into spending time with him on his own terms.

Five people from all over the world find themselves all in the same spot at the same time: Pont des Arts in Paris. They are strangers and this was not planned; something is drawing them together.

A young girl can remember her past lives after a troubling accident. As the details start to piece themselves together, she realises one common – and horrifying – thread.

An Irish gypsy girl falls in love with an investment banker. It is not so much Romeo-and-Juliet as it is the profitable tinsmith business in the UK.

A young graduate student embarks on an affair with the academic rival of his research supervisor (who is also his mentor/father-figure).

A naïve young celebrity forms a unique bond with her dentist following a series of visits to correct her “unmarketable” overbite.

A ditzy frat bro takes to the road with the outcast valedictorian after the duo unwittingly steals a valuable piece of property from the university.

A ghostwriter who never gets credit for their work is tasked with the autobiography of a selfish socialite. When it’s clear her subject could care less, the ghostwriter takes liberties to the extreme, blowing the celebrity social world wide open.

A middle-class drug dealer is forced to hide his lifestyle when his religious sister and her two precocious children come to stay after her husband walks out.

A travel guide writer finds the easiest way to do his job is to sit in train stations talking to people, until he meets someone worth following around the world.

The clerk in the head-of-state’s office in charge of writing the 100th birthday letters has an existential crisis and decides to hand-deliver the letters.

When the ghost of a supervillain begins stalking the corridors who is there to stop him? Ouija boards and séances underway, can they summon the ghost of the superhero who defeated him in life?

Whilst playing an historical RPG, Ted realizes that his changes are starting to have real-world effects… for instance, when his CG counterpart prevents the Norman invasion, the entire face of Britain changes.

A lonely forest ranger discovered the body of a disappeared hiker. As he waits three days through a snow storm for the authorities to arrive, he discovers the hiker’s diary and the secrets it keeps.

A downtown waterfront condo development goes awry when the old, disused train tracks they were about to dig up suddenly come to life: a train is chugging down them…

3 thoughts on “on keeping a log-line book

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