Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Revisiting Premise or Peril

I was thinking last night (when I should have been sleeping) about premise and how important it is... I was spurred on by a blog I was reading (that escapes me now), but I need to post this before I forget it.

Here's the first idea: A guy is IN the building when it's robbed by thieves.

Not bad. Interesting concept, but doesn't tell you much. Who is the guy? Will he bail or try and catch the guys? Why are they there? What's the big story (the main chunk of the story)? How will it end?

ok... so we refine a little bit.

A cop is in a building when it's robbed by thieves.

Okay - getting better. Now we know he's a cop. You figure he *should* want to do something about this crime now. Although -- it could be his personality to bail on the situation.

Back to the drawing board.

A smart-ass cop faces off against thieves when he's caught in the building when they rob it.

That's better. Now we have a personality to the copy, we have a better idea about where the chunk of the story will be (him facing off against the thieves) and how it will end (thieves will get caught or cop will die trying to stop them).

Let's dig a little more.

A smart-ass NY cop visiting his estranged wife in LA is caught in a building when thieves rob it. He must face off against them in order to save his wife and the rest of the hostages from certain death.

And we have a winner. This may not be the same logline you'd used for Die Hard, but it's close enough and I think we can all agree it's better than the first.

Here, you have a smart ass NY cop (personality) visiting his estranged wife in LA (fish out of water as well as character issues - estranged wife) fighting against thieves in order to save his wife. You can guess that the majority of this will be about him fighting the thieves and that if he saves his wife, that there should be some sort of happy ending.

I believe that most of the recaps you see of the movie say terrorists, but that was all a plot ploy, so I don't consider it the original logline from which the writer started.

This shows the importance of getting the logline/premise sorted out FIRST. Get it done. This may take awhile, but once you have it, take it up so you can refer to it whenever you write. If you're writing doesn't fit within the logline, scrap it.


Blogger wcdixon said...

nice example... am big believer of nailing premise/logline first - but have also wasted a lot of 'could've been just writing it out and see where it goes' time trying to think up that perfect premise... so goes both ways.

But I've played that premise game with really good writers and have been stunned and amazed at how fast they can get to that final solid logline after you just threw out a cool notion.

So I think as you become more experienced/confident, instinct starts to take over so even if the premise/logline is a little loose, you are able to make choices on the fly that keep it on track and making it better. Also, fast approaching deadlines will force you to do the same...because you just have to.

Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 11:10:00 PM EDT  

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