Vague, A Definition
Newsflash: a vague logline kills your pitch … But then we know this. Every Bang2writer paying attention knows a logline (aka short pitch) should have CLARITY. It’s one of what B2W calls ‘The 3 Cs’ (clarity, conflict, clarity). Without clarity, we got nothin’.
So why then, are there SO MANY vague loglines flying about?
First, it’s helpful to consider what we mean by ‘vague’. Here’s the dictionary definition of vague, below. Check out those keywords and synonyms …
For the purposes of this post then, when we say a logline is ‘too vague’, the story’s meaning is NOT CLEAR ENOUGH. Okay? Then let’s go …
First up, let’s be upstanding for brave Bang2writer Alexia, who posted this logline online recently, which I discussed with her. Alexia very kindly gave me permission to post this logline for this case study on the main site. Here’s her original pitch …
After he unexpectedly befriended his favourite actor, a nine-year-old kid must protect the Hollywood star’s secret, even if that means losing both his mother and his innocence.
Perhaps this looks pretty good to you and straight off the bat I will say yes, it is pretty good. Alexia understands she must introduce the characters, such as the protagonist (the nine-year old) and the antagonist (the Hollywood star). She also gives us an idea of the threat here (the secrets) as well as the stakes (losing his mum/innocence).
However, whilst it is definitely not ‘dead’ like the blog headline, Alexia’s logline could do with some tweakage. This is because when it comes to B2W’s fabled 3 Cs, it lacks one thing … CLARITY. More on why, next.
No Secret? No Story
This is the thing. When it comes to most stories in most genres and mediums, there will be a REVEAL of some kind. This is especially true when it comes to thrillers, which Alexia’s appears to be.
In other words then, the notion of secrets is a GIVEN here. This means the logline currently feels rather vague to me. I’m struggling to engage.
What’s more, this also means Alexia’s notion of the star ‘having’ to keep the star’s secrets is pretty redundant at pitch level. If the kid can ‘just’ tell someone, the threat literally goes away. After all, his mother and innocence are at stake here, so why would he NOT ‘just’ tell???
Aaah, but then surely that would depend on what the secrets were … and you would be right.
So I decided to get to the heart of the matter and asked Alexia what was *really* going on here …
As you can see, the boy is being MANIPULATED by the star. Okay, good. So that means the ‘secrets’ mentioned in the logline aren’t the real issue then, but the star??
But Alexia says no … the secrets *are* the danger. Okay, so WHAT IS THE SECRET?
BOOM!!! There It Is
The secret is … the Hollywood star is a paedophile predator.
Suddenly I am a LOT more engaged with this idea, because it now has CLARITY … I’m thinking about
- Characters … How the antagonist may seem like ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ and the protagonist may be cast as a ‘trouble-maker’
- Authenticity … how children do NOT always tell on their abusers.
- Relatability … in the era of #MeToo, audiences will be interested in this subject
In other words, I can see how this story might WORK. That did not happen when Alexia gave me vague notions of ‘secrets’. So here’s my potential rewrite for her …
Do note my use of the word of the word ‘potential rewrite’ in the last section, by the way. Alexia is the authority on her own work. I am not saying she ‘should’ write her logline ‘my’ way. Instead, the purpose of this case study is to illustrate that when pitching, we NEED TO OFFER UP ALL THE PERTINENT INFORMATION UPFRONT.
If we want an agent, publisher, producer or filmmaker to invest their time and/or money in your story, they have to know what’s going on.
This is what ‘clarity’ truly means. DON’T hide your story behind vagaries like ‘secrets’, or you will kill your pitch stone dead.
Kill Vague Loglines With FIRE!
So don’t allow your logline or short pitch to become vague, uncertain, indefinite, unclear, hazy or cloudy. Never imagine holding stuff back makes it more appealing, because it doesn’t. A great pitch tells us exactly what we’re dealing with, UPFRONT.
For more on all this, download the B2W Cheat Sheet On How To Write A Logline.
For B2W offers and free stuff first, join my EMAIL LIST