Follow up to another logline for Carrion

At the end of last week I resubmitted my logline for Carrion to Logline it!. If the first batch of replies helped fine-tune my initial submission this second round has focused it even more.

Darrin Nightingale says:
RESUBMISSION: When the government embarks on a genocidal programme against junkies, a self-righteous policeman battles to save his drug using sister.

Lucius Paisley says:
Is it possible to use a different word for “junkies”?

Then you won’t have to use the term “drug using”, since most people would correctly assume that she is a drug user.

For instance – “…genocidal programme against drug abusers, a self-righteous policeman battles to save his sister.”

Also, who is the policeman battling against exactly? The government? His police force? Drug abusers? I think some clarity here may also help.

Darrin Nightingale says:
I use the term junkies because it is more often than not it is used as a derogatory way to describe anyone who take illicit drugs. The government in the story views anyone who takes drugs as junkies. I use the term alternate “drug using” partly to make the point that not all drug users are junkies. But also to reiterate the point that you have a government agent, a prohibitionist, fighting to save a sister targeted for genocide. How about a logline that reads?

When the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.

Thanks for your input.

cynosurer says:
I still think the self righteousness works best as a part of the battle and not a character description.

When the government embarks on a genocidal program against junkies, a/an policeman must confront the system and his own self-righteousness to save his drug using sister.

insert: in your face, hard nosed, street hardened, crusty, old, jaded, tough as nails, washed up…
I don’t know how you make it work with the sister. Siblings, having grown up together, aren’t usually very tolerant of the ‘choices’ their siblings make – hence the self righteous ‘you suffer the consequences of your choices’ attitude. It might work better to make it a niece or granddaughter. I would think the extra bit of seperation would actually aid in his conversion… or the widow of his OD’ed brother if you want her to be his contemporary. Just some thoughts. That I have these thought may just mean you need to add a description to the sister other than drug using as her being one is implied by the fact that she needs saving from this program (and ‘program’ would be the Hollywood/Yankee spelling).

cynosurer says:
I had the word ‘insert’ bracketed by the less than greater than symbols between ‘a/an’ and policeman. The brackets must have ‘deleted’ that. So “insert” a description there or choose one of the cliches that I listed.

elizabethban says:
I think it’s the genocidal program that’s unclear. How about,

‘When the government threatens to execute all junkies to stop a drug epidemic, a member of the arresting police force must battle his own self-righteousness in order to be able to save his sister.’

I think sister is spot on. And she should be a younger sister who disobeyed all her bother’s so called ‘advice’. Of course, he never asks why she is doing what she does, just assumes it’s to show him up and embarrass him. He is a pretty narcissistic character, unable to empathise – until this edict, of course.
Anyway, just a suggestion.

Darrin Nightingale says:
As I understand it, genocide means “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.” Perhaps a more concise articulation of the governments intention is to say that the government is targeting junkies for genocide. The genocidal programme is a programme to kill anyone who takes drugs. It starts when the govenment release swarms of drug eating insects that go on to attack users. The government then deny medical attention those users. As the programme progresses the government declares martial law, sweep the city, shooting users on sight. Fundamentally the government’s intention is genocide. They intend to kill all junkies/drug users. Your understanding of the brother/sister relationship is spot on. There’s a fifteen year age difference between the two of them. So when their parents are killed in a car crash and he has to take care of her, it creates all kinds of tensions. Tensions that come to a head when he arrests his sister for possession at the beginning of the story. With that in mind, what about a logline that reads.

When the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.

Thanks for your input.

It interesting to see the huge difference between the logline I initially posted and the one that now seems the most concise telling of the story. Gone are any reference to drug eating insects. Something that seemed to be irreplaceable early in my attempts at a logline. Instead they’ve been replaced by the intention of the insects, genocide. Here’s first and final loglines side by side for you to compare.

When the government release swarms of drug eating insects to kill the junkie population a self-righteous policeman risks everything as he struggles to save his drug using sister from the tyrannical forces of prohibition.

When the government targets junkies for genocide, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.


Another logline for Carrion

A week ago I submitted a logline for Carrion to Logline It!. Overall it was pretty rewarding experience. I had some really positive responses. You can see how I got on in my previous post My experience with Logline It! I was going over some stuff today and came up with an even more accurate logline for Carrion.

When the government embarks on a genocidal programme against junkies, a self-righteous policeman battles to save his drug using sister.

I’m resubmiting it to Logline It!. Let’s see what they think.

The iceberg opponent

While skipping through Anatomy of Story by John Truby, I landed on a section called The Iceberg Opponent.

Truby argues, to make your antagonist as dangerous as possible, you should create a hierarchy of opponents, and “hide the hierarchy from the hero and the audience”.

This worries me slightly because Adam’s opponents aren’t really hidden from him. The only element really hidden from him is the true nature of prohibition, and I’m not sure if that’s enough?

Adam’s main opponent is Reiner, he wants to stop Adam achieving his desire, saving Christine. As the plot develops, Adam encounters ever more hostile forces, police, military, insects. These are less hidden opponents, and more a hierarchy of force.

Why would they hide?

As I’ve noted in an earlier post “prohibitionist’s aren’t shy about telling us they think users should be killed”. Truby urges you to “always look for the deepest conflict that your hero and opponent are fighting over”.

In “The antagonist’s antagonist” I note Adam and Reiner are actually fighting over the kind of society they live in. Which version will prosper? “Will it be a society of freedom ultimately chosen by Adam or will it be a society of security demanded by Reiner?”

So this is a fight for freedom or security.

If you dig even deeper security is actually an analogue of power. I often quip prohibition isn’t about public health, it’s about public control. It’s a aphoristic way of saying prohibition is a mechanism used to control the population.

Adam’s real opponent, the opponent hidden at the deepest part of the iceberg, is actually power. Not just any power, the power to destroy an entire class of people, because they don’t fit their view of how you should live in the world.

What Reiner is actually fighting for is tyranny.

My experience with Logline It!

I recently came across a website dedicated to perfecting the art of the logline. Logline It! is a site that allows you to test your logline “before you send it into the world”.

I have a difficult relationship with loglines, they’re hard to write, requiring the kind of sparse clarity you won’t find anywhere else. I know Twitter limits you to 140 characters but Twitter is the shotgun compared to the precision of a logline’s sniper rifle.

As with all things to do with art of screenwriting, the logline has a history. The term goes back to the old days of the Hollywood studios. Stories and screenplays would be “logged” by the story department. The logline identifies projects throughout its life at the studios. A good logline is supposed to “convey the dramatic story of a screenplay in the most abbreviated manner possible”. It should tell us who the story is about, not his name but the essence of who he is, what he wants, his desire, and finally what stands in his way, his antagonist.

I write and rewrite mine until they stop making sense. Frankly it’s a little soul destroying. If I’m honest I don’t really finish one, it just gets to the point where I have to say that’s it. I make it as good as I can but always have this nagging doubt that I just haven’t nailed it.

So you can imagine the trepidation I felt when I posted a logline for Carrion on Logline It!. What follows is the conversation about my Carrion longline.

Darrin Nightingale posted:
When the government release swarms of drug eating insects to kill the junkie population a self-righteous policeman risks everything as he struggles to save his drug using sister from the tyrannical forces of prohibition.

patrockd says:
An interesting concept and logline – with protag, goal, obstacles and stakes! It can be trimmed down though. Howabout:

When the government releases a swarm of junkie killing insects, a self righteous policeman must save his addict sister.

Darrin Nightingale says:
I thought I was being concise until I read your version. I like the sparseness. Part of me has been afraid to be that essential. But, as your version eloquently illustrates, sparseness is the name of the game with loglines. There is one thing I would change. I prefer the phrase “drug using sister” instead of “addict sister”. How does this sound?

When the government release swarms of junkie killing insects a self-righteous policeman struggles to save his drug using sister.

I know it’s pedantic but the distinction that not all drug users are addicts is really important to the story. I might be wrong. You tell me. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

toastman says:
I suppose it depends on the drug. If it’s heroin, I’d say “heroin”. Unless she’s just a casual weed smoker, in which case this is a different film that what I’d be expecting.

toastman says:
If it’s prescription pain-killers, that’s another story as well. I think I need to know what drug.

Darrin Nightingale says:
The story deals specifically with illicit drugs. The insects are genetically engineered to eat drugs. A different insect for each drug. The pathology of the insects involve the drug users in their reproductive cycle. Basically the insects are released. Feed on the drugs. Then attack a user of that drug. The insects larva then use the host as food. Literally eating the user from the inside out. Killing the host when they mature and escape the body. The insects are manifestation of prohibition taken to its merciless unrelenting conclusion.

Kriss Tolliday says:
I agree it does have all the relevant components for a log line so kudos my friend, however (always a but) I would lose the generic ‘risks everything’ and trim down some unnecessary parts like the ‘tyrannical forces of prohibition’. It is a good idea but just needs telling in fewer words. I wander if maybe to not include the insects and keep the way they kill them a mystery or be able to get what they are across in fewer words as the opening line takes a while to build momentum.
Overall though a really interesting idea.

Darrin Nightingale says:
I agree with everything you said but didn’t really see it so clearly until you pointed it out. The phrases “risks everything” and “tyrannical forces of prohibition” are, as you said, generic and unnecessary. Taking on board your advise to not include the insect and prompted by patrockd’s reply I offer this revision.

When the government start to kill the junkie population, a self-righteous policeman fights to save his drug using sister.

How does that sound? This has been really interesting for me. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

cynosurer says:
Not sure I like the phrase ‘self righteous’. With it’s negative connotation you could be starting off with a hero nobody likes. That’s okay in a script but in a logline it can be troublesome. It almost makes me want the sister to be the protag. Also you might want to give the guy more of a connection to the program: When the government’s secret plan to kill junkies with mutant insects projects a DEA administrator’s ‘casual use’ sister as ‘acceptable collateral damage’ he takes on a swarm of self righteous DEA agents.
Suggested titles:
Buzz Kill
CounteRAID (winner of the product placement award)
Swarm to Protect

cynosurer says:
A slight fix to get it to 30 words:
A secret plan to kill junkies with mutant insects projects a DEA agents’s ‘casual use’ sister as ‘acceptable collateral damage’. He takes on a swarm of self-righteous administrators and bugs.

Darrin Nightingale says:
Thanks for your input but your ideas take the story in a completely different direction. My story basically forces a prohibitionist to experience the cruelty of prohibition and deals with the outcome of that experience. The protagonist’s self-righteousness is a manifestation of his beliefs as a prohibitionist. By the end of the story he is the polar opposite but self-righteous really is the only way to describe his moral and psychological weakness at the beginning of the story. I’m not too worried about describing a hero nobody likes. I hope he is someone people empathise with. For me his self-righteousness raises a moral dilemma that is interesting. He’s a prohibitionist with a drug using sister. When the prohibitionists start to kill the junkie population. What does he do? Does he remain a prohibitionist and let his sister be killed? Or does he take action and risk everything to save her? It forces him into a corner and asks him to make a compelling choice. Your logline hints at a secret plan. This is interesting because early in the development of the story the drug eating insects were part of a coup d’etat. The crisis caused by the insects was a stepping stone that allowed a military dictatorship to take power. I abandoned the idea because I was unable to reconcile the general hostility prohibitionist have towards users and the inherent secrecy of a plan. Prohibitionist’s aren’t shy about tell us they think users should be killed. It seemed more compelling for the protagonist to go up against the whole of society, rather than have him uncover a plot to kill a class of people society vilifies. Thanks for taking the time to reply. It’s allowed me to clarify my idea and steer my logline to be that bit better.

cynosurer says:
Thanks for the explanation. With that in mind you might consider making it more a part of the conflict than character description… in the logline
A crusading policeman must reassess his self-righteous nature when a government plan to use mutant insects to kill junkies indiscriminately targets his drug using sister.

If I had to pick one logline I’d have to go with patrockd’s version. It really is the essence of the story told in as few words as possible. Interestingly cynosurer’s comments highlighted for me the moral dilemma at the core of the story. I hadn’t realised how much I’d invested in the protagonists self-righteousness, closing the gap between that weakness and his sister is the essence of the story.

Change requires optimism

I realised something today, after writing “The antagonist’s antagonist“, change requires optimism. For things to change you must possess “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something”.

Just a thought and something I’m sure I will come back to.

The antagonist’s antagonist

In an earlier post “Adam’s opponents” I mentioned John Truby‘s notion of four cornered opposition.

The strategy increases the depth of a story, by increasing the number of opponents the protagonist has to deal with. It makes all the characters more rounded, because he’s forced to deal with the central problem of the story, from at least three other points of view.

For Carrion I’ve designed a four cornered opposition which places Adam in conflict with Reiner. They’re the mirror of each other, similar in many ways, but because Adam decides to save Christine they become mortal enemies.

Reiner is the prototypical prohibitionist fighting with Adam over the kind of society they live in, which version of society will prosper? Will it be a society of freedom ultimately chosen by Adam, or a society of security demanded by Reiner?

Adam’s second opponent is Christine. Although she’s his sister and it’s his attempts to save her that put him conflict with Reiner, they’re still in conflict with each other. While she articulates the point of view of the drug user in the story, deep down their opposition is about how he treats his younger sibling. Is he able to respect her point of view, treat her as an equal, behave more compassionately, less patriarchally towards her?

The final character in this four cornered opposition is Sexton. He’s not only in opposition with Adam and Christine but also Reiner. He is the binary opposite to Reiner, the antagonist’s antagonist, articulating the dealer’s point of view in the story, I think? When I fist envisioned Sexton he was the stereotypical drug dealer. I had in my head the many incarnation of drug dealers in cinema, the hapless career criminal of Henry Hill in Goodfellas. He get’s high on his own supply, and drops himself straight into witness protection. I thought of the accent wielding, coke snorting, gun touting nihilist Tony Montana in Scarface. Before considering the calculating, ruthless, out for profit businesspersons of Carlos and Helena Ayala portrayed in Traffic.

The thing is, none of these interpretation of a drug dealers represent my understanding of who Sexton is in Carrion. It wasn’t until I realised Sexton has to be more optimistic that I started to get a handle on who he really is. A large part of that realisation came while reading Jack London’s “The Iron Heel”. A dystopian fiction about the rise of an oligarchic tyranny in the United States. Completed in 1908 London’s novel is based on the fictional “Everhard Manuscript” written by Avis Everhard, hidden and subsequently found centuries later. Added to this manuscript are a series of footnotes written by fictional scholar Anthony Meredith around 2600 AD. It’s a Marxist interpretation of capital told as a love story between Avis and Ernest Everhard. Avis is the middle class daughter of an academic whose eyes are opened to the plight of the proletariat at the hands of the plutocracy. Ernest Everhard is a hero of the working man who is martyred by the oligarchy as he attempts to progress the revolution and progress society to a socialist future. He’s a smart character with a clear view of the world and what he is fighting for.

Reading The Iron Heel made me realise that Sexton needs to have something of the Ernest Everhard’s about him. Adam’s not going to respond to the hapless actions of a character like Henry Hill. He’s not going to listen to the nihilistic rants of a Tony Montana. The ruthless logic of a businessman like Carlos Ayala won’t persuade him to see the world differently. Adam’s only going to respond to someone who is able to see what’s happening and articulate enough to communicate it. He has to be intelligent, articulate, and willing to take direct action.

I’m a little worried that he might come across as unbelievable, somewhat fanciful, an idealist. I know it’s a risk, but take solace in having encountered one or two character who are evangelical about drugs, who take pride in proselytising the grace offered by psychotropic substances.

Carrion needs Sexton, it needs him to show Adam how to live in the world.

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