This is a repost of a post that originally appeared on June 27, 2014 on the Maximum Z blog.
I’ve been making an effort over the past few weeks to build my network of writing acquaintances, which has involved connecting on assorted social media networks.
Several of these include groups of like-minded people that offer up the opportunity to ask questions, get feedback, etc.
One of them was about loglines.
Feeling fairly confident but open to suggestions about the one for my western, I typed it in, hoping somebody might have some helpful comments.
Within minutes, the response came in: “…or? What’s at stake? What are the consequences?”
Hmm. Well, her train’s been stolen, which…puts her livelihood at stake? And it’s going to be used in a major heist, so the consequences are…widespread? I’ve always hated this part. Maybe I’m not giving enough information?
I wrote back: “open to suggestions.”
Past experience with logline feedback via online forums, while occasionally frustrating, has sometimes yielded positive results.
A few minutes later: “I’m a producer and script consultant, not a psychic. If I knew what the story was about, knew the protagonist’s motives, knew what the antagonist was doing and why, and knew what was at stake and the consequences of certain actions, I would make a suggestion. However, with so little on offer, there’s little I can do other repeat what I’ve already said.”
I’m not arguing anything after the word ‘psychic’. It’s not easy to get all of that across in a logline. It’s much harder than most writers realize.
(Side note – I love it when somebody backs up their comments with the proclamation of their qualifications. As expected, a quick internet search of this person’s “producer and script consultant” credentials yielded both jack and squat. It took a lot of effort to not ask them for more details.)
Desperately seeking resolution, I offered: “Would you be willing to take a look at the 1-page synopsis to get a better understanding of the story?”
Soon afterward: “based on your logline, no”
And that was that.
While I didn’t have a problem with the actual advice, there just seemed to be this overall tone of angry condescension in their text. “Grr! I know what I’m talking about! My advice is infallible and you’re an idiot if you don’t listen to me! Grr! Argh!” Maybe I was just reading too much into it?
Honestly, it kind of nagged at me for the rest of the day. I always thought the point of these groups was to help each other. Sure, sometimes people just don’t get it, but I’m more likely to appreciate your comments if you seem willing/interested in actually helping me.
Later in the day, somebody with no connection to me whatsoever called this person out for being unnecessarily cruel (a bit harsh, but I understood where they were coming from). I made a point of staying totally out of what soon became a snippy back-and-forth of “I’m right, you’re wrong”.
So much for taking part in that group again.
Still seeking some kind of help, I tried again on a different forum, but approached it from a different angle.
I listed the logline plus some key story details that might help, adding how I was seeking some bolstering in terms of including stakes and consequences. (The original responder may have come across as an asshole, but I didn’t think their advice was wrong.)
There was a significant difference in the responses. A lot were not only helpful, but practical and encouraging, including this gem – “I love this logline. If I were a producer I’d want to read it. Hell, I still want to read it, just because it sounds like fun.”
I felt a little better, had what I felt was a stronger logline, and a few requests to read the script. Nice.
As part of that aforementioned back-and-forth, my original responder said they were just preparing new writers for the kinds of responses they should expect from the industry if they submit “subpar material”.
While I can understand that kind of thinking, it seems that people are more likely to heed your advice or suggestions if you actually come across as helpful, rather than sound like we’re wasting your time and the last thing you want to deal with right now.
But then again, I’m just a nice guy to begin with, so what do I know?