Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need (06)


The number one thing a good logline must have, the single most important element, is: irony. My good friend and former writing partner, the funny and fast-typing Colby Carr, pointed this out to me one time and he’s 100% correct. And that goes for whether it’s a comedy or a drama.

A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists — Die Hard

A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend — Pretty Woman

I don’t know about you, but I think both of these loglines, one from a drama, one from a romantic comedy, fairly reek of irony. And irony gets my attention. It’s what we who struggle with loglines like to call the hook, because that’s what it does. It hooks your interest.

What is intriguing about each of the spec sales I’ve cited above is that they, too, have that same ironic touch. A holiday season of supposed family joy is turned on its cynical head in the 4 Christmases example. What could be more unexpected (another way to say “ironic”) for a new employee, instead of being welcomed to a company, to be faced with a threat on his life during

The Retreat? What Colby identified is the fact that a good logline must be emotionally intriguing, like an itch you have to scratch.

A logline is like the cover of a book; a good one makes you want to open it, right now, to find out what’s inside. In identifying the ironic elements of your story and putting them into a logline, you may discover that you don’t have that. Well, if you don’t, then there may not only be something wrong with your logline — maybe your story’s off, too. And maybe it’s time to go back and rethink it. Insisting on irony in your logline is a good place to find out what’s missing. Maybe you don’t have a good movie yet.


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