Revolutions Anthology



Publication looms for the superlative Manchester Speculative Fiction Group anthology “Revolutions”, as the proof copies are being checked for last minute spelling and punctuation as we speak!

This promises to be an awesome collection of stories, folks. The Manchester Speculative Fiction group has been going for some years now, but this is our first anthology. It showcases not only work by group members, but by many talented writers across the world. The only criterion was that all the stories had to be set in Manchester, England. Whether this is the Manchester we all know and love (it’s currently pouring with rain as I’m typing), or a future, past or alternative Manchester was left to the writers. So expect the unexpected!

This is an exciting time for myself and the other editors. More details will follow nearer the launch date.  I just couldn’t wait to share these pics with you all!

Until next time…

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Do you like Anthologies of Urban Fantasy Stories?

Okay, shameless plug time.

Not exactly hot off the presses but still relatively recent is TWISTED BOULEVARD, an anthology of surprising Urban Fantasy fiction by Elektrik Milk Bath Press (don’t ask).


There are all manner of goodies inside, including a story by yours truly! BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN is about an anything-but-typical day in London after something has gone terribly wrong with the universe! If you like Urban Fantasy, this could well be the anthology for you!

You can get yours here at

or here at

Any reviews of this under-read collection of short stories would be most welcome. Pretty please with a cherry on top???



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The Many Different Types of Horror Movie Scare!

What techniques do horror movie makers use to make a film scary? The answer is, many. Serious critics often vilify horror movies as cheap, vile “video nasties”.  But in reality, a horror movie is a complex machine. Some of the best ones operate on many levels. So today we’re going to examine just what makes a horror film scary.

I’m not talking about monsters or violence. Instead, I’m talking about the methods writers and directors use to make us jump out of our skins or hide behind the sofa (don’t tell me you’ve never done that) in our favourite scary films!

This is by no mean an exhaustive list of the types of scares to be found in horror movies. But here are the ones I’ve noticed a lot.


Cat Scares and Hidden Attacks abound in

Cat Scares and Hidden Attacks abound in “Alien”!

The Jump Scare

The laziest kind of scare. The hero or heroine is walking around the creepy old house when BOO! It’s the monster! Usually it leaps straight at the camera so we experience for the shock ourselves. This is the kind of scare that easily gets on your nerves. For a classic example, see the “head in the boat” scene in JAWS. Check out many modern movie trailers for more inept examples.


The Lewton Bus

Also known as the “Cat Scare” or “Faux Scare”.

Ever noticed how sometimes the hero or heroine will be walking through the dark old house/deserted spaceship looking for the monster, when suddenly BOO! out jumps the monster. Oh wait, it’s not the monster after all. It’s only the cat. Or maybe it’s the boyfriend that puts his hand on the heroine’s shoulder. You’ve just been played for a sucker.

The origin of this term is legendary film producer Val Lewton, who used this to great effect in the classic original THE CAT PEOPLE (1942). If you’ve never seen it, get yourself a copy. It’s been ripped off hundreds if not thousands of times since.

“Nested” Cat Scare

A modern twist on the Cat Scare is that right after the innocuous event the real monster DOES appear! This would be more interesting except that it’s also been done a thousand times. For a more interesting variety, check out AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Our hero has a terrifying dream involving a monster with a knife. He wakes up to find… his nurse leaning over him. She goes to the window, opens the curtains and…BOO! The monster jumps out from behind the curtains and stabs her in the chest. Our hero screams. Then he wakes up again. The nurse is there and she goes to the window. She draws the curtains again and… nothing happens. A very unsettling scene.


 Mirror Scares / Reveal Scare

How many times have you seen the hero or heroine go to the bathroom, open the mirrored bathroom cabinet (it always has a mirror, doesn’t it?), close it again and… BOO! There’s the refection of the monster right behind them in the mirror! Modern variants include refrigerator doors with monsters inexplicably appearing behind them. Once again, this has become a massive cliché. Still pretty scary, though.


Loud noises

A relative of the jump scare.  But instead of seeing something, we hear it. For a recent example check out the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies. Although here the scare is used quite effectively, as the loud noises build up over each night, making the audience dread each sundown more and more. And, of course, they are very inexpensive to create!


Hidden attack

Typically, this very effective scare hits us from another direction from that in which we were looking. Not to be confused with the Cat Scare, which is supposed to get us on the edge of our seat before the attack happens. This scare comes out of nowhere. It’s a bolt from the blue.

Done well, this is one of the best scares. A classic example is the infamous chestburster scene from ALIEN where the creature explodes out of John Hurt’s chest. But other examples can be found. John Carpenter’s underrated THE FOG contains several of these. There’s also a great one in EXORCIST III. The camera sits at the end of a long hall in a hospital. A nurse sits at the desk, doing paperwork. Other people come and go. The nurse goes to check the rooms. She walks up the corridor. Behind her, very subtly, the other people leave one by one. She locks the last door, turns to go into the room opposite and BOO! What is that behind her? The monster explodes out of the locked doorway with a very nasty set of surgical scissors in hand. You’ve just been caught out by the Hidden Attack!



This technique has been described as what happens when the audience knows as much as the character on screen. We’ve all seen those films where the hero or heroine (more probably) approaches the door, knowing there’s a killer/monster on the other side. They open the door slowly and …. BOO!

Nowadays this is pretty clichéd. Modern viewers tend not to buy this setup. There’s no way anyone with half a mind would go towards the location of a dangerous lunatic or hungry monster. So filmmakers try to find increasingly bizarre ways of getting the character to go towards the fear instead of away from it. Personally, if I never saw a character go toward the monster again, I wouldn’t mind. Sometimes it’s best just to accept that certain things are no longer scary.

Hide and Seek

According to Alfred Hitchcock, one of the greatest ways to create suspense is to employ what’s called Dramatic Irony. This is where the audience is aware of a menace that’s creeping up on the unsuspecting hero or heroine. Classic examples of this scare include the original HALLOWEEN (1978). This has pretty much been done to death (no pun intended) by the Slasher genre. By now the audience has become so familiar with it, it’s almost like an in-joke for the crowd. See the SCREAM movies for pastiches on this technique.


Mystery POV

A cousin of “Hide and Seek” is the Mystery POV, also known as the Dark Intruder POV. Here, the camera becomes the eyes of the killer/monster. We see it approach the unsuspecting victim. Classic examples include JAWS, when we see the unsuspecting swimmers paddling in the sea from below. Suddenly the camera rushes up to those dangling legs and… CRUNCH!

It’s a strange technique in that it sometimes arouses sympathy with the killer! Italian cinema has often used this technique to jarring effect. The Giallo films of Dario Argento, such as DEEP RED, often show us the killer preparing to commit (and committing) increasingly bizarre murders. It’s a sort of comment on how, just as audiences like to be scared, they might also be enjoying the thrill of seeing the murders onscreen. Creepy.

Endurance horror

This is an interesting technique. Films such as the original THE EVIL DEAD (1981) were marketed as “endurance horrors”. The basic idea is that you throw so much at the audience that they can’t take any more. Eventually, the slightest thing sends them over the edge and leaves them a quivering bundle of nerves. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) is a great example of this. By the time we get to the crazy “feast” scene at the end of the movie, the heroine (and the audience) are emotional wrecks!

Birds Film

Claustrophobia and suspense in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”!



Another lazy technique. This just means making the audience want to gag. In the hands of a master, like body-horror maestro David Cronenberg (THE FLY, SHIVERS) it’s truly terrifying and will stay with you for life. In the hands of anyone else, it’s just yucky. Bad examples abound, I’m just not going to go there.


Surreal Scare

My favourite kind of scare. This happens when you see something that looks so startlingly out of the ordinary that it’s frightening. It’s a “Thing that should not be”. Classic examples include David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD… or practically anything by David Lynch.

My favourite example is the famous vampire boy from the TV movie SALEM’S LOT (1979). Here, a boy awakens one night to find another recently deceased boy floating outside his window, scratching to be let inside. He foolishly opens the window. The dead boy floats in. He’s pale, rotting maybe. He has yellow eyes, long teeth and he’s very, very hungry. An extremely scary scene indeed.

Fear of the Unknown 

Horror writer HP Lovecraft once said that the greatest fear of mankind is the fear of the unknown. Some horror movies play on our sense of dread at not knowing what lurks within the darkness. The Found Footage horror genre uses this one a lot (primarily because it involves not seeing anything and is therefore cheap). At crucial points all the lights will go out. Cue screams, banging and general terror. Examples include THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, which proves that sometimes it’s what you don’t see that’s more frightening.


A close relative of the “Repulsion” technique, except that this involves repeatedly showing us images of something we find scary. Often this involves animals. Sharks, spiders, snakes, parasites, wolves, diseases, all these things are pretty scary. Or it could be a fear of flying, falling, the ocean, dismemberment, disfigurement or other types of grisly death. Examples include SNAKES ON A PLANE. However, you can forget the rather unscary ARACHNOPHOBIA.

Claustrophobia is another sub-type of this scare. The original DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) uses this to excellent effect. The heroes are all trapped in a shopping mall with hundreds of zombies. The undead might be slow, but there are so many that escape is impossible. The classic shot from that film occurs when a character thinks himself safe in an elevator, only to be swamped by zombies when the door opens. This type of scare lingers long after the film ends.


Loss Of Identity

What’s more scary than dying? Losing your soul, of course. Horror movies recognize this. Many classic genre tropes like werewolves, vampires and zombies prey upon out fear of losing our sense of self, that thing which makes us who we are. The undead are not our real loved ones; they are unthinking, hungry shells out for our blood! Smart movies play with this type of scare. One of the best is THE INVASION OF THE BODYSNATCHERS (1956). We crawl with terror as people slowly lose their identity and are replaced with the hive-minded, unfeeling pod people. And when you are the only real human being left… well, that’s a truly frightening prospect!

The Chase

Chase sequences abound in horror movies. It’s a close cousin of the “suspense” scare. Both we and the character know there’s something right behind them, trying to catch up. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE employs the classic example of this as the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface pursues the hapless heroine through the woods.



This is less common nowadays and has become a cliché. In the early days of horror cinema it consisted of an old dark house, scary inhabitants, flickering lanterns, lightning storms, etc. etc. The old Universal horror movies of FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE WOLF MAN (1941)  contain many examples. However, something of this still survives in so-called J—Horror, which subverts this type of scare.  Here, ghosts pop up in banal places, like modern Tokyo, Internet chat rooms, or tenement buildings. See the Japanese originals of THE GRUDGE, PULSE, and DARK WATER for examples.

So there you are, my main types of horror movie scares. Doubtless I’ve omitted a few, so feel free to correct me. Now go out there and scare the pants off people!


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Update on Revolutions Anthology! (sort of)



Been relatively busy recently so this will be a short-ish post. Over the past few weeks I’ve been editing The Manchester Speculative Fiction Group’s first ever anthology, “REVOLUTIONS”, together with my co-editors. This is a science-fiction/horror/fantasy compendium of short stories, all loosely connected to my home town of Manchester, England in some way. So I thought I would take a moment to share some insights into Manchester.

Manchester is a city that is close to my heart. Like a piece of shrapnel from a bullet wound that is lodged there. I don’t think I’m alone in having a love/hate relationship with the city. On the one hand, it has a proud industrial heritage, a lively student population, the BBC, world-class football, great shopping, and architecture so good they filmed part of “Captain America” here. On the other hand it suffered greatly from urban decay, has sprawling council estates, and the levels of high crime, poverty and homelessness associated with many inner cities. And did I mention the football?

In recent years Manchester has changed again, with the creation of the rather Bohemian Northern Quarter section, full of quirky cafes and bars. Manchester today is a city in flux.

If you want to know what Manchester is like, you can see a rather sanitized version of it here…

Manchester's lovely Town Hall.

Manchester’s lovely Town Hall.

or here…


A rather nice leafy suburb in Greater Manchester.

A rather nice leafy suburb in Greater Manchester.


…or here are some rather less flattering images:

Manchester town centre.

Manchester town centre.


Or here…

Brunswick council estate, Manchester.

Brunswick council estate, Manchester.

Or perhaps here…

Studentville, Manchester.

Studentville, Manchester.


Like it or loathe it, Manchester has always been fertile ground for poets, artists, writers and musicians. There’s something about the place that inspires escapism. Perhaps it’s all that industrial age architecture (while some of the new buildings in the city centre are straight out of a science-fiction novel) or the twisting back alleys that could hold unexpected tales of horror or fantasy. In any case, it has inspired some fascinating stories that hopefully we’ll be sharing with you in the coming months.

Until then, here are some of the famous (or notorious) people who have come from the city:

Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange novelist), Professor Brian Cox (physicist and TV presenter), The Stone Roses, LS Lowry (artist), The Bee Gees, Robert Donat (actor), Oasis, The Hollies, Joy Division and New Order, Davy Jones (The Monkees), David Lloyd George (Prime Minister), Ian McShane (actor), Emmeline Pankhurst (Suffragette),Thomas De Quincey (novelist), The Happy Mondays, John Thaw (actor), 10cc, The Buzzcocks, Elkie Brooks (Singer), Elbow, Georgie Fame (Singer), George Formby (comedy actor), Manchester United Football Club, Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman’s Hermits, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Morrissey and The Smiths, Sad Café, Lisa Stansfield, Simply Red, The Verve, Stephen Leather (novelist), Nicholas Royle (novelist), Bernard Hill (actor Titanic, Lord of the Rings), David Warner (actor Tron, The Omen), Jack Wild (child actor Oliver!), Harold Shipman (Britain’s biggest ever serial killer), Beryl Reid (actress), The Moors Murderers, Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden novelist), Winston Churchill (Born in Oxfordshire but MP for Oldham and then MP for Manchester North-West).

Maybe we’ll see more names added to the list after the anthology!

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How to get your short story published!

By way of an update about the Revolutions Anthology I am editing (along with my fellow members of the Manchester Speculative Fiction Group), I thought I would share some insights about how to submit a story to an editor.

The reason I’m doing this is that I have been surprised by how many people don’t know the best way to do this. So here are some tips about sending out your short stories if you’re a fledgling writer (or even if you’re not).

Submissions are closed now for the anthology, and myself and my fellow editors are busy reading through a small mountain of stories. But I have noticed some simple errors that will stop you from being published. 



Except for a word limit of 6,000 words we only had two rules for the Revolutions Anthology. One, stories had to be speculative (science-fiction, fantasy, horror or slipstream). Two, they had to be connected in some way to Greater Manchester, England.

That was it.

First of all, here’s what NOT to do.

– Send things the publisher doesn’t publish. We would love to have published a novel, but that wasn’t what we set out to do. We wanted short stories. Period. So sending us anything else is just a waste of your (and our) time.

– Send us a long list of stories we might like and ask us to pick one. Sorry, but it’s up to you to decide which story to submit.

Here’s what you should really do:

– Be professional.

That’s it.

The general public often see writing as a strange profession, part shaman, part celebrity. You sit down and magically produce a novel or short story which a publisher then falls in love with. And lo, a legend is born!

Alas, not so.

Writers are just like anyone else. They have to work.

If you want to submit a short story you have already written to a publisher (for instance, an anthology or magazine editor) check first to see if it’s the kind of thing they would want. FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!

This is so important, I’ll say it again: FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES!

Editors are busy. They set guidelines because it helps them save time. We all want to save time. So save yours and theirs by FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES (there, I said it again).

So what should you send?

1) Your story, either attached or emebedded in the e-mail as per their GUIDELINES (!).

2) A short covering letter (short being the operative word). This should tell them the following:

– Who you are

– What you are submitting (How long it is. What genre it is. It’s title)

– If necessary, a short one paragraph biography detailing any relevant publishing credits you have, or any relevant experience you have. Note the word RELEVANT. If you’re a palaeontologist and your story is about fossils, that MIGHT be relevant. If you’re a divorce lawyer and your story is about a wertiger, it probably is going to be less relevant. Use common sense.


DO try to address the letter to the editor by name. It’s not always possible. Some are shy about putting their names on their wesbites. But “Dear Bob” always sounds better than “Dear editors” or “Dear Sir/Madam”.

DO NOT spell the editors names incorrectly.

DO NOT assume that anyone who uses their initials only is a man (or woman). A good tip for this is to address them by their initials, e.g. “Dear T.J.”

A good letter should also include a good-bye. Something simple like “I hope you enjoy the story and look forward to hearing from you in due course, Yours sincerely, Eric.” is enough.

That’s it.

After that, send your shiny e-mail off into the ether and wait. Wait again. Then wait a bit more.

DO NOT pester the editor with e-mails every few weeks asking if they’ve read your story. I  myself only ever chase up a submission if it’s something I’ve personally been asked to submit. It’s a sad fact that some publishers never reply to you. Take that as a rejection.

Once you’ve done all that, either:

a) REJOICE! Your submission was successful. You are now a published author!


b) REPEAT the above.

Nobody ever said being a writer would be easy! Writing requires persistence, patience, and above all, a thick skin. Not everyone will appreciate your genius right off the bat. Don’t let that deter you. Get back in their champ and keep swinging!

Following the above will not guarantee that your story will ever see the light of day. However, it will guarantee that the editor does not immediately burn your submission (hopefully). Doing these simple things will ensure that you come across as a professional rather than an amateur. And, sometimes, that makes all the difference.



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The only guide to writing a logline you’ll ever need – Part Three!

Welcome to the third and final part of a series of posts about how to write a logline. Whether you’re writing a novel or a screenplay, a logline is an important marketing tool. But with a little practice, anyone can create the perfect logline

Let’s go over what we’ve learned so far (and if you haven’t yet, I’d encourage you to read parts One and Two of this guide):

What is a logline?

A logline is a one or two sentence pitch for your story. 

What is a logline not?

A logline is not a tagline or a teaser. It summarizes the essential elements of the story so that someone can see at a glance what the story is about and whether it is marketable.

What does a logline contain?

A good logline contains as many of the following as possible:

A great TITLE. The GENRE. A HOOK with IRONY. The HERO. The CATALYST. The CHALLENGE the Hero must face. The Hero’s JOURNEY. The ARENA.

Last time we covered what constitutes as great title, how to signpost your genre, what is a Hook, and the importance of a central Hero.

Now for the difficult part!


The next ingredient in our perfect logline recipe is the CATALYST.

In Blake Snyder’s SAVE THE CAT, the catalyst is referred to as the incident that sets the story in motion.

A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s not necessary to reveal all three, but the story must begin somewhere. This is the Catalyst. This moment usually occurs about 10 to 12 minutes into the film. For instance, the catalyst in “Star Wars”, the catalyst is Luke Skywalker discovering the secret tapes held by R2D2. It is this incident which sets the story in motion, as Luke then begins his journey to join the Rebellion. So the Catalyst is Luke joining the Rebellion.

Here is what I’ve noticed: most loglines fail because they are too VAGUE. Authors don’t want to give up the main plot points of their story. Tey want to generate enthusiasm and excitement by not giving the game away.

That is a mistake.

The excitement is in the writing. Not the logline. The logline is a selling tool.  Remember when I said it’s not a Teaser or a Trailer? People need a logline to see if the script is their kind of thing. You don’t have to generate the same amount of page-turning excitement that is in your script. Just focus on getting the essentials down.

For example, here’s my own unproduced “Demophobia” script logline again:

A man with a phobia of people must search a crime-infested city for his missing girlfriend, only to come into conflict with a mysterious entity controlling the homeless population.

Okay. We have a hero. We also have Irony. But what’s the catalyst? His girlfriend is missing. This may be the thing that kicks off the story. But it’s weak. She’s already missing when the story starts? A weak catalyst indicates a weak structure.

I revised this and came up with the following:

When his girlfriend goes missing following a clinical drugs trial, a man with a phobia of people searches for her in a crime-infested city, only to come into conflict with a mysterious entity that controls the homeless population.

It’s not quite “Liar Liar”, but it’s at least a little better. We know that the catalyst is when his girlfriend goes missing. We also get more of a sense of the genre. The drugs and the mysterious entity indicate this may be science-fiction or horror.


Again, most weak loglines omit this. You can’t afford to dance around this issue, as it is the main conflict in your screenplay. It is the struggle the hero faces.

For instance, in “The Poseidon Adventure” the challenge is that the ship is sinking.

Here’s a logline for the movie “Predator”:

“A team of commandos on a mission in the Central American jungle find themselves stalked by an invisible alien hunter.”

How’s that for a challenge?

If your logline doesn’t have a central conflict, chances are your story is weak. This may be because the hero doesn’t have a strong enough GOAL. A lot of scripts and novels have a hero who wanders around without taking charge and pushing the action forward.

So how’s my “Demophobia” logline shaping up?

When his girlfriend goes missing following a clinical drugs trial, a man with a phobia of people searches a crime-infested city for her, only to find that a mysterious entity controlling the homeless population is out to stop him.

Hmm. It has a challenge and conflict. It’s not terrible.  It also has something else going for it:


A movie sets up a promise to the audience. Sometimes this is inherent in the GENRE. Sometimes it’s obvious in the hero’s FLAW.

Audiences are smart these days. They watch a lot of movies. If you set up a hero with a huge flaw (for instance, that he’s a compulsive liar) the audience expects that by the end of the movie he’s going to learn that lying is sometimes bad. You can imply a lot, so you don’t necessarily need to spell this one out.

Improve your logline by hinting at the hero’s TRANSFORMATION – the inner journey he goes on. Here’s where you can even use your logline top improve your script – you can tailor the challenges to suit the FLAW.

For instance, to use my own example of “Demophobia”, the hero has a phobia of people. But he’s forced to go out of his comfort zone into a city and come into conflict with the entire homeless population.  Chances are that by the end of this ordeal he’ll either be a basket case or he’ll have shaken off his phobia off people.

By now you may have realized that the Hero’s Journey stems from the Challenge which forces him to overcome his Flaw.


For instance, at the end of “Liar Liar”, the challenges that lying attorney Jim Carrey will face are going to show him how he can win the day by being truthful. That is his Hero’s Journey.


Sometimes a story can grab a producer’s attention if it involves a setting, group, society, place, or occupation we’ve never seen before. “Top Gun”, for instance, is set in the exciting world of the  USAF’s flight school.

You can also tweak the arena to better suit your story.

To use my “Demophobia” example again, the city is a place full of people – exactly the opposite of where someone with a phobia of crowds would want to hang out. I may have overdone it with having a “crime-infested” city. Sure, cities have crime.  But this seems a little irrelevant to the rest of the logline. But I’ll stick with it for now as it conveys the kind of  intense experience he’s going to face when he sets foot in there.


Sometimes you can add a little spice to your logline if you have an exceptionally cool villain. For instance, the invisible alien hunter in “Predator”. Or how about the great white shark in “Jaws”? A character is only as good as he opponent she is facing, so if you have an unkillable cyborg from the future, you may also want to mention it here. Remember, the aim of the logline is to SELL. If you have something UNIQUE in your story, whatever it is, don’t omit it.

So to wrap things up, here’s our all-singing, all-dancing logline formula:




If your logline contains all these elements, chances are it’s still not ready for the world.

Why? Because it’s probably too complicated.

It can be very hard to distill 110 pages into one or two sentences, especially if you’re emotionally invested in the story. This is why I recommend doing nothing.




Let it sit. Give yourself time to drift away from the story and forget about it. Come back with a fresh vision. Once you are objective, you are in a better place to examine whether or not the logline conveys everything you want it to convey.

For instance, in my logline, do we really need so many adjectives? Do we need the homeless people? Sure, they are a major part of the script. But we’re trying to boil the story down to its  bare essence.

Another thing to remember is that you can go too far in paring things down. You have to give the reader the bare concept, but with enough specifics so that it doesn’t become just another Tagline or Teaser.

This takes time. But the more time you put into your marketing materials the better your chances of success. Remember, you only have ONE CHANCE to make a good impression. That industry pro will not take a second look at the same logline. So make that first time count.

And finally…

Here’s the latest version of my own logline for “Demophobia”:

After his girlfriend goes missing following a clinical drugs trial, an artist with a phobia of people searches the city for her, only to find that a mysterious entity that can leap from body to body is out to stop him at all costs. 


What do you think?

(Let me know if you think I’ve left something out!)



By now you are probably sick to death of loglines.

Good. You are now less likely to send it out before it’s polished to diamond hardness. Put the script in a drawer for a week, then come back and take another look at that logline.

It’s amazing what a different time makes, isn’t it?

You should now know what makes up a successful logline. However, your logline is only as strong as your story. If your logline is weak, it may be that your story is weak. In that case, use your logline to improve your story.

One last thing to bear in mind, is that nobody is perfect. Some of the above loglines lack some elements. “Predator” lacks a hero with a journey. Arnie at the start of the film is Arnie at the end of the film. “The Poseidon Adventure” lacks a central hero, but makes up for it by having a terrific arena and unique challenges.

The point is, you can make up for deficiencies in one aspect by having something else that is truly great. So don’t get all paranoid about loglines to the point where you’re too paralyzed to write. Just ask yourself if your logline contains enough of the above elements to hook whoever it is you’re pitching to.

I hope this guide improves your loglines. And don’t forget, above all else, have fun!

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The only guide to writing a logline you’ll ever need – Part Two

This is the second in three posts on how to write a logline.

In the first post, we looked at what a logline is and, more importantly, what it is not.

We learned that a logline is a basic selling tool for your screenplay or novel. It is  a one or two sentence pitch that aims to tell the reader about your story in a succinct manner in order to save the reader TIME.

We also talked about the difference between a logline and a tagline, a teaser, and a movie cross.

Now comes the meaty part. This where we break down what goes into a good logline.

The NUMBER ONE MISTAKE writers make when pitching their story is that they do not invest time in their marketing materials. Incredible as it seems, they spend months or even years honing their script, then hammer out a logline in minutes and wonder why nobody wants to read it. However, a good logline can open doors, create working relationships, and get your project sold or made.

Sound good, right?

Then read on!



A good logline gets a producer, agent, manager, executive, publisher etc. to continue their relationship with you. Ideally, it gets them to read the script. To this end, you have to ask yourself “What is a producer etc. looking for?”

ANSWER: something they can sell.

Okay. Not very helpful. But you should already have done your research on them to check if this is their kind of project. More on that another time. For now, let’s look at things from their point of view. How do they know if this project is the right thing for them? Bear in mind that they have many, many submissions to go through every single day?

ANSWER: by ensuring it contains the following:

A great TITLE.



Who is the HERO?

What is the CATALYST?

What is the nature of the CHALLENGE they must face?

And for added points:

The Hero’s JOURNEY.


Who thought loglines could be so complex? Actually, it’s simpler than you might think. Most of these are intuitive anyway.

But let’s go through them one at a time, just to make sure you have them:



It sounds obvious, but a movie should have a great title, something that sets it apart from everything else. Ideally, it should also inform the audience aboout the subject matter. I’ve noticed that many well-made but obscure movies don’t do as well as they could have because they have a generic title that says nothing about the subject or the plot.

For a recent example, how about “Edge of Tomorrow”? A title so generic they had to rename it for the DVD release. It doesn’t say anything about the plot or the characters.

Or how about: “John Carter”. This assumes that you already know who John Carter is. For my money they should have gone with: “John Carter: Warlord of Mars”. Now that would have piqued my interest.

One of the best movie titles is “Ghostbusters”. It’s funny and tells you the entire premise. It gives away not just the concept, but also the fact that this is an action-comedy movie.



You can sometimes even give this away in the title, as with “Ghostbusters”. Otherwise, you want to indicate it in the logline.

To use my the example of my own script “Demophobia”, can you tell what genre this is:

A man with a phobia of people must search a crime-infested city for his missing girlfriend, only to come into conflict with a mysterious entity controlling the homeless population.

Clearly something speculative is going on. But is it a sci-fi? A fantasy? A horror? I would say the logline implies that this is a straight story, not a comedy. But to make it clearer what kind of genre we’re talking about, I added:

When his girlfriend goes missing following a clinical drugs trial, a man with a phobia of people must search a crime-infested city for his missing girlfriend, only to come into conflict with a mysterious entity controlling the homeless population.

There. That hints that this is a sci-fi thriller, which indeed it is. Maybe there’s a little horror thrown in there too. It’s okay to have more than one genre in your logline, BTW.

Okay, so  my own logline isn’t perfect yet. But there’s a way to go before we’re done. In any case, giving the GENRE away in the logline will allow your producer to see at once whether your script is right for him or her.



This is one of the main stumbling blocks, and something that’s talked about  a lot when discussing a “high concept”.

QUESTION: What is a “hook”?

ANSWER: A hook is the kind of thing you use to catch a fish. It’s a shimmering, bright, dancing object that teases your target into wanting to know more, until they request the script and… ulp! They”re hooked!

So much for metaphors. Now let’s get more serious:

Sometimes the hook is a fantastic concept that’s never been done before. For instance, “An ocean liner capsizes in a storm. The survivors must fight their way out through the sinking, upside-down ship to survive.” (The Poseidon Adventure)

Sometimes it’s just a catchy idea. Something that’s both new and familiar at the same time: “A father loses the right to see his children, so he dresses up as a woman to become the ideal nanny.” (Mrs. Doubtfire)

One of the easiest ways to ensure you have a hook is to use IRONY.

Irony is defined in the dictionary as: “A situation that seems funny or strange because things happen in a way that seems the opposite if what was expected”.

In a logline, it could appear because the hero has a specific occupation, and get to see the opposite of what we expected to see happen to her unfold in the story.

Or, if the hero has a particular character FLAW, you can play on this by making the worst thing possible happen to them.

Some “high-concept” movies do both.

For instance: in “Liar Liar” an attorney is forced to tell the truth after his kid makes a wish that comes true.

This logline tells us a lot about the movie. It’s funny. So it’s probably a comedy with a hit of satire. It’s not necessarily going to cost a fortune to shoot, unless we get someone like Jim Carrey in the lead. And it’s IRONIC. An attorney (who, it is implied, lies for a living – it is a comedy, after all) is forced to tell the truth! It’s irony based on occupation and character flaw (he lies a lot). Classic high concept!



Movies are often mythic stories. Especially high -grossing ones. As a result, producers like to see a central hero.

Most of the above examples make it pretty clear who is the hero of this movie. However, what do you do if you have an ensemble cast? For instance, The Poseidon Adventure doesn’t have a central hero.

ANSWER: The easiest fix for this is to pick out one character and make them the hero.

“Ocean’s Eleven” is about a group of con artists who rob casinos. All of the eleven are part of the group. But who changes the most? Either that, or who is the central focus of attention? It’s got to be Danny Ocean himself. So a logline for this might read:

“An ambitious ex-con gathers together a team of experts to rob three Las Vegas casinos at the same time.”


So there you are. We’ve covered TITLES, GENRES, the HOOK, and the importance of a central HERO. But we’re not done yet…

There’s a lot to digest in this post. So next time we’ll take a look at the rest of our logline ingredients: the CATALYST, the CHALLENGE , the Hero’s JOURNEY, and the ARENA.

See you there!


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