COEXIST - Actionable Stories for Sustainable Change - O - One-liner story

2021-03-17

A woman, engaged to someone, meets and falls in love with another man onboard a ship, which sinks a few hours after they meet.

A hacker, on discovering that the world that he is in is a computer program, teams up with a few rebels to overthrow the guardian programs of the system.

A father fish embarks on a long and challenging journey across the ocean to find his missing son.

A teenager, with the help of a watch that can transform him into powerful aliens, battles evil forces.

Which movies or TV shows do these one-liners describe?

This post is about the O (One-liner) step in the COEXIST methodology. This is part of a series of posts on the topic.

Source of all 4 images

A one-liner or logline (as is defined in the screenwriting circles) is a one-line summary of a story or screenplay. This line is meant to give direction or a sense of what the story is.

In the COEXIST method, we felt that if one could condense the story into a single line, it is a lot easier to develop the story.

The one-line story is not set in stone. At any time, if you feel that you want to come back and revise the one-liner, you could certainly do that.

What are the elements that go into making a good logline or one-liner?

Main character
Who is the central character? (age, gender and location)
Role
What role do they take on?
Problem
What is a problem that they have to solve?
Ending
How does the story end? (optional)

Main Character

In your story, you must know your character the most, more than your reader. This was covered in the previous post.

Some notes that may help you in defining the central character for the one-liner.

Location
could be real or fictional (In a galaxy far far away …)
Age
is not mandatory, but helps you in defining the mannerisms and characteristics better.
Human years
Even for non-human characters, you could think of age in human years
Gender
could be important for the characterization as well

Role

A character moves from their boring current life to a Call for Adventure. This call usually comes from outside of themselves and is something that the character has never done before.

Rose (from the Titanic)
had never been adventurous in her life
Neo (from The Matrix)
had never joined a bunch of rebels before
Nemo’s dad, Marlin (from Finding Nemo)
had never ventured out in the ocean
Ben (from Ben10: The Ultimate Alien)
had never changed into other (ultimate) alien forms to fight evil forces

Problem

A character needs a mission for the story. This could indeed change as the story changes, and usually increases in severity/intensity as the story progresses. I will use Aristotle’s 3-Act structure (from his book Poetics) to explain this point.

Act 1
Call to adventure
Act 2
Getting trained and ready for the final battle
Act 3
The final battle

In the logline though, you need to summarize this into a few words.

It is entirely optional to have the ending in there or not. However, I strongly recommend that you do have the ending in your logline. With that ending, your novel or screenplay is complete and ready in its tiniest form ☺.

My Story

A school girl saves an endangered fish from illegal fishing, while battling against a renowned poacher.

Now, it is your turn. Go ahead and write your masterpiece in one-line or take a movie or novel that you really like and convert it into a one-liner.

Good luck!

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