Finding the theme for a logline...

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  • Finding the theme for a logline...

    H..
    Last edited by artsol99; 11-18-2013, 08:42 AM.

  • #2
    Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

    Some writers might feel the need to identify theme before starting, but in my experience it hasn't been necessary. It'll be there whether you want it to be there or not.

    In the meantime, God has no problem with self-defense -- unless the Mennonites don't believe that? -- so either way I see her killing the dude out of self-defense once she's gotten too close to overturning someone's apple cart? And since this is an isolated community, clearly the predator would be a member of the community, possibly even a well-respected leader, and then he ends up dead at her hands? What if that's not the worst fallout, even, but then even with total police corroboration of her story, her community doesn't accept what she's done or why and she has to deal with that in the context of her faith, which would necessarily be tied up in the very structure and fabric of the community? That would be an intriguing angle.

    When you say justice is motivated by revenge, do you mean legal justice or God's justice or the community's justice? Whose justice (judgment) matters the most?

    I hope you were inviting us to mull this over because look what I did. Sorry. Fun to think about.

    You might find this podcast episode helpful. There's a link at the bottom to the transcript.
    http://johnaugust.com/2012/the-happy-funtime-smile-hour
    "You have idea 1, you're excited. It flops. You have idea 99, you're excited. It flops.
    Only a fool is excited by the 100th idea. Fools keep trying. God rewards fools." --Martin Hellman, paraphrased

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

      In the meantime, God has no problem with self-defense -- unless the Mennonites don't believe that?
      >>Resistance to evil has no place. Christians are not allowed to kill, but they must be ready to be put to death themselves. They live a life of non-violence. That is part of the Mennonite ethic.

      I see her killing the dude out of self-defense once she's gotten too close to overturning someone's apple cart?
      >> I see it too. But in order for her to do that, a change in her faith would let her to take that decision. Unless the protagonist's reaction - to kill out of self defense - could be a natural reaction in a dangerous situation where her life is in risk.

      And since this is an isolated community, clearly the predator would be a member of the community, possibly even a well-respected leader
      >>He is a member of the community. I was thinking the predator could be a person with some resentment towards the community. Possible someone with a low rank looking for getting power by any means. I am going to think about the predator being a high rank member and his possibles reasons to act in that way. What about if there is more than one predator?


      What if that's not the worst fallout, even, but then even with total police corroboration of her story, her community doesn't accept what she's done or why and she has to deal with that in the context of her faith, which would necessarily be tied up in the very structure and fabric of the community? That would be an intriguing angle.
      >> Good point. In addition to the community's rejection of the protagonist actions, a community reluctant to change could be shown -rejecting any help for the victims and keeping the women's lower status.

      When you say justice is motivated by revenge, do you mean legal justice or God's justice or the community's justice? Whose justice (judgment) matters the most?
      >>The protagonist's way of looking for justice could be based on revenge. (May be I am wrong on this)

      I hope you were inviting us to mull this over because look what I did.
      >>I appreciate your comments. Advice is always welcome for me.

      Thank you.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

        Theme: Sometimes you must defy society's standards to do what you know is right.

        Also, one other suggestion. Don't put that she was murdered by a serial rapist/killer in the logline. Say that she suspects a religious elder is the suspect. While the script unfolds, then you can show us that this Mennonite might actually be a serial rapist/murderer, but don't give that away upfront.

        And research police procedure. What do they do when a crime happens in a religious sect? You would think the mennonite people would want to find the person who killed one of their own. Why is the twin sister being asked not to investigate? I would think they would want to find the killer within their community.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

          Forget theme. Too many posts and threads recently have focused on theme. I have never read a script or watched a movie and thought...

          "The theme of this story weak. What a crappy theme."

          Focus on your story structure -- be it traditional or non. And character, character, character.


          Theme is subjective. And up for interpretation. It's not tangible. You cannot control interpretation but the cold hard facts of character and story you can.

          Hone those skills.
          Sincerly,

          the giantELF

          (The writer is Robert -- the company is giantELF)

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

            Originally posted by giantELF View Post
            Forget theme. Too many posts and threads recently have focused on theme. I have never read a script or watched a movie and thought...

            "The theme of this story weak. What a crappy theme."

            Focus on your story structure -- be it traditional or non. And character, character, character.


            Theme is subjective. And up for interpretation. It's not tangible. You cannot control interpretation but the cold hard facts of character and story you can.

            Hone those skills.
            Agreed. The theme's of a story is the last thing you should think about when writing. When you're done, then think about it.
            "A screenwriter is much like being a fire hydrant with a bunch of dogs lined up around it.- -Frank Miller

            "A real writer doesn't just want to write; a real writer has to write." -Alan Moore

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

              Originally posted by Madbandit View Post
              Agreed. The theme's of a story is the last thing you should think about when writing. When you're done, then think about it.
              I disagree. I've found that when my students write after consciously articulating the theme, the script tends to be more cohesive and interesting. The character and plot connect in a stronger way. Sometimes, yes, you discover your theme while writing, but it's often useful to identify it in advance.

              When my students struggle to identify a theme, here are the things we discuss:

              Remember that a theme, according to this definition, is a statement of value. If the character wins because they are the most determined person, then the theme is that determination leads to victory, for example. It's not just "determination." People use the word theme to mean a lot of different things, but this is how I mean it. YMMV.

              So first, how does the story end? Positively, negatively, or some combination of the two? Even in open endings, there's usually a dominant emotion. How do you want the audience to feel at the end of the story?

              Second, what trait does the main character to use achieve victory? Why do they succeed while others would fail? Alternatively, what trait of the character is most challenged by the events of the story?

              These two things, together, generally tell you your theme.

              The character who finds justice at the expense of her faith could support many themes, depending on how the audience is supposed to feel at the end. That is to say, if we ended up feeling that the price she paid was too high, then the theme might be that sometimes the cost of justice is too high. (Certainly there have been a lot of revenge films with this theme or related themes). On the other hand, if we feel that her rejection of faith is a good thing, which ultimately allows her to succeed and feel good about the resolution, the theme is clearly that justice is more important than faith/tradition.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                Theme is like structure. It's a widely debated literary tool. Is it there? Is it not?

                I'm on the side that feels it is very important to the process. Themes give your story heart. They also allow for a wide range of interpretations by the writer. Meaning, you can make dozens of points in any theme.

                Themes also allow for the one element, that I believe, all scripts written by a good pro will have. That is subtext. Good pro scripts have great subtext, in amatuer scripts it is either missing all together or done way too obvious/over dramatic.

                One tip I've picked up from reading really good scripts is that subtext is not really a dialogue issue. Any decent writer can come up with a 'good' line at some point during the months long process. You, as a writer, have to earn that great line, meaning the plot would have to take the perfect twists and turns to get us to this moment ripe with subtextual undertones.

                If you are writing a comedy or drama and would have a Main Character that has a need and a want. What you want to do is have the want(external plot line) be a metaphor for the need(inner flaw). Now when you have characters talking about plot, there will be plenty of moments where you can construct lines of dialogue that have 'subtext' - a figurative meaning + literal meaning.

                Warning: Don't think on this level right at jump street. Explore and have fun first. The Effects of this process could be creatively crippling.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                  Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                  I disagree. I've found that when my students write after consciously articulating the theme, the script tends to be more cohesive and interesting. The character and plot connect in a stronger way. Sometimes, yes, you discover your theme while writing, but it's often useful to identify it in advance.

                  When my students struggle to identify a theme, here are the things we discuss:

                  Remember that a theme, according to this definition, is a statement of value. If the character wins because they are the most determined person, then the theme is that determination leads to victory, for example. It's not just "determination." People use the word theme to mean a lot of different things, but this is how I mean it. YMMV.

                  So first, how does the story end? Positively, negatively, or some combination of the two? Even in open endings, there's usually a dominant emotion. How do you want the audience to feel at the end of the story?

                  Second, what trait does the main character to use achieve victory? Why do they succeed while others would fail? Alternatively, what trait of the character is most challenged by the events of the story?

                  These two things, together, generally tell you your theme.

                  The character who finds justice at the expense of her faith could support many themes, depending on how the audience is supposed to feel at the end. That is to say, if we ended up feeling that the price she paid was too high, then the theme might be that sometimes the cost of justice is too high. (Certainly there have been a lot of revenge films with this theme or related themes). On the other hand, if we feel that her rejection of faith is a good thing, which ultimately allows her to succeed and feel good about the resolution, the theme is clearly that justice is more important than faith/tradition.
                  This-- is useful.

                  Thanks.
                  FA4
                  "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
                  Hollywood producer

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                    Remember that a theme, according to this definition, is a statement of value. If the character wins because they are the most determined person, then the theme is that determination leads to victory, for example. It's not just "determination." People use the word theme to mean a lot of different things, but this is how I mean it. YMMV.
                    You are about to argue my point...character and story over theme:

                    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                    So first, how does the story end? Positively, negatively, or some combination of the two? Even in open endings, there's usually a dominant emotion. How do you want the audience to feel at the end of the story?
                    In other words...work on your story. The how. The action. The story.

                    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                    Second, what trait does the main character to use achieve victory? Why do they succeed while others would fail? Alternatively, what trait of the character is most challenged by the events of the story?
                    ...and work on your characters. Give them traits and personality and have them react consistently to their character. And when they come to that point when they change or learn something (the overused "arc") ...it is because of story.

                    Afterwards you will find the theme. And I will find another theme. Etc. Etc.

                    Every great movie has great stories and characters. The theme is up to audience interpretation.

                    Character. Story. Character. Story. Character. Story. Character. Story.
                    Sincerly,

                    the giantELF

                    (The writer is Robert -- the company is giantELF)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                      For anyone who thinks theme is unimportant, I would highly encourage you to seek out William Goldman's book "The Season."

                      In it, he chronicles the failure of a production because the producers and the creators had diametrically opposed views on the ending to the play. The reason? They could not agree on the theme. But -- and this is instructive -- neither even addressed the subject of theme. They just kept arguing on a surface level about what they thought made the most sense -- which meant they were talking in circles about the action and not the intent.

                      Sometimes you just won't quite know the theme in a first draft and that's okay. But theme is one of the most powerful tools you can have during a rewrite. It helps to guide what stays, what goes, what needs to be changed.

                      Of course you don't want the audience to be able to clearly articulate the theme while watching a movie. If that ends up being the case, you're just hitting them over the head with it and that's equally damaging. Audiences may not know that Raiders of the Lost Ark explores the nature of religion and how we must have faith and respect in a higher power. But it's there. It's like an invisible hand that guides the story and gives it focus and unity.

                      Some writers have a natural ability to express theme without even being consciously aware of it. But most writers don't and it's why some scripts come across as meandering and episodic.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                        Originally posted by giantELF View Post
                        You are about to argue my point...character and story over theme:



                        In other words...work on your story. The how. The action. The story.



                        ...and work on your characters. Give them traits and personality and have them react consistently to their character. And when they come to that point when they change or learn something (the overused "arc") ...it is because of story.

                        Afterwards you will find the theme. And I will find another theme. Etc. Etc.

                        Every great movie has great stories and characters. The theme is up to audience interpretation.

                        Character. Story. Character. Story. Character. Story. Character. Story.
                        I don't think that it is possible to talk about either character or story without talking about theme.

                        Characters -- at any rate Protagonists and Antagonists within stories embody opposing ideas. The story encompasses through external action on the one hand and internally on the other, the working out of that idea.

                        The characters resolve their conflict, both externally -- the action resolves, and internally -- whatever internal issue drives the action is also resolved.

                        But both external action and internal issue are both about something -- they are about some idea that drives the external action and that is at the foundation of the internal conflict.

                        The way in which both are resolved -- and this is true whether you're consciously aware of it or not -- is a statement of the theme of the story.

                        Any story that has a protagonist and an antagonist that are in some way distinguishable and who come into conflict and in which that conflict resolves in some way -- and in which that resolution is related to the difference between the two has a theme.

                        The theme is embodied in that distinction.

                        For some writers, for some stories, the theme may simply arise instinctively in the course of writing the story and you don't necessarily have to give it much thought.

                        I've written things where I haven't really thought very much about it and it's only after the fact that I've looked back and seen, in a sense, what the whole thing was about.

                        But in other stories I've found that I've sort of floundered around and I've found, for instance, that the story really wouldn't go where I originally wanted it to go, and I really had to stop and think -- just what was the whole thing about? What was the theme -- the thesis. What was the central thematic idea that the whole story was trying to explore through the protagonist.

                        What did he start off being, or believing that the events of the story were going to test so that he would, in the end, be changed, or hold fast against a world that would try to change those beliefs -- or whatever.

                        But if I wasn't asking the question, I wouldn't be able to focus on what wasn't working. I wouldn't have the tool to figure out why those stories weren't working.

                        Because on some level, you need to know, in very concrete terms -- this is a guy who is this kind of person. He believes this about the world, which makes him do X or be X -- and X is going to be tested by the events of the story. And he's either going to have to stop X and become something else in order to get what he needs, or else the world is going to try to get him to stop being X and he's going to have to hold onto X against all odds in order to get what he needs.

                        But you'd better know what X is -- because X is where your theme is.

                        NMS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                          I guess the question is, are themes put there on purpose by the writer? or are they mere interpretaions of events by the viewer/reader. I'd say both.

                          Even the people who think they never bring theme into the process bring theme into the process.

                          You create a character that has traits. You need to stay consistent with these character traits when your Main makes choices. Sometimes these traits come back to bite the main in the ass, in the end the main opens his eyes to his traits and realizes he needs to change. That is theme whether you want it to wear the label or not.

                          I think theme first arrives on the scene subconsciencely. Characters are drawn to make certain choices and find themselves in familiar situations. Once you recognize the theme of your characters behaviors/life you move it to the conscience side of the brain and now you can really find all the avenues in your script for theme to be played out.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                            Originally posted by artsol99 View Post
                            Hi. I am trying to find the theme for my story. I appreciate your comments.

                            So far, this is the log line that was posted in other thread:

                            "In an isolated Mennonite community, a submissive woman defies her society when she secretively investigates the death of her twin sister, who she believes was the victim of rape and murder by a sexual predator."

                            Major plot: Sacrifice.

                            Dilemma: Justice vs Faith

                            At the beginning, justice is motivated by her faith (obedience to Christ requires mutual aid - she wants to avoid more attacks and to help the attacked women), but she faces a reluctant community that denies the problem and opposes to her journey. After she is pushed to the extreme, now justice is motivated by revenge.

                            This is a possible way she resolves her dilemma: She chooses to find justice at the expense of her faith.

                            I do not know if this is the correct approach to find the theme. I would appreciate any feedback.

                            Thank you very much.
                            I've just been outlining and found my theme.

                            So maybe you shouldn't try to get it through the logline. Maybe if you outline it'll become clear.
                            Story Structure 1
                            Story Structure 2
                            Story Structure 3

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Finding the theme for a logline...

                              Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
                              I disagree. I've found that when my students write after consciously articulating the theme, the script tends to be more cohesive and interesting. The character and plot connect in a stronger way. Sometimes, yes, you discover your theme while writing, but it's often useful to identify it in advance.

                              When my students struggle to identify a theme, here are the things we discuss:

                              Remember that a theme, according to this definition, is a statement of value. If the character wins because they are the most determined person, then the theme is that determination leads to victory, for example. It's not just "determination." People use the word theme to mean a lot of different things, but this is how I mean it. YMMV.

                              So first, how does the story end? Positively, negatively, or some combination of the two? Even in open endings, there's usually a dominant emotion. How do you want the audience to feel at the end of the story?

                              Second, what trait does the main character to use achieve victory? Why do they succeed while others would fail? Alternatively, what trait of the character is most challenged by the events of the story?

                              These two things, together, generally tell you your theme.

                              The character who finds justice at the expense of her faith could support many themes, depending on how the audience is supposed to feel at the end. That is to say, if we ended up feeling that the price she paid was too high, then the theme might be that sometimes the cost of justice is too high. (Certainly there have been a lot of revenge films with this theme or related themes). On the other hand, if we feel that her rejection of faith is a good thing, which ultimately allows her to succeed and feel good about the resolution, the theme is clearly that justice is more important than faith/tradition.

                              That's exactly what I meant.
                              "A screenwriter is much like being a fire hydrant with a bunch of dogs lined up around it.- -Frank Miller

                              "A real writer doesn't just want to write; a real writer has to write." -Alan Moore

                              Comment

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