Reverse Logline Exercise
Updated: Jan 18
A 2-part exercise.
Here are 20 actual loglines from well-known movies, minus the names. You probably know them all, but you're going to create a totally different story premise based on the logline, then you're going to write a scene, introducing us to the main character.
Part One: Pick a logline and modify it
Option 1: d20 to randomize logline selection.
Option 2: BYO logline. Have a different, specific story you want to reboot? Bring it.
1) The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
2) The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.
3) A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of reality and his role in the war against its controllers.
4) A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims.
5) A cop has to talk down a bank robber after the criminal’s perfect heist spirals into a hostage situation.
6) Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.
7) A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.
8) A comedy centered around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed buddy during their drunken misadventures, then must retrace their steps in order to find him.
9) Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency.
10) An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maid’s point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.
11) Hollywood, 1927: As a silent movie star wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with a young dancer set for a big break.
12) A man, while not intelligent, has accidentally been present at many historic moments, but his true love eludes him.
13) A blacksmith teams up with an eccentric pirate captain to save his love, the governor’s daughter, from the captain's former pirate allies, who are now undead.
14) During the U.S.-Vietnam War, an army captain is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.
15) With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
16) A crown prince, the future king, searches for his identity. His eagerness to please others and penchant for testing his boundaries sometimes gets him into trouble.
17) A depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis, decides to turn his hectic life around after becoming infatuated with his daughter's attractive friend.
18) A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.
19) After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.
20) After living a life marked by coldness, an aging professor is forced to confront the emptiness of his existence.
NOTES: If you know the story, and you probably do, start by creating a new main character. New name, new profession, new setting. Maybe swap the genre or gender. If you have the time or the creative juice, substitute the antagonists.
The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
The aging matriarch of a disorganized reality TV dynasty transfers control of her marketing empire to her reluctant daughter.
Part Two: write a scene introducing us the new protagonist.