An insecure self help guru is blackmailed into helping the newest super villain in town when he kidnaps the guru's girl friend.
This is a tough one… I can see the potential but I find it difficult to phrase it.
“Helping” to do what? Although it may be as generic as ‘taking control of the city’, it would be good to state it as we can visualise it better. The better option would obviously be to state the villain’s flaw, which he needs to overcome in order to succeed in his evil plan.
Because the structure of this logline is turned on its head, we don’t really see what the guru’s own goal is. I would always first try structuring the logline like this:
“When his girlfriend is kidnapped by the newest super villain to enlist his services, an insecure self help guru must … ”
We want to know what he will try to do to WIN from the villain.
“the newest super villain in town” is also fairly generic. What does he look like? What is his super villainous strength?
I agree with Karel here, we need to know what it is he is going to be doing and how he could potentially get himself out of the situation. What we have here is like a build up to the inciting incident but we need to also know the process of the lead character’s journey.
I want to reinforce Karel’s bullseye comments.
– “insecure self-help guru” feels too easy — just slightly less so than “an introverted self-help guru.” It lives in the realm of “pacifist soldier” and “priest with a crisis of faith.” These simply flip over the protag’s strength to a weakness. It can work, sure, but first impressions count against it.
How does the guru’s insecurity exhibit? Alcohol? “A whiskey-soaked self-help guru is blackmailed…” Women? “An oversexed self-help guru is blackmailed…” (or maybe “A skirt-chasing self-help guru…”) That kind of thing. Focus on how your protag manifests his insecurity and let the reader follow the thought to its logical conclusion. The juxtaposition naturally leads the reader to weigh “oversexed” in one hand and “self-help guru” in the other and infer the protag’s inner motivation.
– As Karel points out, the LL flow is backward. That’s due to several problems: the passive sentence construction, and the black hole where the protag goal should be (“helping”). Let’s rearrange things back to basic SVO (subject-verb-object) and see what we’ve got to work with:
“A super villain recruits an insecure self-help guru by kidnapping his girlfriend.”
That’s pretty much all the original LL tells us. With the sentence now active, we can see how it emphasizes the antag’s motivation at the expense of the protag’s. Effectively, your logline’s main character is the super villain!
So, we need to switch the balance, refocus on the guru. For that we need to define what manner of help he’s forced to give.
“To save his kidnapped girlfriend, a self-help guru must lead a rising super villain to an ancient artifact holding the power to enslave mankind.”
Hey, I like the nuances in my superficial, off-the-cuff example. The irony of a self-help guru — somebody who teaches others to empower themselves, somebody who helps free others from their limitations — sharing responsibility for ultimately enslaving them all.
As soon as you define “helping” — i.e. the story spine — the logline comes alive.
Thank you all. I have written a couple more versions that I was waiting to post until I got feedback on this, second version. The first version of the logline is further down. There it has the correct title, which is “Booster”. I didn’t see that it said “Boosts” here until it was too late. The dangers of posting from a mobile phone with autocorrect.
I hadn’t thought about what the villain’s powers would be until Karel asked. For now I think it will be an ability to shoot energy beams and create force fields.
I think I will tinker a bit more with the other versions of the logline before I post those.
I came up with a self help guru who lacks confidence in his own abilities, thinking it would follow Blake Snyder’s idea that there should be irony in the description of what the protagonist is and does. The whole thing with the villain came later.
I was thinking that he’s having problems as people keep taking his advice the wrong way, very few comes to his lectures, he hardly sells any books, his agent leaves him to become a screenwriter in Hollywood and the girlfriend is quite unappreciative in the beginning. The only person who listens and thinks his advice is good is the villain who is there in his secret identity persona.
I’m a bit torn about what the villain wants too. From taking over the world – sparking some obligatory “Pinky and the Brain” references – to just doing some thing that will gain him a seat on the council of super villains. He’s not very good at being a super villain either. Apologizing for everything and has an overbearing mother who calls and nags at him at the most inconvenient moments.