- A story may have positive and negative stakes. Positive is what the Main Character stands to win from the Action / Goal. Negative stakes describe the worst case scenario: what terrible outcome may happen to the Main Character if they fail? For many stories, it is clear from the basic logline elements what they stand to win or lose. In the case of Jaws, you may decide that it is pretty clear that the shark could strike again, and people may die – again. But in other stories, you may want to specify why this or that action matters so much to the Main Character. In Inception, it is critical that you mention that Dom Cobb goes through all this because he wants to be reunited with his children. That is the positive stake.
- Because negative stakes are often the strongest motivators, we offer the option to add them to the logline. The positive stakes are often included in the Event, as with the example from Inception, or in the Action / Goal. Sometimes it is a personal choice to include or leave out the stakes. In the logline for Thelma And Louise, you may or may not mention that the women want to reach Mexico to find freedom. But stronger would be to mention the negative stakes “before they are captured by the police.” You could even add “and tried for murder” to this example to further increase the stakes.
- The negative stakes answer the question: What is the worst thing that would happen if the Main Character fails in their Action / Goal? To make the logline work, you answer this with a simple full sentence, e.g. “The shark kills again.” or “The women are captured and tried.”
- We use the phrase “before + negative stakes” because this indicates a sense of urgency, which is something most producers will want to see in your story.
Whatever you write now doesn’t have to be perfect.
You can play around with it later, and edit the logline generator’s outcome.
These notes complement the Logline Generator, developed in partnership with Story Architect.
Our thanks also go to Peter Boot, who coded the very first Logline Generator.
When drafting your logline using the Logline Generator, click the relevant section for more info on each.