So, What Is YOUR Logline?

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If you read Sunday’s post you may have already been practicing the art of crafting fictional throughlines or loglines.  I would love to be a fly on the wall to see what some of you may have come up with! (Do feel free to share! You can write one or two now if you haven’t yet.)

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What have you learned about throughlines from writing some? A throughline is like a skein of thread you unwind that leads directly through the center of a tale from beginning to end, with nothing wasted. Or it is the story itself, as it were, stripped bare to the main character’s quest, challenge, strategy, and mission achieved (or if a tragedy, not).

Yet here is the real question I want to set before you to be pondering this week: What is YOUR Throughline; the Narrative Statement or central thread of your unique LIFE STORY?  ‘Is there one?’ you may query, and I would answer, ‘Yes, but of course there is!’

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Whether you have been following the weekly topics and applying the life mapping tools offered here for the last few months of this Life Paths for Better Endings blog or not, we have been gradually developing an approach that allows you to map out the Life Chapters of your Life Story narrative by identifying significant shaping events and Turning Points in your life history and giving chapter titles to the activity cycles in your life that have occurred between your pivotal Turning Points. (I invite you to review the past several weeks’ Sunday topic introductions and sidebar Life Mapping Tools if you would like to catch up with this process or to share it with your friends.)

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Last week I invited you to read across your series of Life Chapter titles and to compare your life script, as this reveals, with a parallel storyline you are familiar with, and then to reflect on the similarities. (EG How is your series of Life Chapter titles like the plotline of a favorite story you have always identified with?)

One simple way to arrive at your own Life Story logline or Narrative Statement is to collapse a parallel mythic storyline you can relate to with your own.  I recommend that you give yourself a favorite protagonist’s name and write your Life Story logline in the 3rd person, present tense.  Your Narrative Statement should be brief; perhaps one or no longer than two or three sentences at most.

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Here are some examples of Narrative Statements some life mappers I have coached have produced by using this sort of parallel mythic comparison:

J.D.       The hero, once freed, became more open-minded and saw things as they were. He was able to move forward and help others.  He went through rough times, having to choose between saving his girlfriend Trinity and helping the world. He did what he believed, not what he was told to do. He followed his heart. (Parallel myth = The Matrix)

Hope:  Hope begins her life with a thirst for “truth”.  She is Wanasai, “Seeker of Truth”.  Innocence is lost. Knowledge is gained.  Descent becomes opportunity to face and “slay” the dragons.  Seeking power and taking Death on as her ally, Hope walks with grace.  Healing Self – healing others. (Parallel Myth = A Native American Vision Quest)

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Does this practice of revealing to yourself a logline or throughline for your own Life Story offer some new insights for you? What, after all, is or has your life been about, up to Now? How might where you have arrived at in your storyline to Now relate to your life goals or to your own mythic Quest from here forward?

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I encourage you to place your personal narrative logline or Narrative Statement someplace where you will see it often. Refine it, represent it artistically; do anything to let yourself remember your logline even daily for awhile.  When basic life choices come along—these are like a writer’s editing choices, yes?—use your logline to help you make your next decision about where it is most helpful to place your attention or which direction to take or to walk away from; see?

If by chance you are not yet entirely satisfied with your throughline as it has manifested in your Life Story to Now, you are free to craft a new one that might lead you—like Theseus’s thread leading him from the Labyrinth in which he overcame the monstrous Minotaur—out of your own mental labyrinth and back to the Light of day; your day—a Day you may deeply wish to wake to! Let this new throughline define for you a pathway to your own Better Endings!

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Feel free to share!

Your Narrative Statement 

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 Have you ever taken ‘time out’  to try to encapsulate what your life is “all about”? Of course, it doesn’t need to be “about” anything, but at the same time, since you like everyone else have a Life Story, then there is a meaning and a message to YOUR story that is uniquely important, if only to you. This week’s Life Paths for Better Endings topic is about a way to uncover the underlying significance of your own Story and the potential benefits of claiming a personal Narrative Statement.

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What I’ll call a Narrative Statement is known to authors as a “Throughline” or a “Logline”. E.G.:

The throughline is an invisible thread that binds your story together. It comprises those elements that are critical to the very heart of your tale — these elements needn’t be the same for every story you tell but should remain the same throughout a given story.  (Shot through the Heart: Your Story’s Throughline / Terrible Minds, by Chuck Wendig, http://terribleminds.com/ramble/)

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To begin, let’s look at some fictional stories or mythic tales to explore how narrative statements can function to make a story cohesive and well-focused on the key protagonists’ character arcs and plotlines. Writers know they should be able to boil down their story into one brief, tense statement, usually one sentence that fully encapsulates the story in terms of characters, goals, oppositions and outcomes. Here are some feasible narrative throughlines just as a practice in devising narrative statements (though of course the authors would do a better job):

  • An orphaned boy discovers on his 11th birthday that he is a “wizard”, destined to master the positive potentials of magical abilities along with a cohort of friends, in order to thwart the evil rise to power of the megalomaniac wizard fiend who killed his parents.
  • After witnessing UFOs firsthand a man becomes obsessed with replicating a mental image that turns out to be a UFO landing site to which he is being telepathically called by an alien race aiming to bring an Earth representative to their home world for interplanetary communication.

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Here are some actual throughlines I have found online that are associated with well-known stories:

Sleepless in Seattle: A recently widowed man’s son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner.- Written by Murray Chapman <muzzle@imdb.com>

Oedipus Rex: Sophocles’ most famous work about the King of Thebes (translated here by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald) tells the simple tale of boy gets parents, boy loses parents, boy gets new parents, boy kills biological father and marries biological mother. http://www.pghcitypaper.com/pittsburgh/throughlines-oedipus-rex/Content?oid=1675058

The Wizard of Oz: After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home.  (from Gideon’s Screenwriting Tips: So Now You’re a Screenwriter…Tips to Improve your Film and TV writing and Your Career/ Writing Effective Loglines. http://gideonsway.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/writing-effective-loglines/)

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I invite you for the next few days to practice writing narrative throughlines for some fictional stories that matter to you. This practice will prepare you to develop a throughline or narrative statement encapsulating your own Life Story, later this week.  So first, I encourage you to practice the method!

  • What do you find yourself emphasizing about the stories you choose to write loglines for?
  • What does the very fact that you can write a logline, even for what might be a rather complicated story, say about stories or about storytelling in general?

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Throughlines or loglines are essential for writers. They are the very heartbeat of a story. In editing, it is often said that every line or even every word in a manuscript should propel or develop the logline; else, remove it! Hold that thought in relation to devising—later this week—a throughline for your own Life Story. What might be some implications? Stay tuned…

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As always, thank you for reading and I invite you to play in this life mapping sandbox!

Your Comments and Stories are welcome!