How to Manage Complex Narratives

Do you ever get bogged down by all your plot threads and ideas for your stories? Fear not, today I'm sharing two little tricks you can use to reign everything in and get back on your through-line.

Whenever I'm developing a new idea, I often reach a stage where I'm suddenly drowning. All the exciting ideas that initially sparked me to write begin to sit heavy on my shoulders, until they're spilling into my hands and I can't remember where any of them belong.

Been there? Welcome to the club. One of the most daunting challenges in writing is managing plot threads and trying to weave all your intricate ideas into manageable narratives that tie seamlessly together. Sometimes, we have so much to say that we forgo the effectiveness of a simple through-line.

What is a logline?

Not to be confused with a tagline, a logline is a simple structured sentence used in screenwriting to summarise the essential elements of a story in a linear format – mainly the premise and conflict. It's kind of like an elevator pitch and will help you get to the core of your idea.

Having a clear summary at the back of your mind (or front of your plan, u do u bro) is a surefire way to ensure your story maintains momentum and has a satisfying ending. It keeps you grounded with where you're going and why.

Technique 1: The Traditional Logline

Essentially, the structure is as follows:

Setup + protagonist + the protagonist's goal + antagonist + ticking time bomb.

We're keeping things simple, so don't worry about character names. Tell us about them instead, for example:

After 18 years locked in a tower, a lost princess must join forces with a handsome thief to achieve her dream of seeing a magical light display, before her controlling mother finds out.

It's recommended that you write the logline before you embark on a lot of work because it will save you time if you can whittle things down first. But I often find that stories change as you experiment, so using the logline throughout the process helps me to anchor my evolving ideas.

Technique 2: Pixar's Logline

Pixar are well known for their incredible storytelling, so of course, have some excellent tools. Back in 2011, former Pixar storyboard artist, Emma Coats, tweeted their 22 rules for storytelling. In one, she shared a simple structure for the basic fairy tale:

Once upon a time there was ____. Every day, ____. One day ____. Because of that, ____. Because of that ____. Until finally ____.

It's strikingly simple but effective. Try it on a Pixar film, or any story. Even better, try it on yours. If it doesn't fit the mold, you might want to think about killing some darlings.

Hope this was helpful!



About the Author

Hollie is a writer and developmental editor for independent authors. 

She writes mindful self-improvement and creative writing tips.