Thesaurus to the Rescue

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Although I often tell people to come up with a great adjective for each character mentioned in the logline, I don’t often have a ready supply of good adjectives. And that’s okay, because this is the 21st century and anybody reading this blog post can easily go to and find words.

But perhaps you’re skeptical, or you’d just like a few more details about my process. Very well. Step this way.

My general way of approaching adjectives is to begin with a near match. I can often come up with a word that’s close to what I’m looking for, but not quite. That gives me a jumping off point to begin a search.

For example, let’s say I want to describe an individual who is angry. Except, I’ve decided that he’s not exactly angry, but moreā€¦ I’m not sure.

I look up angry in my thesaurus and check through the options. Furious is a great option if he’s super angry, or if he’s not really angry, perhaps cross or annoyed would be a better choice. Then there’s irate, which is often used when a character is flinging verbal abuse. All of these are great options for use in a logline.

Once I have a word I think might fit, I check my dictionary to make sure it means what I think it does. Very important.

I’m not done here, though. I usually plug the new word back into the thesaurus to see if there are any other good choices not listed for the more generic word. Irate, for example, turns up exasperated when run through my thesaurus. If I find something I like, I repeat the process of checking the definition before I use it in a logline.

This isn’t limited only to adjectives, of course. The key verb in your logline is also a great candidate for the thesaurus treatment. While I was helping Katie Lynn Daniels with a logline for her Supervillain of the Day series, we bumped into this problem.

We had a logline concerning how one character (Floyd) persuaded another (Adams) to help him. We weren’t certain that persuade was exactly the right word. Floyd gets Adams’ help, but reluctantly. Looking for a better word, we started checking a thesaurus for other options. Here are the words we considered:

Force: Not quite, because it wasn’t that kind of situation. Nobody got pressed into service or anything like that.

Coerce: Definitely not. This word is even more off-track than force, since it carries the idea of using threats.

Inveigle: Nope. This is persuasion through deception or flattery.

At that point, we ran out of words and went with persuade, but the point here is that we tried a lot of ideas and dismissed them only because the word connotations didn’t fit the actions of the characters. Sometimes you’ll have better results, but sometimes you just have content yourself with having been thorough.

Finding the Core of Your StoryWant to learn more about writing your own logline? Get your copy of Finding the Core of Your Story and learn to use simple, powerful techniques to strengthen and sell your story with a single sentence.

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