Wednesday, 15 August 2012

DEAR CRABBIT: please help with my 25-word pitch!

Since I'm doing a workshop on pitch paragraphs at #edbookfest next week, I'm happy to offer you this question for Dear Crabbit:

Dear Crabbit
This may be too specific a query below and just say so if it is. But – I’m playing around with finding the heart of the story and using your poor memory thing which is, of course, brilliant. [NB Reference to a method I suggest in Write a Great Synopsis.] At the same time I’m writing down words and associations and finding it all very useful and fascinating as well. I’ve been having a go at the twenty-five word summary! Boy, is that tricky! And I wrote this below. Is it too non specific? I think it’s what my book is about, essentially, but would that sound deeply uninteresting because there’s no detail at all? 
‘The Wildes learn that the Cavalieris originate from an advanced Triassic civilization existing underneath Antarctica. When they vanish one evening, subsequent events change their lives.’ 
I know you’re busy and also that there may be no answer to my question – but I though I’d ask anyway! 
This 25-word pitch really doesn't work, I'm afraid, mainly for the reason you suggest yourself: that it's too non-specific. For example "subsequent events change their lives" tells us nothing, especially as we don't know what their lives were like to start! After reading it the pitch, I literally know nothing about your book except that some people disappear.

We need to know who the main character is, because the idea of it being a whole family is tricky to relate to, unless there is/are one/two lead characters - and we need to feel we would care about them. "The Wildes learn that the Cavalieris..." - we struggle to get anything at all from this. Is this good or bad? Why does it matter? Does it matter?

You've used half the words telling us who/where the family originate from - and unless we can see that this has really exciting consequences for the story, it's not interesting enough. (I'm guessing it does, logically, but I need to know why and to feel it.)

A family who vanish is an interesting start; the fact that there's some kind of link to an ancient civilisation is also promising; and the setting of Antarctica has potential. But we need much, much more to get to the emotional heart and the sense of a plot. When you brainstorm words and associations, they need to be ones that tug the heart and have an "I want to read about that quality". Here is your pitch with all the words that do not do that highlighted in yellow:
The Wildes learn that the Cavalieris originate from an advanced Triassic civilization existing underneath Antarctica. When they vanish one evening, subsequent events change their lives.
I'm a little intrigued about this advanced Triassic civisilation, but unless I know whether they are brutal, intelligent or whatever, I'm not so sure I am sufficiently drawn to them.

So, more please! More emotional tugs, more concrete hooks for the reader to grasp onto. Who (personality, not names) is this story about and what are the stakes?

Does that help, Evie? And does anyone have any comments or suggestions?


bookwitch said...

Dear Crabbit,
I need a short pitch to describe my blogging. Please help!

Nicola Morgan said...

Dear Bookwitch
(Assuming your question was serious...) It depends on who the pitch is for, but as a general-use one, how about:

"Not just a book blogger: I flit like a bee around the whole book world. I could sting, but I prefer to find honey."

bookwitch said...

It was.
It's very good. Now for learning it by heart.
(If I step into an elevator with someone and says this, will they not just press the emergency button?)
Thank you Crabbit. You are a nice Crabbit.

Nicola Morgan said...

Ah, now, I was envisaging more for a written pitch. I agree, if you said it in a lift, you'd certainly cause consternation! How about: "Most book bloggers just review: I do much more, trying to get under the skin, past the pith to the core: whimsical, interesting, personal, thought-provoking." ?

bookwitch said...

Ah, yes. Someone had already called security.

Will that be one bill, or two?