Monday, October 29, 2007

Pitch Critiques Round 1

On October 25 I did a workshop of sorts on Perfecting Your Pitch, and if I do say so myself it was a bit of a success. Thank you to everyone brave enough to participate. Over the course of the next several weeks I will go through pitch-by-pitch and give my critique. Feel free to comment and give your own critiques, ask further questions, or just tell us what you thought. This was a lot of fun for me and I might, just might, do it again sometime (if I ever get through this pile).

I also want to give a quick shout-out to reader Mark Terry. Mark did what I think was an amazing blog post about this blog “contest” and really broke down what makes a successful pitch in a way few agents are sometimes able to do. Check it out.

1. diana
My book is a romantic comedy about a big-city girl and a small-town auctioneer who become entangled in a 130-year-old case of murder, identity theft and bodies buried in the wrong graves.

Unfortunately, while intriguing (I like cold cases), not intriguing enough. Essentially your pitch tells me nothing. What is the conflict? Is it that they are solving a mystery? What exactly is the mystery? What makes this book stand out from other romantic comedies or mysteries (your genre choice and description confuse me a little). This might not fit your book at all, but what about something more along the lines of . . . ”Cold Case meets Sex in the City when 'Julie' teams up with a small-town auctioneer (is this even important to the story?) to . . .” or “Unearthing a 130-year-old body seems gruesome, but not deadly. Julie is about to find out differently when she becomes entangled in a case of murder.” Does that make more sense? I need to know the why more than the who. Why are they solving this case? What’s their motivation? What’s the threat? And lastly I’m concerned that the tone of your pitch doesn’t at all convey the tone of the book. At least I hope it doesn’t or you have a real problem with telling instead of showing.

2. anon (David Weisman)
If you've ever wondered why being part of a hive mind should cause people to dress in black, act asexual, and talk in stilted phrases, this book is for you. Major Brett Johnson struggles to satisfy both duty and honor, and learn if the overmind on the planet Oceania is a deadly seductive trap that may snare humanity, or a tool to extend human lifespans and enrich our experience of the human condition.

(I'll only send this to agents who handle science fiction, and assume they've heard of the Borg!)

I’m at a huge disadvantage here since I have no idea what the Borg is. Anyone? My first comment, though, is change your first sentence entirely; “this book is for you” is not going to grab an agent’s attention and you might limit yourself if you submit to an agent who really has never wondered why being part of a hive mind would do those things. It sounds like your book is probably a SF thriller. That doesn’t come through in the pitch. I would delete the first sentence altogether. It doesn’t add to your pitch and, in fact, probably detracts. Instead I would simply work on strengthening sentence number two and keeping that as your entire pitch. I’m hoping you can do a better job than I can (since you know the story), but what about something along the lines of, “Major Brett Johnson is in a struggle for his life, and the lives of all inhabitants of the planet Oceania, while he battles to learn if the overmind is a deadly seductive trap set to ensnare humanity, or a tool to extend human lifespans and enrich the human condition”? I still think though that you need more. From this I don’t have a clear understanding of what the story is about. What I see here is something that’s similar to every other book. What makes your book different? What else about the conflict makes this stand out?

3. k.r. stewart
Completed fantasy novel "Omn's Tears"

Captain Ryon Addothun is a renegade soldier who refuses to blindly follow orders like he once did.

Kain is a ruthless dragon hunter who cares for no one but himself.

When Ryon and Kain discover an angelic woman from a realm of myth--stripped of her otherworldly powers and held captive by Ryon’s superiors--they learn that the Emperor has unwittingly unleashed a disastrous magic that may eventually unravel all of creation. The only way to save the mortal world and the heavenly realm is for the trio to join forces and seek out the mythical remnant of the Creator’s power, Omn's Tears.

Too long. Sure it’s not going to kill you to write your pitch at this length, it’s also not doing you any favors. Remember, you have about two sentences to grab an agent in a query letter and about two minutes in a verbal pitch session. While I suspect you can read this in less than two minutes you lose me pretty quickly. Your most interesting pieces are that you have a renegade soldier and dragon hunter, but after that it’s lost. If you’re going to mention those things then I would imagine they are both part of the conflict; if not, they probably aren’t worth mentioning. Here’s the deal. I don’t know what this book is really about enough to excite me. I think your real pitch comes after your last sentence. What happens next? That’s what I want to know in your pitch. What do they have to go through to save the mortal world? The first sentence of your last paragraph can be cut completely. Do not tell backstory in a pitch. Get to the point from the beginning.

4. Solidus
(One sentence.)
A crippled composer, her overprotective father and an idealistic pharmacologist struggle for several kinds of freedom for themselves and the embittered lunar colonies.

(One paragraph; three sentences.)
Elizabeth Barton has been protected by her father but, when the lunar colonies rebel against corporate domination, reality breaks in. She falls in love with pharmacologist Robert Brown, who is drawn to the power of her music as well as to her personal fragility, but her father believes Robert to be arrogant and reckless, and forbids their relationship. When Greater China sends in the troops to retake the colonies, Elizabeth and her father must work with Robert to prevent the slaughter.

Neither tell me anything about the story and neither sound exciting or different. Do I really care that he’s a pharmacologist? Is that why readers might buy the book? What about the fact that she’s a crippled composer? I doubt people would pick up the book for that reason alone. It might be what endears them to her and keeps them reading more, but it’s not your hook or your pitch. I suspect your hook is what they are all risking by preventing the slaughter and what they go through to get there. The rest is backstory.

5. Leatherdykeuk
Dead Line
Harold Waterman hates corpses and finding three of them in his garden spells the beginning of a bad day. Being assassinated in his pyjamas was the very worst evening he could think of until he discovers that there are worse places to go than Heaven and Hell. It’s lucky for him that his best friend is a demon who can pull some strings, if he can only stop being so sarcastic to God.

I like the tone of this and I think it’s almost there. The problem is that it’s confusing. First of all, who doesn’t hate corpses? That seems pretty obvious to me. I also don’t get how the assassination connects with the corpses. Are they one and the same? Is it the same day? I think your last line though is terrific. Totally grabbed me, and that would probably push me over the edge to ask to see more. I would suggest though that you tighten your first two sentences some. Could you say something along the lines of, “When Harold Waterman found three corpses buried in his garden he didn’t think his day could get any worse, that was until he was assassinated in his pyjamas and learned there are worse places to go than Heaven and Hell...”?

6. Anon 7:19 am
(A paranormal romance)
When Adrianna was young, she cut out her heart and hid it from Death. Three thousand years later, she's forgotten where she put it. She can't die. But she can't love, either.

I’m going to use a lovely sing-songy voice here to say BRILLIANT! This is the best pitch so far (okay it’s only the sixth, but it’s really brilliant). There is no doubt I would request this without even reading the rest of the letter. Why? It gets to the heart (I know, he-he) of the problem. We have a heroine who has lost her heart and is searching for it, and not in the traditional way of, My heart turned to ice because of some loser I was once married to. No, she physically lost her heart. How cool is that? I get that it’s paranormal without you even telling me and I know what your character’s conflict is. In fact, I think I even have a feeling for who your character is based on. Really, really good. I hope the partial is headed my way. . . .

And that’s it for today. Great work to the first six brave enough to enter. Keep an eye out for the next group.



Diana said...

Thanks for the feedback, Jessica. While I am able to show and not just tell in my manuscript, I've really struggled with the pitch - and I think it's because I didn't fully understand what key elements I should be conveying.

Thanks again! I'll get back to work on it.

spyscribbler said...

Borg = Star Trek = "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated."

So sorry to disagree, but if you get the reference, I think the first sentence might be a little more important than it might first seem. (I agree about the "this is for you" part, though.)

For me, it's a HUGE hook because I love the Borg, and I never asked myself why they turned asexual and lost the ability to speak smoothly the instant they were assimilated.

More importantly, Star Trek never really explored that question, so it speaks to how his story is different.

The first sentence took my breath away, but then I couldn't figure out what duty and honor had to do with the rest of it.

(The planet name of Oceania, I'm pretty sure, has been used before.)

Anonymous said...

"Oceania" was the dystopian society of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Makes me raise an eyebrow to that particular pitch.

Leatherdykeuk said...

Thanks for the feedback, Jessica. I'll tighten up Dead Line before I send it out again.

Mrs. Revis said...

This is REALLY good. I'm starting to see how an agent sees this kind of stuff. Here's the thing: I really liked reading some of these the first time around without your comments. The DEAD LINE one, for example--that sounded cool and funny and I was interested. However, your 2 cents made me see how the story isn't really shown, and I could see how an agent would pass--but I totally wouldn't have gotten that before. And the last one, about the heart--I thought it sounded neat, but WAY too short...but your comments made me see how, since each word was essential, it made the whole thing tight and complete.

Again, thanks. I really, really, really can't wait for you to rip apart mine!!!

Josephine Damian said...

I too have pitching on the brain these days and did a recent blog about some pitching techniques based on a book loaned to me by Rita Award winner, Linnea Sinclair, who offeres workshops on pitches.

You can read it here:

Josephine Damian said...

Jessicia, this is golden.

I love that you're willing to be constuctively critical and that you let us be critical as well (allowing that last part seems to be in short supply on agent blogs these days).

Having read quite a few opening paragraphs lately, I too found myself confused by some of the SF terms like "Borg." I figured a SF agent might not be confused by a certain word, but how universal or common is every SF term? Some of it seems generational as well. And isn't the point "world-building," creating something new?

Seems to me the SF writer should use more pedestrian language in a query or pitch, and just stick to who the main character(s) is/are, what makes him/her/them interesting (hook) and what their conflict is, and save the SF lingo for the MS.

Agreed that #6 was terrific, and I'm not a paranormal fan either! It's a great example of getting the story idea across without getting bogged down in genre-specifics or phrases.

Seems to be a mark of a good pitch that you can get a non-fan of a genre to want to read more.

Jaye Wells said...

When I read no. six, I paused, let out a breath, and thought, "oh yeah." I hope someone picks that up soon so I can read it.

Solidus said...

Many thanks for the useful comments. Separating pitch and hook from summary and precis is proving difficult. :-) I'll focus on getting as much hook in sentence as I can.

Pitch No2 was just too bland for me (coming from an SF background myself). The opening question is interesting, but not itself a hook - show me what happens, don't tell me the theme behind the book. And there's not enough specificity for me in the rest to get an idea of what's actually going to happen. (I know, I know, but these things are much easier to spot in someone else's writing!)

No5 I rather liked, until the last sentence. Up to there, it's sarcastic and witty, but somehow becomes bogged down at the end. If it ended with something more zippy, I'd go for this one. I guess it's the conflict that's missing for me here - we know the bad thing that's happened, but why does it matter and what's he got to do about it?

No6, I disagree with you on. My thought on reading this pitch was "Oh no, not again". The crucial details seem to me to be missing - what sets this apart from any other "hidden heart" fairytale? And, if it's a romance, who's she falling in love with - especially if she can't fall in love?

Mark Terry said...

Thanks for the shout out.

The thing that struck me about the SF one and the "borg" was, although I suppose I am a Trek fan, I initially thought the pitch was for a YA novel about Goth kids.

Heidi said...

Thank you so much for doing this, Jessica! I am just starting the query process for the first time, and this is so helpful!

Adrienne said...

Wouldn't the Borg query be more fan fiction? I didn't think you were allowed to write fiction in an existing universe, especially one like Star Trek, without the permission of the franchise. I am genuinely confused by this, could someone please explain to me how this could work? Thanks!

Kim Lionetti said...

Jessica read the first few pitches to me, and I have to say that when she came to #6, I perked up and said "oooo!" I think writers too often feel that a pitch should encapsulate the whole book in just a few words. But it should really just be an advertisement for your book. It doesn't need to tell me everything, it just has to make me WANT to know everything.

Bob Duggan said...

I already want to re-do mine.

Can't you, like, grade on the curve or something?

Alli said...

Thanks Jessica and Kim for taking the time to give feedback, and thanks to the brave souls for putting their work out there. I have to say, #6 blew me away - if I was an agent I'm sure I would have requested pages, too!

jodi said...

and here I was thinking you were just going to pick out a few comments to crit. You're actually going to do the WHOLE page. Ouch.

well, at least I can find out if I hit the right tone--if not a great pitch.

Borg. I love STNG, but the blank stares are horrible. However--at least with a coherent stare, you know you've connected...

Precie said...

Thank you so much for doing these, Jessica! It's very informative.

Chumplet said...

This is very exciting! Still, by the time you get to mine you'll probably have given up from exhaustion.

Oh, yeah, six is brilliant. I so want a do-over.

E. said...

I read No. 6 when I was going over all the pitches...and can I say that one had caught my eye. Great Pitch!

Erik said...

Jessica and Kim:

Thanks, it's much clearer in my mind now. I've never written ad copy, so it's a bit of a stretch - but I get the idea finally.

You don't have to hit my over the head with a 2x4 more than three or four times before I catch on!

Josephine Damian said...

Chumplet, I was one of the first pitches posted, but then I deleted my pitch and posted a revised version that is now toward the bottom - yes, Jessica could be quite exhausted by the time she gets to the end.

Maybe this kinda works the same way as a bar: The girls all look prettier at closing time. :-)

Diana said...

Okay, you'll recall my original post and the feedback from Jessica and Kim:

My book is a romantic comedy about a big-city girl and a small-town auctioneer who become entangled in a 130-year-old case of murder, identity theft and bodies buried in the wrong graves.

I've taken to heart the comments about the "why" of the story, and while it's still rough, I'd like to know what all of you think with this revision of my pitch (and yes, it is the same manuscript!):

After a disastrous marriage and failed career, Claire Matson moves in with her loveable great aunt in the small town of Running Water. But when her great aunt disappears, Claire discovers that while she’s trying to be true to herself for once, many of the people closest to her are lying – and the biggest lie of all goes back more than a century.

CM said...

Diana, I think you're trying to do too much with your sentences. Pick one thing--not three things--and drive it home.

I would rewrite your pitch like this:

Claire Matson never expected a 130-year-old unsolved murder to claim her great-aunt.

Anonymous said...

I decided to hop in here and comment. I didn't want to add another pitch to the pile for you Jessica. I've got one that has been field tested and worked for me.

I just wanted to say, #6 did it right, and I too was drawn in by it. Here's why, I started asking questions in my head. The good kind, like, "If she has no heart, what would happen if she did fall in love?" etc. Not the bad kind like, "How is that supposed to work? I don't get it."

My crit partner (Hi Angie, you're brilliant, but Jessica already knows that!) had some trouble with this when we started working together. I put it to her simply, "What is your new kind of crazy?"

Hers turned into a biker gang of geriatric witches, and a terrier that won't shut up which creates instant conflict for her uber-straight laced preschool teacher.

In a pitch, the who's, what's and all that drop away until you are only left with the core of the conflict.

For my book, I summed it up simply.

"If she loves him, she'll be hunted for the rest of her life, but if she doesn't, he'll die."

It really is that simple. I don't have to say their names, I don't have to tell you what planets they are from. That is the heart and core of the story.

I guess I wanted to chime in on the borg discussion. I do know who the borg are, and I didn't see the point of mentioning them. It looked like you are trying to say, "My book has a similar concept, but it is different." But I'm afraid as a first impression, you might fall into the "This is another Star Trek knock off." trap in the SF market by mentioning anything to do with Star Trek.

It would be like a fantasy writer starting off his pitch with. "Elves are tall, beautiful, immortal, and good at shooting arrows, but this book is how they are not like the ones in Lord of the Rings." Don't shoot yourself by tying in with the standards of the genre. Just tell us about YOUR story.

I had fun reading all the pitches yesterday. They were enlightening.


Diana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Diana said...

Thanks, CM, for your feedback. Chessie, your comments are very helpful.

WandererInGray said...

Adrienne -

The author of the "Borg" pitch only mentioned them as a "it's like" tool. His book is not actually about the Borg.


Karen Duvall said...

I think most of us try to squeeze too much into that one paragraph, forgetting that the optimum word is "hook." That's why it takes us so long to come up with just the right combination of plot and character to make our point. It's very frustrating, but satisfying when you get it right.

I really liked the idea behind Omn's Tears, it's just the hook itself that lacks punch. The premise was cool. Who wouldn't be intrigued by a rebel soldier and a dragon hunter who work together for the common good?

Maybe if a play on words fit into the concept and the conflict were made more clear? Something like: There's a fine line between heaven and earth, and it's walked by a dragon hunter, a rebel soldier and an angel, all vowing to stop a disastrous magic that threatens the mortal world.

Chessie said...

Hey, I like that. It gives us a sense of the problem, "The world is in danger, and these three people have to save it. The only thing I think it is missing is a sense that they would not work well together, thus getting to the crux of the problem."

I'd add on something like,

There's a fine line between heaven and earth, and it's walked by a dragon hunter, a rebel soldier and a fallen angel, all vowing to stop a disastrous magic that threatens the mortal world, but can three unlikely compatriots overcome their bitterness and distrust enough to save reality, and each other?

I don't know, that isn't perfect, but I don't know what sorts of forces are keeping these three from their goal, that is what has to go on the end here.

As for yours Diana, what is your new kind of crazy? You say this is romantic comedy, but I don't see anything comical about dead bodies, missing aunts, or graves.

Try something like this.

After a disastrous marriage and failed career, Claire Matson moves in with her loveable great aunt in the small town of Running Water. But when her great aunt disappears, Claire discovers that while she’s trying to be true to herself for once, many of the people closest to her are lying – and the biggest lie of all goes back more than a century.

Grab us with a funny or at least lively voice.

Claire had it all figured out. Okay, maybe she only had her recipe for crumble brownies figured out, because the rest of her life went the way of a certain canoe without a paddle. Now stuck in small town nowhere with a missing aunt, a hot auctioneer, and a 130 year-old case of identity theft to straighten out, she'd better start paddling, or her aunt may not be the only one up a creek.

Diana said...

Kim, Jessica, out of curiosity, when someone pitches to you, do you really expect them to sit down, introduce themselves, and just launch into his or her one or two sentences? (I am TOTALLY new at this.)

Anne-Marie said...

Oh, I absolutely loved #6.

I have a feeling already my pitch was way too long.

What a great idea to do this for us, Jessica! Thank you again.

Cindy Procter-King said...

My favourite was Dead Line. #6 was good, but didn't make me think, "Weird!" Dead Line did.

I like weird. But if I read the book I would probably only like it if it were literary weird. I'm not as keen on genre weird. Not sure why.

Genre quirky, yes, however.

Do people who work in funeral parlors hate corpses? If they do, why do they work in funeral parlors?

Or are we only talking mutilated (as in murdered or somesuch) corpses?

Okay, I guess the query is a little confusing. If the corpsees are in the garden, they're probably murdered...unless the person who drops them at the funeral parlor is very forgetful and took them to the garden instead.

But I love the tone.

Beth said...

I adored the paranormal romance one. Really well done. I love that she can't find where she hid her heart, and that she needs it to fall in love.

In Omn's Tears, I (a fellow fantasy writer) was following along with interest until you reached here:

The only way to save the mortal world and the heavenly realm is for the trio to join forces and seek out the mythical remnant of the Creator’s power, Omn's Tears.

The triangle of a renegade soldier, ruthless dragon hunter, and angelic woman in search of her powers has great potential for some intriguing interpersonal conflict. But instead, they "joined forces" and all the tension went thbbbppft. (sound of balloon deflating).

Tammie said...

Uggh I'm with Bob Duggan and the grading on a curve.

Though I do love to hear what works and what doesn't. I struggle with the pitch sentence and a paragrah which I went with this time and feel I missed the boat.

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much Jessica and everyone else, I learned a lot here, I'm glad I got here in time for my pitch to grow as my novel does.

One thing I've assumed without justification - how many science fiction fans didn't get my reference to the Borg? Thanks to Mark Terry for that, and Joesphine Damian.

Spyscribbler, you may be closest in outlook to the agent I need - even though you're a writer. Thank you very much, I'll polish the connection somehow.

Thanks Solidus, for giving me the other side of the spectrum. Since I've already excluded agents not serious about SF, I can't afford to lose any more. I'm not sure if I caught Jodi or not.

Chessie too, I have some hard choices here - Spyscribbler reacted exactly as I hoped to the first sentence, so I appreciate you're helping me to keep it real.

I want to thank all the non science fiction readers who posted too - I learned that I need an agent who doesn't just read SF, but a lot of it.

No sense grading us on a curve - if it won't hook an agent, lash us bloody! Just kidding, maybe.

David Weisman

Chessie said...

If you've ever wondered why being part of a hive mind should cause people to dress in black, act asexual, and talk in stilted phrases, this book is for you. Major Brett Johnson struggles to satisfy both duty and honor, and learn if the overmind on the planet Oceania is a deadly seductive trap that may snare humanity, or a tool to extend human lifespans and enrich our experience of the human condition.

Good luck, David,

For the record, here is what I would suggest. I'd take out the reference to the Borg, and focus on your vision of a "human hive". I'd start with something like,

Peace, unity, prosperity they are all a part of the lure of the overmind. What would the people of Oceania give to be free of war, struggle and strife? Would they give up their identities, or worse, their thoughts themselves? Caught between duty and honor, Major Brett Johnson must discover if the overmind is a tool capable of creating a human utopia, or a seductive trap that will destroy them all.

That way, people familiar with the Borg will go, "Hey, that is kind of like the Borg or A Wrinkle in Time," but it is clear that while you are drawing on the idea of a human collective thought, you are making it your own.

I think the story sounds interesting and I hope you have some luck with it.

Chumplet said...

Okay, I'm hunting mine down and giving myself a do-over, even if Jessica is exhausted when she gets to it. At least it'll be shorter!

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K.R.Stewart said...

Thanks for all the comments on my Omn's Tears pitch. I think my real problem is, with 3 POV characters, I'm just incapable of cutting down the conflict of my story to pitch-length.

This is a bad thing, I know :(

I think I realize now that I'm trying to say too much. I keep fearing that by saying too little, it will simply sound uninteresting/generic, so I end up trying to say too much, and it's just confusing.

The main plot can't be described in a 3 sentence pitch anyway, so I guess I should just focus on my three main characters, and just vaguely describe the impending doom if they don't manage to work together...

Solidus said...

KR Stewart:
I'd advise against "vague" descriptions in the pitch. You run the risk then of sounding generic and hence boring. So, in your case, it's not that "the world's in peril" that's particularly interesting but why it's in peril and how it can be saved. You also don't need to precis the story (this was my mistake, too, if you look at my submission), just enough to grab attention.

So, perhaps something like:
"The Emperor's magic will unravel Creation unless an unlikely alliance of renegade soldier, ruthless dragon hunter and fallen angel can find the mythical relic Omn's Tears."
The 3-sentence version might include a sentence about why the three characters don't get along.

Mike Keyton said...

Growing up brings with it choices and change. Change can sometimes mean danger – but Lucy Silver never expected this…

In a single moment a car crash takes away her parents. She wakes up in hospital and is `claimed' by a strange aunt, Mrs Boggins, who feeds her on chips, green tea, and cigars. But who is Mrs Boggins? Dream-Spider is a fast moving fantasy based in modern Newport, South Wales. Lucy and her friend, Daniel must overcome the machinations of Lucy's sinister aunt, and the predatory intentions of a demon. Pursued almost from the very first moment and never entirely certain whom to trust, they encounter the Sidhe, a wise-cracking hare, and Phidias Flynn, an ambiguous jester-like figure who is not what he seems. Worst of all they encounter a demon with its eyes on this world - and Lucy.

Chessie said...

I've been reading Kristin Nelson's blog as well, and she is doing stuff on pitching right now. She suggests focusing your pitch on the moment that launches the book forward.

So in Ohm's Tear's case, wouldn't that be the angel falling? You did that a little at the end of the original pitch, but perhaps you should focus on that. I worry a little about the set up of "The world is in peril unless a group of heroes undertakes a quest to find a mystical relic that will stop the power of the dark evil magic person." That is the underlining story of an awful lot of fantasy out there, including Lord of the Rings. I think focusing on your angel might make this work.

I'm a romance writer, so this will probably sound romancey, but how about something like,

Imprisoned and powerless, fallen from heaven and grace, an angel in peril depends on the aid of two unlikely heroes, a renegade soldier, and a ruthless dragon hunter. Without them, she cannot undo the evil unleashed on an unsuspecting world. But how can she bring the two hardened and bitter rivals together long enough to stop the disaster unfolding before their eyes?

Or something like that?

K.R.Stewart said...

Thanks again to those who continue to give good feedback on my pitch for Omn's Tears.

Specifically, chessie, I really liked the example pitch you gave of what how the plot of my novel should be summed up to make it more hooking, for you. In the end, what I think really does make my story stand out to become more than "unlikey allies group together, search for magic talisman/thing, to stop evil Emperor/magic person" is the existence of the fallen angel as a catalyst to it all. Without her, the plot cannot stand and none of the other good guys, major or minor, would stick together to take on the quest.

Hope you don't mind if I base my new pitch/hook off of your sample, because honestly I really like it. Sometimes a neutral 3rd party can better sum up your own story better than the author. I keep wanting to say too much about all my beloved characters =P

At the moment, my current new pitch is:

Imprisoned and powerless, fallen from heaven and grace, an angel in peril depends on the aid of two unlikely heroes: a renegade soldier, and a ruthless dragon hunter. Without them, she cannot undo the evil unleashed on an unsuspecting world. But in order to bring the two hardened and bitter rivals together, she must first open their eyes to the potential for beauty that exists in the mortal world, despite the self-seeking ambition they’ve grown accustomed to witnessing. Can such a lesson be fully embraced in time to stop disaster from unfolding before their eyes?

chessie said...

Oh Wow, I love it! Now that sounds like a unique and really cool story. I posted the help hoping you would use it, so do so with my best wishes. I'm so glad I could help.

This new pitch is clear, to the point, and makes your story sound both interesting and unique. Great job! and good luck with it!

Fairchild said...

I highly advise against approaching a pitch through the eyes of your plot. Plot is only the framework through which your character works out their personal/ultimate goal. Plot-based pitches tend to get the "so what" response more often. Come from the character's goal first.

For example, it seemed to me that the angel pitch left out the 'why' of her situation: to get back into grace; the world saving is secondary to her inward struggle.

David Trottier, author of The Screenwriter's Bible, had great advice on pitching, albeit for movies. He told me about a pitch he did that was too plot-based. The producer leaned in and said, "But where's the part where we cry?" So, Dave pinched at his eyes, feigning tears, and said, "It's when she...."

Anyway, I think pitches work best when the humanity is clear upfront(that way the reader can relate). Think of the basic heroic journey themes:love, honor, hope,secruity/safety, belonging, family...Before you write your pitch, think about what is your character longing for, what hole are they trying to fill in themselves. Then the details/plot will fall into place.

That said, I should go rewrite my pitch again! My character has love, but no hope, so love is pointless.

Cheers to all of you for having the courage to participate!