Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 21

Continuing on. I vow to end this before summer. So here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

125. ASN
Amy never expected to get divorced, let alone sit Shiva for her ex-husband in a house with a Christmas tree, yet there she was. Just two years after her divorce when she had hit her stride having every-other-weekend to herself when her kids and the dogs went to stay with her ex, Amy was no longer a co-parent, she was an only parent. She now had two fatherless children, her ex's pregnant widow, an intimate relationship with probate court, but no weekends off.

Your last line is your pitch, or at least the beginning of your pitch. I think you have a lot of potential to garner interest here, but the key is that Amy’s life has been turned upside down in a new and different way. I think the entire second sentence could be deleted and/or rewritten. We don’t care so much what Amy has done, we care more about the mess she’s in now. “Two years after her divorce Amy has finally hit her stride and life is good. But enter her ex-husband, whose goal always seems to be ruining her life, even when he’s dead. Now with two fatherless children, her ex’s pregnant widow, and . . . Amy suddenly finds that . . .” I think something along those lines is sharper and more dramatic.

126. Ann Hite
Where The Souls Go is the story of three women and their art, strengths, madness and legacies. Can the youngest generation, Leigh, daughter of Grace Jean and granddaughter of AzLeigh, break the cycle of dysfunction passed forward for too many years and survive the insanity knocking at her door?

Great title. That’s really intriguing. Ditch the question. I think it weakens your statement. Also ditch the generalities. What is the insanity knocking at the door and what are these two women going to have to do to stop it? That’s your pitch.

127. anon 2:27
A deadly boating accident took a young boy's life the summer before Lani Jones’s body washed ashore the little island along the Susquehanna River. Small town newspaper publisher, Fay Cunningham scrambles to find the connection between the two when a second recovering heroin addict’s body turns up and Fay’s daughter insist neither died by accident or suicide and she could be the next one dead. When Fay questions how she knows this, she confesses to being in recovery and had spent time with the victims. Stunned and terrified by her daughter’s confession, it doesn’t take long before Fay’s deeply involved in the investigation. Her persistent snooping leads to answers and lands her on a jet ski trying to outrun a killer who wants to permanently silence her before she reaches shore and exposes the truth.

Where an earlier reader needed to watch commas, you could add some. Your first sentence had to be read twice because I found it too much of a run-on and confusing. I didn’t get at first that there were two bodies, and why is a newspaper publisher on the case? This pitch leaves me with more questions than it does answers, and of course leads me to worry about the strength of the plotting of your book. So here are the questions I have: Is this an amateur sleuth cozy mystery series or something bigger and darker? The tone doesn’t come through clearly. Does Fay really get involved the minute the bodies turn up or to protect her daughter? What is Fay’s personality? Is she no-nonsense? Tough? A calm, nice, sweet grandma type? How old is Fay? I am confused by the name. The name Fay to me is a nice, quiet grandma type. If this is a darker mystery, you might want to consider a tougher name. Believe it or not that can define how readers think of your character. I think you need to work on building the tone and also start at the end of your pitch. “When Fay’s daughter is threatened to be the next victim in a series of grizzly murders, it’s up to this small-town newspaper publisher to do some sleuthing of her own. . . .”

128. anon 3:08
Västerbotten, Sweden – August 1947.
A series of killings plague the small town of Övranäs and its surrounding areas. When married local chief of police finds the woman he loves dead and their baby missing he has to find both child and perpetrator before he himself is framed for the murders. What he unravels forces him to choose between the justice he craves and the love he cannot live without.

Real potential here. I like the first sentence, but I’m concerned about the next. Is the woman he loves his wife? If so, why can’t you just say his wife? If not, can’t you just say his mistress? In other words, sometimes fewer words can say the same thing, and in a pitch that can be important. I would also get more into some of the facts and specifics. What does he unravel that he’s up against, because that’s what the heart of the story is.

129. Caroline Smith
Sometimes white picket fences can become iron bars. And no-one is baking Sandra a cake with a file in it. Realising that "happily ever after" is a target, Sandra sets out to bake her own cake. A feminist fable that give the lie to the adage that feminists have no sense of humour.

I vaguely remember your first one, but luckily for you not enough to do a direct comparison. There’s not a lot of punch here. I like the idea of your first sentence, but wouldn’t it be stronger and more powerful to say: “Sandra used to think the white picket fence in front of her house was charming, now it feels like iron bars. When . . .”? The problem is that you are using a bunch of clever lines, but telling us nothing about her story. Why does she feel that she needs to bake a cake with a file in it? I would also skip the entire line about the feminist fable. I’m not looking for books that teach a message. I’m looking for a good story, and that line could definitely turn some people off.

130. anon 5:23 (Kylie)
“An exotic fantasy full of fire and shadows.”

Magic winks it deception through the rainforests and rice fields of Sunda, like dancing glints of light leaving in its wake the terrible absence of animals.

Fifteen-year-old Amirah may be quick to temper and often opens her mouth before thinking, but she will do anything to redeem her family from social exile, even travel to the wilds of Rindu – where the animals now reside. She plans to return in triumph with a surga (winged horse) for the king. However, Rindu is a place of chaos and unpredictability and her recent goddess-given gift of connecting with animals becomes bitter-edged when she hears the song of a dying phoenix and a promise becomes an impossible burden.

Drop your first two lines. You’re getting bogged down in trying to have a tag line and/or trying to be clever. The paragraph, though: Brilliant! I absolutely love this and would absolutely request it. You get it all in there . . . your voice, a feeling for who Amirah is, the central conflict, as well as the ability to clearly give us an idea for the world. Really, really good work!

Okay, readers, it’s up to you now (and no slacking off on me!). . . .