Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pitch Critiques Round 22

I’m winding down. Hoping to get to as many as possible, but just can’t agree to do them all. So here we go again . . . Perfecting Your Pitch.

131. Anon. 8:38
John Calhoun IV scandalizes prim Swanson, Mississippi, when he learns his late father was a philanderer, the abandoned urchin Mary Swann is his half sister, and he is the only one willing to rescue her.

Immediately I see a conflict, and not in the plot. How does John Calhoun IV scandalize this prim town? Is it because of what his father did or because he rescues a half sister? Why does she need rescuing and what is the big deal about rescuing someone who needs help? Do you see where I’m going with this? You need to get to the heart of the story and not dance around it. Tell us exactly what is up with Mary Swann and why John Calhoun gets involved. As this pitch stands I have no clue what type of book this is—historical what? Fiction? Romance? Mystery? A pitch should make it fairly clear what genre you are targeting.

132. Christy
The life of a Las Vegas call girl doesn’t allow Athena Hamilton time to ponder memories of her first love, Isaiah Martin.

Lydia Martin never wanted to move to Las Vegas, but she goes for her husband, believing in Isaiah’s call to start a church in Sin City.

Athena and Lydia become unlikely friends and with Lydia’s help, Athena might find true salvation. But when Isaiah discovers his wife’s new friend, it’s not Athena’s soul he’s worried about – it’s his own.

My concern with this is that I never get a feel for who is really the protagonist. I see three different protagonists and each of their personal conflicts, but not necessarily how their stories (not lives) interact. Is the story really about Athena or Isaiah? What about Lydia? I think I need to know more about the plot to get me to come to this book. You do have an interesting premise, but I’m not sure what genre it’s in or what is really going on. I feel like I’m getting the setup and not the actual book.

133. anon 10:20 (Stephanie)
It’s 1668 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Reverend Dean needs pure of faith Calvinist women to marry the men in his village if he hopes to maintain his hold on his tiny fiefdom.

Jayne, cast out by her father for her strange ways, is sent across the ocean to be given to a man she does not know.

After spending time with the savages, William isn’t a favorite of the Reverend’s but when the lottery draws his name he’s granted his first choice of wife. Two outcasts struggle to live among the repressive village, while at the same time work to understand the strange and fascinating attraction between them.

This is another case where I feel I’m getting backstory and not the actual book. Is the book about Rev. Dean? Or Jayne being cast out? My gut tells me it’s really about Jayne and William, two strangers trying to make their way in an unwelcome world. And no, that shouldn’t be your pitch. What should be your pitch is how they are making their way and what the true conflict is. Is it the attraction or the repressive village? Is this a Scarlet Letter for modern times or a historical romance?

134. Lost Like Secrets Unseen
Every time Braden takes his sunglasses off, it brings him closer to death. The visions he sees make him a formidable witch – traces of old magic, remnants of dark emotions, and glimpses of the past – but also strike him down with seizures that make it impossible to fall in love. Being gay is only the icing on the cake of his abnormal life. When he’s drawn into a feud between two rival witch families who each want to use him, seeing the truth isn’t as easy as unshielding his eyes. His friends are on opposite sides of the war, the guy he’s falling for is becoming his enemy, and thanks to Braden’s arrival, tensions in town are escalating. Choosing a side means accepting his role in the unfolding events, and deciding which is more important: the things he can see, or the things his heart covets.

Your opening lines are great . . . up until the seizures making it impossible to fall in love and that being gay is the icing on the cake. These feel very anti-climactic to me and I’m not sure how one relates to another. In other words I’m not sure what being a witch has to do with falling in love and being gay. I would suggest you take that out altogether and stick to the plot points that will excite the reader. Stick to his powers as a witch and the war. The love story is really just “icing on the cake,” but I would avoid the cliches if I were you.

135. Anon 10:58 (Brigitta Schwulst)
Take yourself back in time. Back to Africa – deepest Africa. 1855. The British have just begun their invasion. White men are a scarcity in Zululand. Tales of their magic abound in the villages. Izi, the King’s trusted medicine, knows that the time of the prophecy draws near. Chosen by the Gods to deliver the message, he must ensure that the Zulus remain faithful. Summoned to deliver the Queen’s first child, the daughter of the prophecy is born. Will she lead her nation to freedom, or will her Gods abandon her?

I feel too distant from this. The way it’s written, “taking myself back in time.” What I’d rather have you do, in the pitch and in the book, is take me back in time. Instead of telling me to envision what it was like in Africa in 1855 I would like you to take me to Africa 1855. And don’t end with a question. What this entire pitch should be is the answer to the question. You should show us whether this daughter will lead the nation to freedom and how she has to go about doing that. In other words, we need to be taken into the heart of the story, not the setup.

136. anon 11:53 (Gabrielle)
"The Mask of Zorro" meets "Ella Enchanted" as Prince Charming narrates this dark Cinderella.

When his older brother is murdered, Berto changes from Second Son of Savana to heir apparent on the run. He moves from orphan refuges to governor's palaces, working to keep his identity secret from all except his orphan friend Ella. But as he falls in love with Ella and discovers his mysterious enemy is closer than home, the choice between "happily ever after" and saving Savana is one Berto will have to make-- unless someone kills him first.

Skip your first line. I suspect that was meant as your short pitch and the other your longer description, but the first line tells me nothing and doesn’t grab me at all. The dark Cinderella story might work, but I would leave the rest. I’m confused by the age of your characters. Initially I would assume they are adults, until I read that they move from orphan refuges, then I suspect they are children. I would also suggest you try being more specific. Focus on the mysterious enemy and the fact that he’s on the run. Why was his brother murdered and why does that mean he’s running? Who is the enemy and what does he have to do to save himself? Those are the points that will strengthen your story.

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