A few months back, a dear blogging friend of mine wrote a mostly sarcastic post about answering the dreaded question: “What’s your book about?” It’s quite funny in its own right and does address the terrified feelings that the question can create. You can read the post here.
In the process of reading said post, I was inspired to 1) Create informal pitches for a couple of my projects, and 2) blog about the process.
If you spend much time learning about writing, you’ll come across information on creating a formal pitch, which is directed at agents, publishers, and the like. What many young authors face more often, though, is having to explain their stories to friends and other people. This requires less formality but just as much information. The problem is, it also brings on mind blankness and terror. Which does nothing for winning any fans. The ally of these kinds of situations, in my mind, is preparedness. So, today I’ll be begin construction on a couple of informal pitches, one for my novella Through Time and one for my novel Raiders’ Rise.
Step One: Assemble Your Building Blocks
1) The Foundation: As with most projects, it’s good to start with basics. In the case of a writing project, that would be genre, and, if you have it, title. This is the first hook for a potential reader, the point at which their ears perk slightly. I’m certain of these elements in both of my projects.
My novella is a futuristic, semi-dystopian, character-growth romance. (Yeah, more complicated than I expected, but we’ll see if we can’t get more succinct than that.) Its title, of course, is Through Time.
My novel, on the other hand, is a Greek-inspired tech-fantasy (So, my stories don’t exactly stay in nice neat genre boxes), and its title is Raiders’ Rise (though that’s looking more and more like it’s going to change) .
2) The Characters: Who is this story about? Are there multiple points-of-view? Who’s important to this story? Who’s your hero and who is your villain?
Through Time: My hero is Tristan, a young billionaire with cyborg implants, an incurable disease, and anger issues. My villain isn’t a specific person as much as it is time and Tristan’s internal struggle. Other important characters are Alette, a peasant from 18th-century France, and Janice, Tristan’s long-suffering housekeeper.
Raiders’ Rise: This is a multiple POV story with, arguably, multiple main characters, but the heart of the story is Zana, Princess Jewel of Meristos, and her brother Davian, heir to the throne. The villains are raiders who invade Meristos and pirates, led by the vengeful Captain Villsorg. Other characters include Gavin, a former pirate who helps Alexandra escape, and Simone, princess of Klyptos, who meets Davian in captivity.
3) The Plot: What’s your story about? What happens in it? How does it start and where does it end? I find it helpful to find the core plot elements first and move on from there.
Note that you don’t have to include spoilers, but it’s good to get a grip on the whole plot for yourself.
Through Time: This is a Beauty and the Beast retelling, told from the perspective of the “Beast,” Tristan, who was orphaned at age fourteen in a car crash and is now dying of an incurable disease. He utilizes his parents’ discovery of time travel to search out a cure and struggles with the thought of dying alone. He meets Alette in 18th-century France and brings her back to his time as part of his latest cure-search.
Raiders’ Rise: Because the plot is a little up-in-the-air currently, I can focus more on the general stuff. The country of Meristos has been invaded, their heir to the throne, Davian, taken hostage, and their Princess Jewel, Zana, fled on an unknown ship. Soon, however, Zana discovers she’s travelling with pirates,escapes with the help of a sailor, and seeks to save her country. Davian, meanwhile, is taken back to the raiders’ country of Parahan, where he meets the princess of Klyptos and strives for the same things as his sister.
4) The Theme: At its core, every story has some kind of theme. It may not be particularly obvious, but it’s there. For your own sake, it’s good to explore what it (or they) is/are.
Through Time: The meaning of true love, the danger of anger, the value of selflessness
Raiders’ Rise: Courage, purpose, family
Now we’re overflowing with information, probably way too much to dump on an unsuspecting passerby who asks the innocent question, “Oh, what’s your book about?” But I’ve developed the building blocks I need to create a succinct, catchy pitch for people. Next week, I'll put it all together and make it informal.
Have you ever tried to craft an informal pitch before? What would your building blocks look like? I'd love to hear all about them in the comments!