Elevator Pitches

So let’s say you’re at a writing conference and you board an elevator. The doors are closing and, at the last second, someone shoves their hand between them and says, “Wait! Hold the elevator!” As the doors slowly part, a familiar face is revealed: it’s a really well-known agent or publisher who you’d love to work with. They board, make polite eye contact, push their floor button, and face forward.

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE.

You somehow manage to be cool and not sweat or blurt out, “UHHH YOU’RE AWESOME” and, instead, realize you have about thirty seconds tops to try and make an impression with this person. This is your elevator pitch.

elevator

Now, you don’t have to give it in an elevator – this is just the nickname given to an extremely tight pitch/summary of what makes your project really special. There’s a lot to do in a very short space, so it has to be truly fantastic and needs to address a few key points to really be successful:

  • Situation
  • Protagonist
  • Their objective
  • Setting
  • Inciting incident
  • Conflict/stakes
  • Opponent

You’ve got about four sentences to nail this down. It’s no easy feat, but it can be done.

I’ll use the great example that KM Weiland (of Outlining Your Novel fame) uses to actually illustrate how to outline, but see how well this works as a tiny, compact pitch:

Restless farm boy (situation) Luke Skywalker (protagonist) wants nothing more than to leave home and become a starfighter pilot, so he can live up to his mysterious father (objective). But when his aunt and uncle are murdered (disaster) after purchasing renegade droids, Luke must free the droids’ beautiful owner and discover a way to stop (conflict) the evil Empire (opponent) and its apocalyptic Death Star.

Hopefully you can see that this is less of a summary and more of a brief setup that shows why the project is interesting and gets readers wanting to know more.

And here is my own elevator pitch for my project (the one I’m rewriting now for Novel in Six). It hits most of the points that Weiland suggests and also gives a taste of the sort of dark humor and tone that I try to incorporate into the manuscript:

Wilder Blood is a story about a girl and her dog. And by “girl,” I mean “trained demon hunter” and by “dog,” I of course mean “loyal hellhound bound to human form.” Scarlett “Red” Wilder (protagonist) has been raised to do one thing and do it well: hunt and kill monsters and keep them secret from the world at large. With her hellhound, Caleb, she investigates a string of missing persons (situation) tied to demonic activity (opponent) in DC’s nightlife scene (setting). Weaving through the dark underbelly of the city, they take a supernaturally attuned waitress under their protection and together risk life and limb (stakes) to locate and eliminate a demon nest (objective).

You might notice I’m missing an inciting incident. Well, that’s partly because I’m having  a hard time identifying exactly what that is in the story. We come in and meet the protagonists while their investigation is already underway and the first chapter opens with a fight that is only tangentially related to the plot at large. This is something I may need to address in my rewrite. The inciting incident/tragedy may not be personal enough for there to be a hook.

Let’s just say that I have work to do.

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