“So, what’s your story about?” – That can easily be one of the hardest questions to answer after you’ve put so much energy and passion into creating a work of fiction.
When caught off guard, writers can easily find themselves trying to explain their plot to friends or strangers with the erratic excitement of a five-year-old holding a drawing of skateboarding lizards being chased by a band of jungle princesses. Sure, you’ll take the little ones for their word, but realistically you’d find yourself trying to make sense of green and purple doodles, crooked geometric shapes and a handful of smiley faces.
Take this pitch, for example:
“My book’s about this guy who has a really angry father, but they’re in Mars and their ice-cream shop is not doing so well because Martians are lactose intolerant, so they need to band together with an amnesiac astronaut in order to rebuild their rocket and go back to Earth. Oh, and it’s a drama.”
Sure, I’d be willing to give that a go if I was really fond of the writer. Hear that pitch from the lips of someone you’ve never met or care about, though, or worse, catch a glimpse of that blurb in a cluttered timeline … and that might earn your eye roll at most.
An elevator pitch follows the idea that you’ve suddenly found yourself sharing an elevator with someone who could possibly invest on your project. You have nothing more than a short ride to make sure that they get it, that they’re not bothered by the approach and that they walk out of the elevator hooked to check it out.
Once I had finished the first draft of “The Missing Spirit”, I didn’t have my elevator pitch ready, so my early attempts at describing it resulted in stuttering, hyperbole and a mix of wide eyes and broad smiles which I assumed meant either genuine interest or polite confusion. Perhaps a bit of both.
The goal was to arrive at a pitch which was linear, to-the-point, effective and intriguing. This was not the time to describe supporting characters, distracting details, random scenes and fantastic creatures. If the elevator pitch was successful, after all, I’d get another opportunity to reveal the novel’s deeper layers.
After a lot of soul searching, I eventually found a way to describe my story in a tweet – even though in my heart I always knew it deserved to be described in a few hundred pages.
It went something like this: “The Missing Spirit is a prehistoric fantasy epic about Keana, a human refugee raised by gods in a realm where nothing ever dies. One day, however, death finds its way in. Looking to reclaim their immortality, the gods believe a sacrifice is in order, and Keana becomes their primary target.”
So … what’s your story about?