In my quest to better myself as a writer I make it habit to expose myself to writing at several different levels. The pitch of a story is very difficult to pull off because you need a strong sense of focus. One trend I’ve noticed from studying pitches is a theme of desperation—and I’m not talking about the characters in the story.
Plot- the main events of a play, novel, movie, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as an interrelated sequence.
The pitch of your story shouldn’t guide the reader through a step by step summary of the plot, instead it aims to entice your reader into seeking the details. As such you mustn’t fall back on generic and uninformative wording. To protect the innocent, I’ll be using Mann Chariktar as an example.
“MC learns that…”
“MC finds that…”
These are vague details. While you show details of what happens, you’re leaving out the ‘how’. Revelations are for stories, specifically when the reader is invested and knowledgeable about your work. When they’ve grown attached, when something changes, it will potentially draw them in further.
Details like this cover a single page of a novel. Sometimes even a single sentence.
In a pitch, the reader isn’t always invested. You shouldn’t assume they already are. Your first goal is to show the reader who they’re dealing with. The next problem comes from what the MC does. Or perhaps “what they don’t do.”
“MC is forced to…”
“MC is entrusted with…
None of these are actions. Your query could be full of these and at the same time offers no progression in the story.
Mann Chariktar, a eighteen year old starting quarterback, loves burritos, but they don’t love him. Forever plagued by digestive problems he seeks a way to enjoy his favorite food without need to make a run for the border.
When he learns of a magical bean that can be devoured without complication he realizes what he must do. He must find the magical beat of toot-uncommon and make it his. Unfortunately a rival school quarterback, Rival Antagneest has his eyes on the toot fruit as well.
Mann plans an offensive the world has never seen before. He needs to make a run for the goal line before Rival beats him to it.
The pitch above can potentially interest a reader but it lacks something important: real action. From the start of the pitch to the end, Mann does nothing. The entire ‘chain of events’ could have occurred with him sitting at his computer researching the goal.
The pitch needs to show the reader the potential of the piece and in part demonstrating you know how to keep a story interesting for a whole novel. That leads us to another problem. I will ask the author if there are multiple viewpoints in a story, because the only action in the pitch is performed by people besides the main character.
It always troubles me when the main character isn’t the most interesting character of the story. Also in some cases the main character has nothing to do with the primary conflict and remains unrelated throughout the story. Many of these situations I scratch my head and ask ‘why is this person the main character again?’
If the main character isn’t invested in the primary conflict, this conflict is effectively pointless. A story is the tale of a main character’s struggles, trials, successes and failures.
There are plenty of resources out there to nail the pitch of a story, many far better than me. While you can’t count on me to bring you a stellar pitch, everything I’ve learned comes from trials I’ve faced with my own work and watching others wrestle with the same issues.
There is no shortcut to greatness, it is a long and treacherous road covered with spikes. Hopefully, I can help a few people avoid a few of them.