With a regional important conference on the horizon, (Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. scheduled for May 1-3) I’ve been working on a pitch for my latest manuscript so I can present it to editors/agents. I’ve done this before, and had nibbles from my pitches, but lately have learned I’ve been doing it all wrong.
I should have a high concept. Well, humm, let’s see. Suggestions say to do it like this: ER meets Gray’s Anatomy. Gilligan’s Island meets Love Boat. Always use something which readers are familiar with. I have a shape shifter who is also Cheyenne, who shifts into a wolf. No werewolves here, please. I’m told not every book qualifies for this type of pitch. Okay, so on to the next step, just in case I can’t come up with one. Wolf Man meets Lonesome Dove. Nah.
A log line. Sample: In Space no one can hear you scream, from Alien. So, what they’re getting at is, don’t pitch your story, pitch what it’s about, but not exactly that either. Pitch how you want the reader to react rather than how it will make the reader feel. Like screaming, but no one can hear them. Space tells where the story takes place, the rest tells how the writer wants readers to react. We’re in Wyoming. I want the reader to empathize with the plight of the gray wolf.
Three questions to help create a log line. What is the setting? What is the tone? What are the book’s most memorable features? My setting is Pinedale, Wyoming. The tone is a light look at shape shifting. Most memorable features: A Cheyenne shifts into another man, both can shift into a wolf. We’re not talking werewolves, like I said. This is a beautiful intelligent wolf who can communicate through thoughts and understands the human language, because he really is a human . . . most of the time. I’ve thought of things like, Check him for fur before that first date. But that’s too humorous. The book has some serious points, like Olivia, known as Liv or Livvie is preparing to disconnect her sister from life support after a year of no response. Also, she is responsible for her condition. Also, the Fish and Wildlife Service is in charge of the Gray Wolf Restoration Program in Wyoming (Yellowstone) and someone is killing the wolves.
Here are the questions I’ve learned are important in deciding on an elevator or 25 word “what my book is about” pitch.
Who are the protagonists? Answer: Livvie and Wolf Singer (shape shifter)
What are their most outstanding/ defining characteristics? Livvie would rather live in another era and not be forced to face her problem (sister’s death), Wolf Singer is a loner who let’s his other self and the wolf, deal with public appearances.
What do they want throughout most of the novel? (story goal) Story goal is to find out who is killing the gray wolves and support the restoration program.
Why do they want it? (motivation) They fear the program will fail and the wolves will become extinct.
What is making it so hard for them to achieve what they want? Ranchers and hunting guides have a large organization against the program.
I don’t think that was much help at all. What about other books? I came up with a pitch for some of them, but back then I didn’t know the rules. Perhaps that’s my problem. Knowing the rules.
As if all this weren’t confusing enough, experts in pitching don’t always agree on how to go about it. Some say that high concept, log line approach is much better than using the characters or their goals, etc., in the actual elevator pitch.
Okay, try again. Talk about split personalities, Wolf Singer is unique. When not wandering around saving the planet as a Cheyenne and his loyal wolf companion, he works undercover for the Federal Wildlife Service as a man called Singer. This might make a good pitch, but it uses the male character and doesn’t mention Livvie.
Livvie suspected something was awry when she found a collection of wolves ears in Singer’s closet.
Pinedale, Wyoming would never be the same after the Cheyenne shape shifter came to town.
The Federal Wildlife Service never expected the kind of help it received for the Gray Wolf Restoration Program when the shape shifter and his wolf companion came to town.
Well, I’m told this can take days or even weeks to sort out. So I’ll leave this space. Results of my quest will follow when there are any.