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Monday
Feb212011

EXPERT PITCH CLASS: Pitch Your Character’s Emotional Arc (CONTEST!)

THE WINNERS!!!!!  We salute our 3 pitch winners. (Original Expert Pitch Class below.)

And everyone won, with Lorin's generous feedback (and VSO - Very Special Offer). :)  Read Lorin's analysis (in the comments to this post) for her explanation of why these pitches achieved winning status.

CHERYL WHITMORE -- YA Science Fiction

When someone kidnaps Jeren's sister, Tara, demanding secrets her parents once held, she crosses space alone in pursuit. Jeren believes she failed to save her dying parents and vowed to protect Tara nine years earlier. Now she must unravel the mystery to keep that promise."

ROSALIE LARO -- DEMON BORN -- 85,000 word paranormal romance

"Keegan is an inter-dimensional bounty hunter on a mission to stop his father, a demon, from raising an army of zombies to take over Earth. But his resolve is tested when he falls for Brynn, the key to the apocalypse...and the very woman he may be forced to kill."

JORDAN McCOLLUM -- Thriller, I'm guessing!

"An attempted assassination in post-war Paris forces dyed-in-the-wool Soviet diplomat Katya Mikhailova to trust her family's safety to the American spy hunting the Nazi underground responsible. To stop her would-be killer from destroying the world’s tenuous peace, she must choose between being a good Soviet or a good daughter."

---

As an independent story editor, Lorin Oberweger specializes in all aspects of story and character development, voice, and on creating a potent emotional connection between story and reader.

Lorin’s company, Free-Expressions Seminars and Literary Services, is nationally known as the force behind Literary Agent Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive and Fire in Fiction workshops.

*** CONTEST DETAILS (and prizes!) at the bottom ***
*** Awards given on Friday ***

Wow, right?

Have you seen all the posts so far?

The first month (January, 2011) of Pitch University has provided QUITE the abundance of smart, practical, awesome advice for writers looking to pitch their works to agents, editors and, ultimately, to readers. (Ed. See all of January’s lessons on the right-hand column under “School Starts Here.”)

Kudos to the phenomenal brain trust gathered on this site so far. I look forward to more!

Pitching = Emotional Connection Between Reader and Character

What interests me most about pitching as a writer and an editor is the emotional connection between writer, protagonist, and reader.

In this case, the reader will be the agent or editor to whom one is pitching one’s work, but REALLY it’s always truly about the heart of the end reader, the man or woman in the bookstore (or on the ‘net) who must decide between your work and another worthy selection and who is entrusting you with hours of his or her life. It’s about throwing out that line and hooking your reader in the gut in such a potent way that he or she lives and breathes and FEELS along with the characters on the page.

So, when I’m speaking with students at a workshop or developing a novel with a client, I begin with a few questions to help suss out the protagonist’s emotional involvement in the plot so that we can find the best ways to capitalize on that for maximum reader gain.

THE QUESTIONS:

1. How is your protagonist absolutely tied to the main story events? How is this HER story?

Often—too often, I find that writers have created stories where their protagonists are really tangential players. They’re loping along in life, perfectly content, when a set of contrived circumstances presents an opportunity for the protagonist’s involvement.

Note that I didn’t say circumstances DEMAND the protagonist’s involvement. It’s often the case that the protagonist decides, almost arbitrarily, to jump into the thick of things, with no really compelling emotional or practical reason for doing so.

I often see this in amateur sleuth mysteries, for example. The protagonist who has no particular skills in sleuthing and absolutely no relation to the murder victim or the accused, decides to jump into the fray simply because a dead body popped up within his domain.

Inevitably, that leads to difficulties in sustaining plausible motivations for that character (Really? You got shot in the lung, your dog was kidnapped, and you’re STILL going to keep investigating a crime that means nothing to you personally? Does your town have no police force? Also…umm, might you be crazy?). And it also makes just about everything they do incomprehensible to the sensible reader.

So, first and foremost—How MUST this be your protagonist’s story? If you were to rewrite it without your protagonist, would the story change dramatically? Is a secondary character more inextricably involved in things? If so, are you sure she isn’t REALLY your protagonist?

2. How does your protagonist PROPEL story events?

Writers sometimes create stories wherein events happen TO their protagonists, where those protagonists are borne along from event to event via a series of random and external circumstances. Those characters may respond to crises that emerge from scene to scene, and in that way, they SEEM active and the novel SEEMS to contain potent dramatic content, but, as I like to tell my clients, those protagonists are not really “driving the bus.”

So, does your protagonist--who has an absolutely essential role in the story and a true emotional investment in the problem and outcome--DRIVE story events? Is she putting a plan into action, and do those actions lead to consequences, which lead to continued renewal, recommitment, and further driving action on your protagonist’s part?

3. How do story events test your protagonist? In what ways is he forced to do things he never thought he’d do?

Think about your protagonist’s emotional state in the story, his beliefs and ethical landscape, his self-imposed limitations and those he faces given his age, social station, and the time period and milieu of the story. Think about his moral compass, and then ask yourself how you set that compass a’ spinnin’.

At the Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive workshops, Don Maass often asks, “What would your protagonist NEVER do?” followed by, “Great. Now create a situation in which he must do this very thing.”

What would that be? How does your novel force your protagonist to areas of great emotional discomfort/duress in pursuit of his goals? How does it seem to reward him for going to dark places or turning his back on his values or cultural traditions? In what ways is your protagonist tested, emotionally?

4. How does your protagonist CHANGE/GROW during the course of the story?

Beyond just a change in practical circumstances, this really speaks to where the protagonist is at the beginning of the story and where she ends up, emotionally, by the climax/dénouement.

In the most rewarding novels, the character’s journey through the above—pushing beyond emotional boundaries, entering previously untrodden ethical territory—will result in an emotional transformation on the part of the character. Your protagonist will end the story possibly sad but definitely wiser. There will be a maturing or a greater sense of peace and satisfaction; your protagonist may open herself up to love for the very first time or learn that she is capable of going it alone.

Wherever she ends up in the emotional spectrum, it should register as a marked change from the novel’s beginning. We should feel, ideally, that now were she to face the same challenges presented within the novel, she’d be able to vanquish any foe or face down any fear with greater confidence and aplomb.

THE EMOTIONAL PITCH:

So, Lorin, you ask—might you, pretty please, bring this around to my pitch?

Oh, all right. Since you asked nicely, here goes…

Beyond the simple conceptual or logline pitch, such as the “Jaws meets The Help” idea in my previous article (seriously, someone needs to write this), and beyond a simple explication of plot, adding a hint of the protagonist’s emotional challenges and journey to your pitch can elevate it from merely mechanical to truly memorable.

In order to make the most of your novel’s emotional terrain, it’s a smart idea to first answer those four questions above, really dig in and get a solid understanding of how this is your protagonist’s story, truly; of how she propels story events; what price she pays for doing so; and how the novel changes her.

Then play around with a few of those elements to help shape the pitch you present in your meeting with an agent. It might just be a couple of well-chosen words, or it might be a full sentence or two. As always, of course, try different versions—an abbreviated one and an expanded one, so that you can get the essentials across quickly and then, if prompted, add depth to your pitch.

Here’s a mechanical pitch for the novel JAWS:

Police chief Martin Brody must catch and kill a monster shark responsible for terrorizing and killing citizens of his seaside community of Amity Island, New York.

And here’s that same pitch with a few emotional elements in place:

Police chief Martin Brody must conquer his fear of the ocean and join forces with an arrogant oceanographer he suspects of having an affair with his wife in order to catch and kill a monster shark responsible for terrorizing and killing citizens of Amity Island, New York.

Better, yes? Didn’t the addition of his fear and the complication of his wife’s affair get your heart beating just a bit faster? The addition of only twenty words here has provided a ton of intrigue and MUCH greater emotional “zing.”

One approach to the emotional pitch is to consider your protagonist’s major flaw and then find a way to communicate the ways in which your novel forces him to push past that flaw.

As someone else mentioned, it’s great to set up a pitch in terms of emotional opposites and the ensuing tension when those opposites meet.

Example: A sheltered ballerina must accompany a troubled, extroverted rock star cross-country in order to make an audition that will help her support her family and find the freedom she desperately craves.

Another approach is to give hints of the character doing the thing he never imagined he’d do:

Example: Sarah, a devoutly religious Jew, must embrace the traditions of a Muslim family in order to find the child she was forced to give up for adoption fifteen years ago.

This not only hints at religious tensions and a journey of discovery but also suggests a painful but intriguing backstory related to the giving up of the child—a story that the reader will no doubt expect to unfold, at some length, during the course of the novel.

Again, you can mix and match any of the elements in the article above, really digging in to find the ones with the greatest feeling of potency, the greatest opportunity for an investment on your reader’s part. Doing so will allow your story to catch fire in the agent or editor’s imagination AND in their hearts, something that can certainly lead to the success—and ultimate longevity—of your novel.

THE CONTEST:

Okay, so now I’m going to turn things over to you!

Give me your emotional pitch in the comments below—no more than fifty words, utilizing some of the elements detailed in this piece.  Try different variations if you’d like.

And ask questions!  I’m here to help you.

PRIZES

I’ll pick my top three (3) favorites and reward you handsomely with the following:

  • An awesome t-shirt in a random size (kidding; I’ll try to send one in the size you specify);
  • An awesome book of writing instruction;
  • A line-edit and evaluation of the first 30 pages + optional 2-page synopsis; -OR-
  • An awesome gift certificate for $100 off an upcoming workshop.

Get to it! I’m emotionally invested in reading your pitch!

---

LORIN OBERWEGER is a highly sought-after independent book editor and ghostwriter with more than twenty years’ experience in publishing.

Her company, Free Expressions, offers writing seminars nationwide with literary agent Donald Maass and others, as well as the acclaimed Story Shaping Workshops, intensive one-on-one story development weekends for writers in all genres of fiction. In addition, she serves as Editor-in-Residence/Advanced Class Instructor for the renowned Writers Retreat Workshop.

Lorin’s students and clients have (combined) millions of books in print and have been published by imprints of HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, and other mainstream and independent presses. They have also gained representation with some of the industry’s leading literary agents.

An award-winning author, Lorin’s poetry, short fiction, and articles have appeared in well over one-hundred periodicals, including THE MONTSERRAT REVIEW, STORYQUARTERLY, and the bestselling anthology FRENCH QUARTER FICTION. Recently, an excerpt of her novel-in-progress, ITCH, was awarded “Best of Workshop” at Writers in Paradise, co-founded by author Dennis Lehane.

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    Response: neon lights
    [...]EXPERT PITCH CLASS: Pitch Your Character’s Emotional Arc (CONTEST!) - Pitch University - Learn to pitch from Agents and Editors[...]
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    ... הובלות דירה - כמו בתחומים רבים כגון מכון היצוא, לשכת עורכי הובלות דירה פתח תקוה, ארגוני סוכני המכס הובלות דירה ירושלים, איגוד שלכות ועוד. אם אתם משפחה גדולה שזקוקה להובלה של תכולת בתים פרטיים... EXPERT PITCH CLASS: Pitch Your Character's Emotional Arc ... ...
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    To give presentation it’s important to keep eye contact with audience sitting in front of speaker. This helps in boosting up confidence. He has to face the expressions of audience.
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    Through your education and knowledge you make yourself more oriented in the community and it is very true that education is very necessary and important for make the true human and it is not wrong saying. You have enough abilities for make right decisions for your future career in the vest ...

Reader Comments (135)

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February 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterDiane

Emotionally dead Dr. Amélie Voisin must break out of her shell and accompany her newly-found blood-obsessed brother halfway across the world to trap the man who killed her daughter and become the queen of an ageless king.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Dupré

Half-demon Keegan is an inter-dimensional bounty hunter who is charged with saving Earth from a zombie apocalypse, but to do so he might have to destroy the key to the apocalypse, the one woman he can't seem to resist.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRosalie Lario

ALL: LORIN will check comments tonight to answer questions and offer suggestions. Also, you can start posting your contest entries today!

LORIN, Here's my question for you!

I was a guest over at Boxing the Octopus, and I ended up creating a bare-bones pitch for Pride and Prejudice on the fly (in the comments) to clarify a a point I was making (you pitch the story essence and imply the rest, as opposed to pitching the plot,conflicts, etc.).

(FMI: My guest article about How writers screw up their pitches and WHY, Plus Top 3 Pitch Content Derailments - Part 1: http://dld.bz/Nvgy & Part 2: http://dld.bz/N64a)

Anyway, back to P&P (despite having never read it and relying solely on Colin Firth for my insight):

Here are some variations I came up with (see below). How would you apply emotion to this to come up with an even better pitch?

From my comment:

What you're looking for is the pitch that would sell your cousin, your neighbor, and even a stranger.

I find it helpful to picture myself giving a really casual answer to, "Hey, have you read this one?" to a friend looking through my personal library desperate for a good read. You don't want to give away twists, and you aren't giving a speech.

"Oh, Yeah! That's a wonderful book! It's set in rural Regency England, and it's about this young woman named Lizzy, who's helping her sister's romance with a wealthy bachelor. But the real sparks are between her and the bachelor's friend, a Mr. Darcy, whose elevated station and opinion of Lizzie's family completely muck things up."

Then tinker with that:

A young woman in Regency England, from a modest family, helps her sister marry well to a visiting bachelor, while dealing with the romantic sparks and infuriating assumptions of the bachelor's good friend, Mr. Darcy, a man who is truly her perfect match.

Next version:

Lizzie helps her sister's romance to a gentle, agreeable, well-off visitor, but it's the man's friend, a wealthy aristocrat with dim views of lower classes and Lizzie's family specifically, that cause sparks to fly.

(And you always open with your name, your book's genre, title, wordcount, so we already know it's a historical romance set in Regency England.)

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Lorin,
Thanks for being here and offering your expertise, Here's my pitch that could use your magic pitch to up the emotional aspects.

CLAIMING ANNIE’S HEART is a completed 62,000 word contemporary romance set in Ireland and Texas.

Parental discovery of a relationship banishes Annie to boarding school in Ireland. She becomes engaged to the Irish father of the child she nannies. When the Texan she thought dead finds her, she’s torn between her first love and her commitment to another man and her promise to his child.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudythe Morgan

A cursed secret society murders Dusky’s best friend. When they choose Dusky as their newest sacrifice, she uncovers ties she and her friends have to the curse, and she must take on both the cult and the ghosts of its dead members to save herself and the people she loves.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSaytchyn

haha! First post and I've already messed up. Should I repost my pitch with the title, word count and genre, or should I leave it as it is?

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Dupré

Hi, Ruth! No worries. We're specifically working on the "emotion-based wording" right now. Anyway, to answer your question, you can repost or send to me, and I'll update your comment for you.

Hugs,
Diane

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Okay, second try (thanks, Diane!):

"LJUBICA'S SONG is a completed 100,000 word erotic paranormal suspense set in Washington DC, France and Slovenia.

"Emotionally dead Dr. Amélie Voisin must break out of her shell and accompany her newly-found blood-obsessed brother halfway across the world to trap the man who killed her daughter and become the queen of an ageless king."

Thanks, Lorin!

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Dupré

Holly’s parents move to a small town so she’ll stop getting in fights with boys at school.
When she falls for the sophomore class president she thinks she might finally feel normal, but her hopes for a fresh start vanish when her boyfriend’s psycho ex-girlfriend digs up Holly’s buried past.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea Dennin

Holly, whose spirit has been stolen by Trickster Raven, finds herself caught in a feud between the Native Alaskan spirits of Raven and Wolf and discovers that to reclaim her life she must destroy a man loyal to Wolf and, maybe, Alaska itself.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Wow - it's incredible how fast the mistakes show up AFTER the pitch has been posted!
I can see how this pitch makes Holly seem like she's reacting instead of going out and DOING.
Sheesh -- thanks for this opportunity to make mistakes!

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Okay, one more try before pull my hair out:

Holly, whose spirit has been stolen by Raven, must trick the ultimate Trickster to reclaim her life while defying a prophecy that states she will also destroy a man loyal to the Native Alaskan spirit of Wolf and, maybe, Alaska itself.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Just checking in after a long four-day personal story development weekend with a client. Will be more alert and respond to these tomorrow, but I'm glad to see so many folks are jumping in! Feel free to try out as many variations as you'd like. And yes, feel free to make mistakes! That's how you get to the great stuff.

Remember: this is a pitch that charts your protag's emotional challenges and journey, so try to conjure up some emotional language in your pitch. Think about who they are, psychologically and emotionally, when they begin the story and how they'll change as they go.

More manana, and thanks all! HAVE AT IT!

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorin

Aspiring scientist Eliza Vine must conquer her fear of social disgrace and join forces with a notorious Bohemian rake, whom she suspects of having an affair with her brother, in order to kill a monster who is hunting and executing flawed citizens of fin-de-siecle London.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLia Keyes

I have room for one more rather important word, so I'm going to repost, if you'll forgive me. :)

Aspiring scientist Lady Eliza Vine must conquer her fear of social disgrace and join forces with a notorious Bohemian rake, whom she suspects of having an affair with her brother, in order to kill a monster who is hunting and executing flawed citizens of fin-de-siecle London.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLia Keyes

Dusky never realized how much she relied on her spirit medium mother until a cursed secret society makes Mom disappear. When the cult targets Dusky and her friends, Dusky must learn to rely on herself, taking on both the cult and the ghosts of its dead members.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSaytchyn

Rescuing her drug-addicted brother, Ed is Sarah's way of making up for the past. When she almost loses her best friend, her boyfriend and her life, Sarah realizes that Ed's not the only one who needs saving.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDee White

Reeling from her fiancé’s infidelity and longing for peer approval, Esther Campos, a World Lit grad student, struggles with her sense of loyalty to her professor and her desire to travel to Celtic northwest Spain to retrieve a forgotten novel penned by a famous 19th century author and reveal the novel to the literary world despite her professor’s wishes.

Thanks for all your encouragement, Loin.

Sylvia

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia Shipp

Here's my stab:

If magic crimes detective Blanche Robinson wants to keep her new job, she must overcome religious and political muck surrounding three magical homicides and uncover the truth about a past she’d rather forget. With a recalcitrant partner dogging her steps, bringing the rogue magician to justice isn’t going to be easy.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM. Dunham

Pffft sorry, lemme try again! I didn't take a word out when I thought I had. *blush*

If magic crimes detective Blanche Robinson wants to keep her new job, she must overcome religious and political muck surrounding three magical homicides and uncover the truth about a past she’d rather forget. With a recalcitrant partner dogging her steps, bringing the murderer to justice isn’t going to be easy.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM. Dunham

A stubborn I-can-do-it-myself screenwriter must work together with a let-me-do-that-for-you-honey ex-FBI agent to escape a drug cartel they stumble upon when they’re shipwrecked together on a deserted island.

Thanks for taking a look Lorin! =)

carrie

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie Spencer

Giving this a try...

China has opened its borders and Ah San, a cocky well-paid American engineer, sets off to find a reclusive taiji master only to insult the very man he seeks. Wanting redemption, he submits to the master's demands, discovering the choices at the edge of fear and self-preservation that would bring anyone to their knees.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Yaklin

Terrified of the great outdoors, Nora, 15, must scatter her father’s ashes on a nearby mountaintop where she accidently enters an unseen world where water talks and frogs fly. She is horrified to discover that her mother began her life as a frog and has to decide if she will help restore balance to the war between humans and the natural world by becoming a frog herself.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuanne Brown

I find this ever so slightly terrifying.

After an attempt on her life, dyed-in-the-wool Soviet diplomat Katya Mikhailova has to trust an American spy to keep her family safe in post-war Paris. But when she finds her would-be killer, she must choose between the belief system she's devoted her life to and the only man she loves.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJordan McCollum

Self-defense. That's what the judge said when twelve-year-old Grant killed his uncle. Grant dives from one relationship to another, refusing to commit. Twenty years later he’s on the same cruise ship with a girl he couldn't – no, wouldn't - offer for. Grant finds himself in love. And a father.

Another take on the above.....=) I promise I'm done now. =)

carrie

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie Spencer

One last try: LJUBICA'S SONG, 100K words, paranormal erotic suspense

Philippe said "Save our family", but Amélie didn't know she had a family. Now they need her; her blood empowers their king. No way. Then she meets him. Her daughter's killer after her, Amélie must decide-- death at the hands of a lunatic or at the mouth of a lover.

February 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Dupré

Seventeen year old Allison Claire Gordon, a well adjusted high school graduate from Maryland, finds confusion and fear in Scotland when she discovers some of her dreams have become immutable prophecies, and one of them involves the death of 19-year old Ewan Mackay, a Highlander she has just met.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lucero

Hi Lorin!

Thanks for doing this. I loved your article. Especially the phrase: the heart of the end reader. I also liked the phrase, emotional transformation. *sigh* I always think in terms of taking the bling out of the story. Remove the guns, murders, stalkers or mayhem, and imagine your hero/heroine having a cup of coffee in a regular old kitchen three weeks after the carefully constructed jeopardy has been removed. Would they be interesting to listen to without the bling to shine them up? I kind of think, if the answer is no - then there was no emotional transformation because the inciting change was dependent upon external conflict. To me, it’s really the internal conflict/revelations that work to draw a reader into being invested in a character. I mean, if I’m only paying attention to what is happening to these people because there’s gunfire and a bad guy around every corner - the characters are replaceable and could be anybody. And, as a reader, that’s invested the time to get to know them? I want those characters to be better than just anyone. I want them to be people I care about and would listen to even if they’re only having a coffee together. Great article! Made me think. Love that.


Okay, I’m going to try and parse this with the opposites you mentioned. And yes, I’ll take another stab at this pitching thing. Can anyone spell: glutton for punishment? Hi Diane! See Lesson three for details. I’ll give you a hint. It involves a pitch, a crash, a burn, and an agent. Hi Christine! :) Gee, I wonder if I should mention the schmuck factor? Naw, less is best, right? Heheheh...


LOVE OF A LIFETIME, is a single title, 90k word paranormal romance, targeted for Berkley Publishing.

A fiercely independent woman is faced with the consequences of a choice she’d made centuries ago. When she gifted half her soul to the man she loves rather than live her every lifetime without him. In dark times it was an easy sacrifice - now, however, she fears his eternal dependency.

Again, thanks for the opportunity.

M.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargeanne Mitchell

Having another go ...

Allison Claire Gordon becomes fightened when, in Scotland, some of her dreams become immutable prophcies.
Her fears mount when she dreams about the death of her new friend, Ewan Mackay, and she becomes determined to thwart this particular prophecy.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lucero

Mattie Blackman reluctantly inherits the legacy of the three Fates when she answers the call to protect and serve the paranormal residents of Shore Haven, New York from a demonic serial killer.
Growing up as the illegitimate daughter of the town prostitute, Mattie yearned for stability and the respectability of a career in law enforcement, but with her mother’s history of insanity, that dream was forever out of reach.
As Mattie learns to cope with her growing powers and is thrust into a leading role in a bizarre secret society, she realizes that she can serve the paranormal community in a way she never could in her old life. But in order to save her new friends, she will need to give up her dreams for normalcy, become a fugitive from the very laws she once dreamed of upholding, and embrace the strange new world of the supernatural.

Here's another one! This is fun--and challlenging. Thanks, Lorin.

WHEN FROGS DREAM, a 90,000 word young adult fantasy, is a work in progress.

Recently orphaned, accused of a crime she didn’t commit, Nora, 15, takes to the woods and discovers that she holds the power to restore a crumbling world. But first she has to find the courage to undergo a painful transformation into the one creature she loathes—a frog.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLuanne Brown

Hi Lorin. Thanks for a chance to do this.

Blood Seed is a complete 98,000-word dark fantasy. As a foreigner, Sheft can deal with the hatred and suspicion of the local villagers, and even with the fact that a blood-thirsty entity from the nearby Riftwood is waiting for him to bleed, but falling in love with Mariat is another story. The young man is torn between his desire to protect her, and the challenge to accept the dangerous truth of who he is.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica Dale

How nice to see so many familiar e-faces! Special wave to, Margeanne! You're back for more. :)

Some absolutely fascinating stories! Wow.

While each of you are constructing your "emotion-focused" pitch, pay attention to the difference between writing a pitch that will be used in a query... and writing a pitch that will be spoken. You might want to try both.

Verbal pitches start off with grounding details and characters. Opening with a preposition is fine for a written pitch, but it’s seriously confusing when listening to a pitch. Also, sentences should match your ability to breathe. ;) And make sure every word takes you in the right mental direction, so that the listener isn’t scrambling to make sense out of what you've heard.

Let me use Saytchyn's awesome pitch as an example. (Saytchyn is a Pitch U Minion, and that means she already knows I think she's pretty awesome!)

Her version: Dusky never realized how much she relied on her spirit medium mother until a cursed secret society makes Mom disappear. When the cult targets Dusky and her friends, Dusky must learn to rely on herself, taking on both the cult and the ghosts of its dead members.

Re-worked for verbal pitching: A 12-year-girl named Dusky never realized how much she relied on her spirit-channeling mother until a secret society makes Mom disappear. Soon, she and her friends are running for their lives from the secret society, and she must take on the society and the ghosts of its dead members to get Mom back.

I confess, I made up some details. I don't know how old Dusky is. That's an issue that might be resolved by starting with title, genre, word count. But if Saytchyn is writing an adult novel, then it won't tell us if the protagonist is 21 or 61. (Hey, Mom could be a spry 90, for all we know!)

I've clarified that Dusky = girl immediately. While there is a "she" in the original version, by the time you hear it, you have to go back and say, "What? Dusky is a she? Wait!" Also, I consistently used Secret Society or Society. I didn't use cult, because, again, the listener has to think, "wait, is this a new group or is cult and secret society the same thing?" And finally I rephrased the last sentence to very simply communicate "she does this, and this is her challenge." I imply that she must rely on herself, because while she and her friends are running, only SHE must take on the secret society.

Saytchyn, this sounds absolutely excellent, by the way. I want to read it!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

Holly is a practical woman who believes in always following her moral compass no matter the consequences. But when the Native Alaskan spirit Raven decides that she should be his wife, Holly becomes embroiled in a feud between Raven and Wolf that will test her perception of reality and force her to make a decision with no right answer.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

WHIPLASH, a young adult Steampunk novel, is a work in progress.

17-year old aspiring scientist Lady Eliza Vine must conquer her dread of social disgrace and join forces with a notorious Bohemian rake, whom she suspects of having an affair with her brother, in order to kill a monster that is hunting and executing decadent citizens of fin-de-siecle London.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLia Keyes

COMMENTS ON PITCHES -- THROUGH 2:00 PM TUESDAY February 22, 2011
PART ONE!

Well, rock on, all of you who’ve taken up the challenge! I’m impressed. I know it takes some courage to put your novel out there and to invite critique of the same. Please know, though, that we’re all in this together and we’re all here to learn.

Okay, in order of appearance (more or less):

RUTH:

Of the two different versions you posted (I know there were two iterations of the first), I’m more drawn to the first, though I’d suggest finding other language besides “Emotionally dead” to describe your character, as this may create fear in the reader’s mind that we’ll be spending time with an aggrieved, depressing character for some span of the story.

In both versions, too, you might ratchet up the specificity. For example, instead of “blood obsessed,” are you really saying “vampire?” ;-)

Also, you might give us a bit of a hint as to what’s at stake if she doesn’t meet the challenge—how might it be both her undoing and the undoing of her world?

Nice job!

ROSALIE:

I like the inherent conflict in Keegan’s choice between saving the world and potentially destroying the woman he loves (or at least craves). That has emotional resonance.

You do still have some room to play with a deeper characterization of Keegan, though, something beyond “half-demon” or “interdimensional bounty hunter.” What, in his heart or psyche, makes this particular mission particularly fraught for him?

Play with it!

DIANE:

Quickly, to answer your question where P&P is concerned, I think you can do much with Elizabeth’s foibles—she’s meddlesome, opinionated, and her independence and pride really mask her vulnerability (and act to shoot her in the foot through much of the novel). So, in the course of your revised pitch you might suggest some challenge to that pride, “Aggressively proud Elizabeth Bennett must humble herself for the good of her family—“ etc.

Hope that helps!

JUDYTHE:

I think by playing with some of this and ratcheting up the emotional language, you can make this more potent. For example, “Parental discovery of a relationship” is a bit of a bloodless/intellectualized phrase. How can you soup this up in more emotional terms?

“When Annie’s outraged parents discover her love affair with a boy she now believes dead, they banish her to boarding school in Ireland. There she finds solace in her relationship with [child’s name and age, perhaps, some telling characteristic], and a connection with his father. But when her first love appears, very much alive, Annie must choose between…” etc.

Not perfect, of course, but it tugs at a few more heartstrings. Give it a go!

SAYTCHYN:

I think the second version of this is stronger, so good job there! The only thing I’d try to do is dig in a bit to make things more specific. “Cursed secret society” feels a bit vague. Give us a phrase that brings them—and their objectives—more fully to life, if you can.

And you might spruce up the language a bit and give us some greater emotional insight into Dusky by applying some phrase of description to her here. How would you describe her, emotionally, at the beginning of the story? Independent? Intellectual? Stubborn? Play around w/ who she is and how that identity will be challenged.

Also, try to give us a hint at what’s at stake for them all. If the cult members are after them, help us understand a bit about why. Again, in just a few words. ☺

ANDREA:

Some great conflict there. Would love a bit more insight into WHY she’s getting into fights with boys at school? What is causing their enmity, and how is it a product of some misunderstanding?

Of course, I’m not looking for paragraphs of description, but something to tell us what might be inherent in her “buried past.” Also, while you establish the story promise—that her hopes may vanish because of the “psycho ex-girlfriend,” I’m wondering if you can give us a hint here of what Holly aims to do about it!

Would love to see a revision of this!

ELIZABETH:

Hehe—you didn’t even need me! You diagnosed yourself. Great job with the revision of this. It’s much stronger the second and third time around.

I like the introduction of Holly’s practicality, etc., but I’d love you to retain some of the elements of the second version—the idea that she may destroy a man AND Alaska in the process of enacting her mission.

Also, I’m wondering if there’s some way to suggest that Holly herself has engendered this desire on the part of Raven. As it stands in the third version, it feels like a bit of happenstance with no real context.

So, play with some combo of #2 and #3. You’re on the right track!

LIA:

Awesome job with this last, subtly tweaked version! I wonder if instead of the detail of the rake’s affair with her brother (I understand its inclusion), if you might be better served to suggest that her joining forces may result in the loss of some dream for her? She’s not just risking social disgrace, I’d imagine, but the potential end of her dreams of scientific pursuit?

Also, perhaps some hint of why SHE is the one who must help kill the monster. Just a few words to suggest a connection between who she is and what she knows and the pursuit at hand?

Fascinating elements, very well expressed!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorin

Will be back in a little while for Comments, Part Two!

In the meantime, it would be a great help if when folks post follow-up and revised posts, if they'd number the versions or just go ahead and re-post the old one(s) WITH the new ones. That way I know I'm on top of the new and improved versions.

Thanks! More very soon! EXCELLENT work, all!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorin

Lorin, thanks for your excellent comments. I've played with my pitch as suggested to outline the personal stakes for my main character. Below are the original and revised pitches:

Original: Half-demon Keegan is an inter-dimensional bounty hunter who is charged with saving Earth from a zombie apocalypse, but to do so he might have to destroy the key to the apocalypse, the one woman he can't seem to resist.

Revised: Keegan is an inter-dimensional bounty hunter on a mission to stop his father, an evil demon, from resurrecting an army of zombies to take over Earth. Brynn Meyers, an art gallery owner with special abilities, has no clue she's the key to the zombie resurrection. Keegan's resolve to stop his father is tested, when he starts to fall for the very woman he may be forced to kill.

DEMON BORN is a completed 85,000 word paranormal romance.

Thank you! (This site is awesome!)

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRosalie Lario

Lorin, thank you so much!!! This is wonderful!

I don't use the word "vampire" because they're not vampires in the classic sense. Their family birthed the vampire legend but as in many legends, there's a chasm between what they are and what the legend says they are. For example, only those with their DNA become eternal. But getting that nuance across is so hard!!

Original: "Emotionally dead Dr. Amélie Voisin must break out of her shell and accompany her newly-found blood-obsessed brother halfway across the world to trap the man who killed her daughter and become the queen of an ageless king."

Revised: Confronted with a long-lost brother, Amélie learns her DNA carries a terrifying secret. She must journey to France to save her family or die at the hands of the man who's vowed to destroy them all, the same man who tortured and killed her daughter.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRuth Dupré

Dear Rosalie, thanks for the site compliment! And WOW on the revised pitch. WOW. That was a very effective rewrite.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

LORIN SAYS: I think by playing with some of this and ratcheting up the emotional language, you can make this more potent. For example, “Parental discovery of a relationship” is a bit of a bloodless/intellectualized phrase. How can you soup this up in more emotional terms?

“When Annie’s outraged parents discover her love affair with a boy she now believes dead, they banish her to boarding school in Ireland. There she finds solace in her relationship with [child’s name and age, perhaps, some telling characteristic], and a connection with his father. But when her first love appears, very much alive, Annie must choose between…” etc.

Not perfect, of course, but it tugs at a few more heartstrings. Give it a go!


JUDYTHE SAYS: Okey-dokey, Lorin. I’m ready to play.

Heart string words no problem. Keeping at 50 words . . . well that’s another issue. That’s how I ended up with “parental discovery.” LOL

ORIGINAL:
Parental discovery of a secret relationship banishes Annie to boarding school in Ireland. She becomes engaged to the Irish father of the child she nannies. When the Texan she thought dead returns, she’s torn between her first love and her commitment to another man and her promise to his child.

v.1 REVISION: (Comes in at 56 words. Help, what can I cut and keep story and emotion?)

Annie’s banished to boarding school in Ireland after her outraged parents discover her affair. Told her boyfriend’s dead, she remains overseas to nanny a widow’s infant. But when her first love reappears, very much alive, Annie must chose between the man she’ll always love, her fiancé and his child, whom she has promised never to abandon.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudythe Morgan

This is such a great pitching lesson. Thanks so much Lorin!!

My 59,000 word Young Adult Fantasy:

Her beloved da and numerous others will perish from the poisons of enchanted, barbed roots unless Lia—a 15-year-old tree mage—deciphers a thirteen-part elixir and defeats the demon shade who controls the roots, before he convinces her she’s destined to serve him.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina Mercer

Aisuru, To Love, Young Adult Supernatural Romance

Could have sworn I posted this yesterday morning....*scratching head*

"With months left to live, a reclusive, high school student impulsively shelters a demon prince, a friend of her late guardian, after he flees the demon world to escape his murderous brother. In doing so, she gains a love she never dared to wish for, even as death marches closer."

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSummer S. Wilson

Rewrite. 50 word count.

Reeling from her fiancé’s infidelity and longing for approval, Esther Campos, a trusting and diligent World Lit grad student, struggles with her loyalty to her egomaniacal professor and her determination to travel to Spain to retrieve a forgotten 19th century novel penned by a famous author despite her professor’s orders.

Thanks!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia Shipp

Then after reading the earlier comments, of course I do a revision. Doh.

Original: "With months left to live, a reclusive, high school student impulsively shelters a demon prince, a friend of her late guardian, after he flees the demon world to escape his murderous brother. In doing so, she gains a love she never dared to wish for, even as death marches closer."

New: "With months left to live, a reclusive, high school student Sakura impulsively shelters the demon prince Kazuki, who fled the demon world to escape his murderous brother. In return, Sakura makes new friends and finds the love she never dared to wish for, even as death marches steadily closer."

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSummer S. Wilson

Firewalls, not fireworks, crash the day “Opera Girl” Aria meets tech-genius Owen. After falling victim to Owen’s on-line love-spell video, she goes gaga for the school’s grossest perv. Now, she’ll never know true love, unless she can teach Owen to accept the machinations of his heart.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDarcy Cleaver Maloney

Okay, here's draft three:

Dusky is insouciant, shielded by her spirit-channeling mother, until a necromantic cult kidnaps Mom, and Dusky uncovers her own frightening connection to the cult. As her friends begin to disappear, she must face new fears and defeat foes both living and dead to save her loved ones and, hopefully, herself.

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSaytchyn

Oh, boy! You guys are posting revisions faster than I can comment on your originals!

Here's a bit of what I had done, re: the next few (including yours, Sylvia, though your rewrite addresses many of my comments). Will tackle more tomorrow.

SOOO impressed with the work you're all doing here. Some great material is emerging.

Lorin


COMMENTS ON PITCHES – FEBRUARY 22 – PART TWO

DEE:

I’m intrigued by the emotional journey promised in your pitch, but I’m afraid it doesn’t reveal very much about Sarah’s inner life or HER emotional transformation. In fact, her brother’s covered at greater length than she is.

Give it another go with more about her. What in the past does she feel she must atone for here? And perhaps give us a bit more in terms of specifics, re: HOW she almost loses her best friend, boyfriend, and life. Those are compelling components. Just have to bring them into sharper focus!

Thanks!


SYLVIA:

Good work here, Sylvia. While I think you could pare it down a bit (probably reworking it to “Esther Campos, a World Lit grad student travels to Celtic Northwest Spain”), it does a good job of establishing her circumstances and the circumstances of her quest.

You might want to give us a hint about why it becomes important to her and why her professor wishes it to remain hidden. And, in a perfect world, the revelation of this manuscript would have broader, potentially earth-shattering consequences to at least the academic world and, of course, to Esther’s life.

Also, of course, you’re a bit over fifty words and with my suggestions may go even further afield, so really dig in and try to hone it down to as sharp and pithy a statement as possible.

M.: (☺)

Great! This is a solid, serviceable pitch. If you want to deepen it a bit, expand it on an emotional level, I’d help the reader understand why her job means so much to her and/or what is in her past and how it relates to the crimes at hand (yes, within fifty words!).

Also, you might give us a more specific phrase to bring the partner into focus. Is he/she magical or not? Why doesn’t the partner feel the same urgency as Blanche?

Again, I should stress that I’m not suggesting wedging answers to ALL of my questions into the pitch but rather that you give some thought to exploring a few of those threads and see if the pitch takes on greater resonance.

Good job!

February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorin

Perfectionist and always-in-control Lily Easton, 54, is diagnosed with breast cancer and cast into a world where she must relinquish all control - an alien world of imperfection, fear, and uncertainty. As she grapples with pathology reports, treatments, and her mortality, her mother gives up a secret that could have spared Lily all of it. She must now make sense of this altered reality to regain control of her life.

February 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Turner

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