Pitch with Power: Surprise with Awesomeness
(Part II of the Pitch with Power 3-part series)
From Dave Butler, Acquisitions Editor for WordFire Press and author (as D.J. Butler) of City of the Saints, and the Rock Band Fights Evil series
All pitches must be pithy. In addition, a pitch should leave the audience wanting to open the book to learn more. Last time we talked about posing questions; today we focus on using provocative images or ideas.
By the way, although I’m sharing actual verbal pitches with you as my examples, the same logic should guide your query letters, submissions, synopses, and even book reviews.
Technique Two: Surprise with Awesomeness
Here’s a pitch for Aaron Michael Ritchey’s seminal dystopian-cowpunk novel Dandelion Iron:
Dandelion Iron is about cowgirls with machine guns on a post-apocalyptic cattle drive. In a future America where a Chinese nuclear strike to the Yellowstone caldera has wiped out electricity in five U.S. states and a plague has deprived America of men, three sisters are driving their herd across the great plains to market when they come across something truly surprising . . . a boy.
You can see that the pitch poses lots of questions, but for the moment let’s focus on the fantastic images is puts into the mind of the listener:
- Cowgirls with machine guns
- Post-apocalyptic cattle drive
- An America populated almost entirely by women
- A nuclear attack on a volcano
- A desolate great plains region
These things are not merely awesome, they’re cool in evocative, unexpected ways. These are images the customer hasn’t considered before. They are surprising. They provoke the audience into imagining the story that might include such elements, and wanting to open the book to find out what the author has concocted.
And Aaron Michael Ritchey, by the way, has concocted some gripping stuff.
Your Homework: write three pitches for your own stories using ideas that are fantastic and surprising.
Next post: High Concept.