Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pitch vs. Synopsis

I took a screenwriting class a couple of summers ago, and on the first day the teacher explained the concept of an "elevator pitch" - that is, if you were a screenwriter suddenly stuck in an elevator with a movie executive, would you be able to summarize your idea in the length of time it takes to go ten floors?

I was enchanted with the concept - what a great idea! I thought, never realizing how frickin hard it could be to condense a complicated story into less than three minutes of conversation. I'm hoping my trouble with summming the story up in just a few words is because my head is inside the novel and I'm unable to hold it far enough away from my perception to really give it a concise definition.

Does that even make sense?

I'm worried the reason I'm having trouble is because the novel's too complicated - and then I wonder, is it possible for a novel to be too complicated, if it's written well?

In any regard, I've made headway on the synopsis, at least. It's what I first thought of as "the pitch" for the book, but it's really too long for that. I sent it to my writers' group and they are going to help me make it really tight. Gail has already said it needs some scrubbing, so I'm hesitant to post it here... Oh, don't look at me like that.

Okay, okay, how about we compromise with the first paragraph of what I've come up with? I'm pretty happy with that, at least.
Blood in the Orchard is a horror novel set in the fictional Southern town of Brookston, South Carolina. It is the story of a family torn apart by the death of the talented artist Kate Spivey, a beloved daughter, sister, and wife – and how the two men who loved her most struggle with the grim supernatural consequences of her passing.

What do y'all think?



I think it is most interesting, It wasn't till I started this post that I realised there were so many types of writing.
Fiction, screenwriting poetry, all writing maybe, but all different.


Unknown said...

I don't know that I'm ever going to be in an elevator with three minutes to pitch, but your point is well made.
Thanks for sharing this and best of luck tightening up your pitch.

Private said...

Interesting topic! I think a pitch comes in handy - what if friends and family asks you what your book is about? You don't want to go on and on after all:)

Dawn Ius said...

I've heard the elevator pitch concept before and think that's a great way to tighten your pitch. I've also heard of the What If statement, popular for horror and thriller.

What you've pasted has my interest piqued. I'd be tempted to tighten it a little more and bring the supernatural part up. Definitely a book I'd pick up based on what you've got here, though.

Anne Gallagher said...

Love the pitch. I will definitely read that book when it comes out.

Just thought I'd share this with you -- Nicola Morgan has a whole post on Synopsis today on her blog.

Thought it might be useful.

Jemi Fraser said...

Pitches are hard - you have to be catchy and keep in mind the tone of the book and synopsize it all in not time at all. Good start!

Unknown said...

I'm bad at both pitch and synopsis... *shudders*

I've also tagged you on my blog, come check it out!

Anonymous said...

Pretty good. I think it could use one more line of conflict, maybe end the pitch with a question that will have the listener at least consider the conflict for a few moments.

Stephen Tremp

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I always heard elevator pitches were 30 seconds or less, so that's not much time. You summed up the book well, but I agree with Stephen - add some confict. Really punch it up. Write it as if you were jumping up and down and about to burst!

Hart Johnson said...

I don't actually think this sounds too off from a pitch... just this, or maybe a hint or two of what those grim repercussions look like. I really do think the PITCH is just a TEASER.

I am WITH YOU that a novel that is well written is FINE being complicated (I prefer them that way) but the complexity of it stays OUT of both synopsis and pitch. The pitch gets NONE of it, and the synopsis only the most key subplots.