by J.D. Rhoades
Our Louise wrote a great post yesterday about pitching your work to agents. One fine nugget in that pile of golden advice was this: “boil it down to a conversational but tight 25-words-or-less.”
You see a lot of advice telling you that you need to be able to describe your story in one sentence. This is known as “The Elevator Pitch”, so named because it can be sprung on an unsuspecting agent during that glorious moment when you have them trapped in a small confined space from which they can’t possibly escape.
It’s possible, however, to boil your Elevator Pitch down too far, to the point where you miss the point of the book entirely. A couple of examples (which I remember but cannot for the life of me tell you where I read them first):
- The Bible: God creates the world, then destroys it.
- Moby Dick: a one-legged man goes fishing.
Some of my own:
- The Odyssey: Soldier with terrible navigational skills probably should have asked directions.
- The Grapes of Wrath: Poor people are nice, but they get shit on a lot.
- Macbeth: Ugly women screw with a nobleman’s head for no discernible reason.
- The Great Gatsby: Rich people are interesting but crazy, and sometimes they shoot each other.
- Just about any Pat Conroy Novel: Dysfunctional Southern boy takes 700-plus pages to finally get around to telling you the Horrible Thing That Happened.
- Most of the later Spenser Novels: Tough but sensitive ex-boxer with annoying girlfriend cooks and solves mysteries with the aid of a black guy who scares the hell out of people.
- Rocky: Dumb guy with speech impediment gets the crap beaten out of him and still thinks he won the fight.
Some others from around the Internet:
- Remembrance of Things Past: Frenchman eats a cookie and remembers a lot of stuff.
- Batman: Wealthy man assaults the mentally ill.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: deranged industrialist tortures and mutiliates young children.
- Waiting for Godot: Nothing happens. Twice.
- The Lord of the Rings: Little man gets a ring, then tries to throw it into a volcano.
- Dune: Rich kid and his mom get tossed into the desert and become worm-riding jihadis.
So just for fun, take your own work or someone else’s and craft an entirely unfair one sentence summary. Here, I’ll start:
The Jack Keller novels by Yours Truly: Bounty hunter with severe mental health issues keeps blundering into bad situations.