Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Elevator Pitches Part Two

My husband thinks I'm weird, but I think Pinterest is way fun. I only learned about it on Friday, so I'm pretty new over there, but I've started a Teen Writers pinboard that I'll be adding to as I get more time/discover more resources. I love that it's visual social networking and therefore feels different than Facebook or Twitter. Way fun. And way addictive.

Anyway, that's not what we're really talking about today. We're talking about elevator pitches. One thing I failed to clarify is that we're talking about a written pitch, so I guess really I should be calling this a one-liner since elevator pitch implies verbal. We'll talk about verbal pitches sometime soon.

Yesterday I shared 4 elements of a good elevator pitch - a sense of irony, a compelling mental picture, audience and cost, and killer title. We're going to focus on those first two.

So what is a "sense of irony?" Let's make sure we're working from the same definition here:

From Dictioary.com: a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., especially as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.

Sometimes I feel like I'm too stupid for dictionaries. Like I need a Dictionaries for Dumbies or something.

Focus on that "contradictory impulses" thing.

This is the one-liner example I gave before - A self-sufficient, small town girl must work through her prejudices against out-of-towners when a conceited tourist turns out to be everything she needs.

The irony represented in this elevator pitch is that she's prejudice against out-of-towners ... but then falls in love with one. Also that she's described as being self-sufficient, but finds that she needs this person. That contradiction is the story's conflict.

Let's look at another one - A quick-witted, intelligent teen, secretly pursues her dream of publishing a novel after being ostracized by the snarky friends who inspired her story.

I think the irony in this is a little trickier to nail down; she's secretly pursuing a very public lifestyle.

So if that "irony" word is throwing you off, instead think of it as "contradiction." What contradiction can you show in your 30 words?

I love the way Blake Snyder describes it in Save the Cat. He says, "It must be in some way ironic and emotionally involving - a dramatic situation that is like an itch you have to scratch."

I also love what Blake Snyder says about the second thing on his list when talking about creating a compelling mental picture. He says, "it must bloom in your mind when you hear it. A whole movie must be implied, often including a time frame."

So let's look at this example again. A quick-witted, intelligent teen, secretly pursues her dream of publishing a novel after being ostracized by the snarky friends who inspired her story. If she's pursuing a dream of getting published, that implies this is a story that unfolds over a period of months, not days or weeks. I also think we get a good sense of what this story might involve - losing her group of friends, dealing with rejection from them yet opening herself up to rejection in the business world, the hope of her dream being achieved (getting published) battling against her fear of her former friends discovering what she did.

Another thing to note - I didn't use names in either of my pitches. What tells your more about the story? "Gabby secretly pursues her dream..." or the way it's currently written?

With the other example I gave, I also talked about the hero. I described him as a "conceited tourist." I could have picked a lot of other adjectives to describe Colton. Colton's loyal, shy, hot, and determined. But none of those make the story difficult. By saying he's a conceited tourist, I show you why there are sparks when him and the heroine are around each other - because she's a "self-sufficient, small-town girl" with prejudices. Of course she's not going to get along with some conceited tourist. Especially if he thinks she needs him.

Hopefully those pointers help. I feel like I'm only now starting to understand what makes a good one-liner. It's definitely a learning process. Feel free to ask questions, and don't forget you can get feedback on your one-liner by entering it in this round's Go Teen Writers contest. And if you're under 20, get yourself registered for the NextGen conference and enter your pitch there too.

Tomorrow, Betsy St. Amant will be here talking about her publishing experience. It's a complete scheduling fluke that she's guest posting during a week when she's also judging. Made me think of 30 Rock when corporate executive Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) says to Liz (Tina Fey) "You can't fight synergy, Liz. It's bigger than all of us." True that, Jack.

Have a great day, everyone.


  1. Thanks for the help. I really needed it.

  2. Great examples! I totally was thinking about Save the Cat when you mentioned irony:)

  3. Princess, it's a good refresher for me as well!

    Martha, yeah, there's no way I would have come up with that on my own!

  4. Thank you for this great post! That really helps explain that list of what makes a great one-liner! Awesome examples, too. :)

  5. Thank you for the tips! Elevator pitches are super hard for me to come up with, so I need all the help I can get! :)

  6. This is just the stuff I need to hear!

    Thank you for teaching me so much stuff:)

    - Elisabeth Greenwood

  7. Rachelle, thanks! They're not proven sales, but my agent approved of them anyway :)

    Clarebear, no problem. Tough for me too.

    Elisabeth, happy to! Thanks for sticking around!