So you have a curve ball, a fast ball, a screwball… No, I’m not talking about baseball (Let’s be real, that’s about 75% of my knowledge of baseball right there). I mean pitches for contests like #Pitmad!

At the most basic, a pitch is a short bit meant to entice someone into reading your MS. There  are a few different templates you can use, and tweak to your heart’s content: (I’m pulling examples from movie log lines, because they’re easy for you to see the pattern on)

There are two main ones:

MC wants GOAL, But/Because of  OBSTACLE

Archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the U.S. government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis.”

A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.”

An ex-con reunites with his estranged wayward 16-year old daughter to protect her from drug dealers who are trying to kill her.

This is the most common. But simplifying your story enough to get to those bones is HARD, I know.

Start out with the obvious. Your MC. Don’t name them in your pitch unless they’re well known, you don’t have enough space for that. Give us a small label for them. We need to have just a very basic idea of who your protagonist is. If you have more than one, pick one per pitch, or roll them together- A team of misfits, A pirate crew, Two stubborn lawyers, etc.

Then let’s skip to the obstacle. What is it that causes the external tension in the story? Your antagonist, usually. Drug dealers, an evil overlord, cancer, doesn’t matter, strip them down to their closest match.  If there’s more than one, your plot might be a mess if they can’t be connected together into something.

Now, how are those two opposed? What is the KEY plot in the story. Looking for an item? Building an army? These all require your MC to conflict against the antagonist, with their goal being the thing the antagonist is opposed to.

You’ll see this sometimes as MC must Thing before Consequence. In those cases, the antagonist is obscured by their actions. Good if they’re not revealed in your first book,

No antagonist? That’s ok. Try this:

MC, CHANGE IN SITUATION, STAKE

A man returns to his small hometown after learning that his mother has fallen ill and is about to undergo surgery.”

An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.”

That second one’s a bit wordy and explains the situation more than you’d want for a twitter pitch, but you get the idea.  It still keeps the main character, but instead of there being an antagonist, the situation itself is what drives the conflict, with the stakes built in. Usually, these are the stories with emotional stakes in the foreground. There’s no explosions, no person or group responsible for their situation as such. It’s either brought by circumstances out of their control, or as a side effect of a choice they made. It’s often earlier choices coming home to roost, or choices that were the best at the time, but have outlived their usefulness.

You still keep the MC at the front, but then what the change is comes next. Think in terms of discovery, moves, or loses. Most of the time, those words will resonate with these kinds of pitches.

Then what’s the cause of tension? Usually, these are emotional stakes inherent in the situation. Failing health, failing businesses, a war, etc.

There are other variants, obviously, but these cover the majority of stories.

So write your pitch. Then trim it to the space you have. Look for over elaboration. For example,

““A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.”

Could become “A young boy must find his dead Samurai father’s magic armor to defeat a vengeful spirit.”

An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.”

Becomes “An Irish immigrant falls in love in 1950s Brooklyn, but her past forces her to choose between two countries and futures.”

Does it catch all the nuances? Nope! That’s not what this is for. The key is to simplify without using too many unfamiliar terms (especially in SF/F!), and while keeping the primary conflict in mind.

Questions? Shout! Good luck in #Pitmad, I’m cheering you on from my editing cave!

(Next week: How long should your story be? Exactly as long as it needs to be to tell it… but.)

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