Thursday, May 17, 2018

How To Write A Novel Readers Love - The Pitch

Dear storyteller and friend,

You should have the point of your story, how you first came up with the idea and why you care about writing the story.

Now it’s time to sketch out the basic idea for your epic tale. How you do that? By asking yourself yet another important question:

What if...?

I personally refer to this question as the "Big What If”.

What’s the "Big What If"?

The "Big What If" is the part where your story idea begins to form. This question should jumpstart your mind and spur it on to think about the basic premise, or situation for your novel. And you begin with writing the words…can you take a wild guess? You would be correct by saying, “What if…?”

Here’s an example of the “Big What If” for my young adult novel From Bad Girl To Worse:

What if a lonely teenage girl, who had lost her father and mother to addiction, domestic abuse and mental illness gets mixed up with a crazy group of teenagers just to satisfy her need for acceptance? What if she winds up getting in so deep with this group of troubled kids that she loses her morals, one by one, until she takes part in a brutal murder?

What if she is then forced by her conscience to turn all of them in, including herself, to police? What if she loses her freedom by doing so? What if, while languishing in a jail cell, in the end, she discovers that she actually gained something far more valuable than her freedom? What if she gained her sense of self-worth?

This “Big What If” became the premise for the story. Armed with this information, I was then able to begin fleshing out the basic story flow and the plot events that would force my lonely teenage heroine to undergo her necessary internal change. 

Is this whole “internal change” thing beginning to make sense now?

Even after I nailed down the story basics I still had to uncover a few other elements about the premise. And when you get to this point in your story development, so will you. I learned about these elements by taking Jessica Brody's Udemy course on how to create a high-concept idea for my novel. Check it out here.

Sidebar note: Jessica Brody, an understudy of Blake Snyder, has written her own Save The Cat! book. The title is Save The Cat! Writes A Novel. It comes out in October 2018, but it's available for pre-order now on Amazon. I cannot wait to get it.

Okay, back to the letter.

The elements you must uncover are:

-    The fish out of water element
-    The looming conflict element
-    The hook element
-    The universal theme element

In my example, the elements look something like the following:

-    The fish out of water element
       - A lonely teenage girl befriends a group of criminal misfits. She’s not alone anymore, but she’s headed for trouble.
-    The looming conflict element

       - This crew of criminal misfits will ultimately persuade this once lonely girl to do things she doesn’t want to do. They will force her to challenge herself—and not in a good way.
-    The hook element 

       - This young girl will take part in a brutal murder, and will then be forced into a vow of silence about the crime.
-    The universal theme element 

       - By the end of the story, this young girl will learn the hard way the high cost of being accepted by others. So, the universal theme is acceptance.
From these four elements, I was able to create a high concept pitch for the novel. A high concept pitch is simply a one or two sentence description of your story premise. Here’s what mine looks like for From Bad Girl To Worse:

A lonely straight “A” student forms a dangerously toxic relationship with a gang of misfits, and must choose between her newfound friends and her deep-seated need to make things right after she takes part in a brutal murder, and the leader of the gang forces her into a vow of silence about the crime.

As you can see, the pitch captures all four elements. It also sums up the “Big What If”. 

Use these methods to craft the “Big What If” for your own story. If you do, you'll begin to form a clear mental picture of what the overall story line for your novel might look like.

After you create your “Big What If” and your high concept pitch, you will be ready to move on to the next step.

And it’s a big one.

I remain,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse
and The Dangerous Way Home

P. S. – All great stories have a universal theme such as love, survival, trust or friendship. The universal theme is one of those awesome things that make great stories great.

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