Friday, June 15, 2012

In 30 Words or Less - Your book is about WHAT?

A waiter brought the appetizer, a spinach, artichoke, and cheese dip and bread.

To Ms. Author sitting across from me, I asked, "So, what's your book about?"

One meal and dessert order later, Ms. Author is telling me all about her story, and has been doing so for forty-five minutes.

Forty-five minutes.

And she scheduled to pitch her book to an agent in a ten-minute slot the next day.

As we cut a huge slice of cherry cheesecake into halves to share, I said, "So for your pitch tomorrow morning, what are you going to say?"

"I just told you." The author beamed. "What do you think?"

What did I think? My first thought was that my eyes hadn't glazed over at the thirty minute mark as much as I had feared. My next thought was there's no way she's going to condense forty-five minutes into ten, which would actually equal eight minutes or so, due to introductions and niceties. My final thought was that her story was actually intriguing, in a long, drawn-out sort of way.

I took a deep breath and blurted out, "I think I need for you tell me about your story, in twenty-five words or less."

She gasped. "I couldn't possibly."

I grinned, rummaged a pen from my the depths of my purse, and handed it, along with a grocery receipt, to Ms. Author, and said, "Sure you can." 

As storytellers, if we can't describe what our story is about in thirty words or less, how can we expect an agent, editor, and, most especially, readers to be excited about what's the story is about? You know, like those movie quick, snappy movie descriptions.

For example:

When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an insane and corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (Gladiator) [26 words]

A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love, must outwit her abusive fiance, and find a way to survive aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea. (Titanic) [28 words]

One of my one-line descriptions or loglines might be:

Children forced to become weapons of mass destruction must escape their captors, survive in a world that's turned against them, and stop the apocalyptic devastation they set in motion. [29 words]

So, how about it, what's your story, in 30 words or less?

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