Monday, September 2, 2013

Pitch and Chips - Words with SPICE

The ACFW conference is closing in like a two year old with chocolate-covered fingers. Are you ready to woo the masses with your savory words?

Pitches are powerful.

And like a good salsa, they need to tickle the taste-buds of the agent or editor so they aren't satisfied until they learn more.

It perks the senses with questions.

So today, I want you to hit me with your best SHOT!. I'll provide the yummy dip recipe and you provide the chips! YOUR PITCHES. If you want a second opinion, I'll be happy to give my 1/2 penny worth, but it will at least give you the opportunity to hone your story down to 25 scintillating words.

Here are a few of mine to get you thinking 'short' and 'spicy':

If she lets the past catch her, will it bring healing or heartache?
A wounded woman with a past to hide and an unpredictable future struggles to keep bitterness from stealing the hope of a romance with her best friend while nursing the wounded of WWI.
Does true love have an accent?
A speech-language pathologist determined to move up the academic ladder and out of rural Appalachia makes a deal with her arrogant supervisor to change a thick-accented and big-hearted cattle farmer into corporate world material by Thanksgiving. An Appalachian twist to My Fair Lady   

How much matchmaking mischief does it take to cross an ocean?
A romance-phobic Appalachian single mom travels to England to solve a 500 year old family mystery and attempts to keep her fragile heart out of the unpredictable hands of a reformed British bad-boy

Can Sophia trust her heart to her immortal enemy?
A 300 year old Ancient teams up with her immortal enemy to defeat a cult of vampires in the mysterious hollows of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Is the strength of prophecy, magic, and love strong enough to protect the children of Arthur?
In present day Virginia, the ancestors of King Arthur along with their protector, Merlin's son, rush to fulfill the prophecy of their lives before centuries of evil destroy them.

So - let's see if you can break your novel down to something shorter? Movies do it all the time.

After a twister transports a lonely Kansas farm girl to a magical land, she sets out on a dangerous journey to find a wizard with the power to send her home. (logline by Brian A. Klems, found at

For more info about pitch writing, check out this link:

Okay, so here's the EASY Chicken Nacho Dip:
2 cans Tyson's chicken
1 tsp garlic
2- 16 oz cans of salsa (of your choosing and spice)
15 oz can refried beans
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3 cups shredded cheese

Mix all ingredients together except 1 cup of cheese. Place in crock pot on low heat for 2 hours or high heat for 45 minutes. Just before serving add additional cup of cheese.
Serve with your favorite chips.

Now, bring your pitches!!!



~cjoy said...

I was instructed to make my pitch a little longer and specific, but it falls into the 25-30 second time frame still:

Raped and pregnant by her brother’s friend, Grace Anderson fakes her death during 9/11 to protect the baby. Ten years later, Peter Caldwell, her college love, unravels her secret life. He tells her that her father is dying. But if she returns home, the rapist will discover he’s a father. Grace needs to trust the true Protector— before she puts her daughter’s life in danger.

Pepper said...

What an intriguing story - and you've used a different element of pitch that I didn't use in the list. Names.
Making it a little longer or shorter works well. This reads like a back cover blurb, so you already have part of that ready :-)

If you wanted to try another type of pitch, you could use something like:

Ten years after a woman faked her death during 9/11 to escape the scars of her past, she must return to her hometown and to the rapist who left her with a child and an upturned life.

It has a great hook!

Unknown said...

Now I'm hungry for nachos!! :)

Pepper said...

Ha! Melissa - you don't have to worry so much about your pitches now that your in Published-Land, do you? :-)

Are you gliding along on the clouds?

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Pepper,

Love your one-sheet - it's beautiful!

Here's my attempt:

'In 1911 New York, two daughters of a prosperous Irish horse breeder search for love and independence, in spite of their domineering father’s need to control their future.'


Jennifer Major said...

I'm going to try again, because I don't know if my comment from this morning survived.

"What if your greatest fear was your only salvation?"

A Navajo warrior, stilled by circumstance, and a Boston socialite, seeking refuge in Arizona Territory, fall unwillingly in love, only to find themselves falling apart as their fears and nightmares collide with long hidden lies and the brutal truth.

Pepper said...

Oh Susan,
You picked my favorite time-period!!!!

Great story premise. Do the daughters have particular goals? What about their future beaus? Anything unique about them? I wonder about culture clashes???

Pepper said...

whew, interesting storyline, Jennifer - and fantastic 'hook' question!
A quick question:
what does 'stilled by circumstances" mean for him?

What do your characters want? Their goals?

Jennifer Major said...

Good question...I should mix and mingle the pitch phrase I had before this ...back in a bit. :D

Pepper said...

Here's a helpful summary from Janalyn Voigt
• “Desire -- What does your main character want? This desire drives the plot toward a specific goal.
• Problem -- A shift or change in your protagonist's life causes a problem.
• Cost or risk -- What will the solution cost? What are the risks?
• Solution -- How will your story resolve? Will your main character realize his or her goal -- or not?

Use your story problem and theme to create a pitch sentence. Be sure and add a hook -- something that sparks interest in learning more. Examples:

Story Problem: A grieving widow longs to find happiness again (desire). When a suitor presses her with his attentions (problem), she must let go of the past (cost or risk) in order to realize her goal (solution).

Theme: Is it possible to find happiness by letting go of the past?

Pitch Sentence: A young widow wants to take a chance on a new suitor but what will it cost her to let go of the past?

Story Problem: A teenage boy whose father was murdered wants to make sense out of his father's death (desire). When he discovers the identity of his father's killer (problem), he must set aside his desire to seek revenge (cost or risk) in order to forgive (solution).

Theme: Does revenge make sense of murder?

Pitch Sentence: A teenage boy whose father was murdered faces a life-and-death decision when he discovers the identity of his father's killer.”

~cjoy said...

Thanks, Pepper. Your story on your one-sheet looks amazing! I feel entrenched in it already. I hope I get the chance to read it someday. :)

Carol Moncado said...

Pepper - how are you not sold yet?! I love your pitches and love everything of yours I've read!

cjoy - I saw yours on the First Timers loop and was intrigued then too! I have one with a more subtle 9/11 hook that is one of my absolute faves ever [thought that's not necessarily why].

I'll have to find mine to send them to you Pepper - they're so not ready for this kind of prime time ;).

Jennifer Major said...

Here are the ones I had before...

"A Navajo warrior finds sanctuary in the home of a pioneer family and falls in love with the only woman who can heal his memories, but will the wealthy socialite's fears and nightmares destroy them both."

"When Sarah Monroe and Tag Hutchinson find a second chance at love, will her horrific secrets overwhelm any hope they have of happiness, or will Tag's own dark memories be the key to saving them both?"

Pepper said...

Thanks, Cjoy!
I LOVE this story.
I hope you get the chance to read it some day too :-)