There are plenty of great articles out there on writing a pitch, but in this article I’m talking about pitching Twitter-style.
Agent Jennifer Laughran (@literatictat on Twitter) hosted a challenge asking followers to tweet their query. It turned out to be ridiculously difficult. And with my alarm clock still buzzing in my ears, my groggy brain came up with slop instead of a real pitch. First lesson: have your 140-character queries written and ready, in case you need to tweet it!
Laughran retweeted queries she liked, for example this one by Jo Hart (@gracefuldoe): Geek girl moves school, changes image & becomes popular. Only problem: at this school popular kids are turning up dead. YA.
Breaking it down
What works about this? Let’s look at each part.
We have the character: Geek girl.
We have the setting: New school
We have her initial goal: To be popular. (And I know it’s her goal, rather than something that just happened to her, because she changed her image. It was a deliberate action. This tells us popularity was something she aimed for.)
So far, the story’s looking pretty cliché – a riches to rags kind of tale that’s been retold a thousand times.
But here comes the catch: At this school popular kids are turning up dead. The stakes are implied – the protagonist’s life is at risk. Following on from this, the protagonist’s new goal is also implied – she will have to find out why the popular kids are turning up dead. Implied motivation? So she doesn’t die herself.
Try it out
With tweeted queries, it’s impossible to give a good idea of your character or plot, and you’ll have to use short, descriptive words. Pare the story down to its core. What is the main objective of your protagonist? What are the stakes? (And whatever you do, don’t use words like “to protect” or “to survive”, because they’re not solid goals).
I’ll use my current WiP as an example:
My protagonist: Teenage girl
The setting: Heart of Shadowglen city
Her initial goal: Find her runaway sister
Catch: Cursed by princess who wants her to kill a beast, and says doing so will lead her to her sister
New goal: Kill a beast
So: A teenage girl is cursed by a mysterious princess, who claims she must use the curse to kill a beast and find her runaway sister.
Right length, but the set up looks awkward, and it probably still has too many elements. It’s no good trying to explain how the curse can help the protagonist kill a beast (or how killing the beast will lead her to her sister) in 140 characters. I could expand more on the mood, go into less description about her sister, and get rid of the princess altogether.
To save her runaway sister, a teenage girl must kill the beast that lurks in the dark streets of Shadowglen city.
Checklist: Character, setting (not always necessary), stakes, goals.
Much, much harder than it sounds! Have a go in the comments, and make sure it can fit into a tweet!
Jo Hart doesn’t just write a great Twitter-Pitch, she also has a fabulous website, which can be found here. Make sure you drop by!
The follow up article on the Tweet-a-Query challenge by Jennifer Laughran can be found here.