Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Where Were We? Oh, Right. Pitch #3.

Nothing like a holiday weekend to blow the cobwebs out of your mind. I took two days completely off. No deadlines, no manuscripts, no email. No work at all. I believe two days with no work is what regular joes call a weekend. I must say, I liked it. Might try to do it more often.

Pitch #3

The Lady Lies is a historical romance about a desperate con-artist whose unexpected romance with her befuddled, paleontologist mark teaches her the value of honesty and trust in a relationship. Spurned by Dr. Everard Livingston after the truth of her profession is revealed, Sofia vows revenge, forcing herself into society intending to make him fall for her in order to break his heart. Sofia's plan backfires when she falls for Everard all over again. He cannot marry her because he doesn't trust her and he is engaged.Piercing her ruse, Everard turns tables on her: in exchange for not turning her into the police, she must use her disguise as a medium to uncover a plot against his integrity by a rival. Sofia's profession as a con-artist threatens to topple the fortunes and happiness of many of Everard's relatives. Everard's well-planned life falls to pieces when he must reveal Sofia's deception and his own part in it to his family and friends. Everard has spent most of his life trying to please his father at the expense of his own wants and desires. Sofia has been taught to disguise who she was, and has never been accepted fully and unconditonally. Everard finds affection and tolerance from Sofia, and Sofia finds freedom and acceptance from Everard. The Lady Lies is a 90,000 word historical romance appealing to readers who yearn for romances set in turn of the century New York. As a fan of Edith Wharton and a historian of the Edwardian era, I am well-equipped to set stories of passion and adventure against romantic backgrounds.


Maybe it's because I'm still on weekend mode, but I found this a little hard to track. I think it's because of the way the clauses connect and the way some of the phrases imply new things. Remember, when you're pitching, I have to be able to listen and follow along very easily. I've been sitting in the meatlocker listening to who-knows-how-many other pitches before you came along, and my ability to track the plot is going to have a big impact on my overall impression of the pitch.

So let's see what happens if we untangle the pitch a little. This first sentence is straighforward, except I think I'd like it made plain from the outset that the con artist is female. I'm also going to pull out the "desparate" because nothing in the rest of the pitch supports that detail. While we're at it, "befuddled" probably isn't the way we want people to perceive a romantic hero, so let's pull that, too. Paleontologist already implies a certain bookishness, maybe an air of distraction or absorption with things of the mind.

The Lady Lies is a historical romance about a lady con artist whose unexpected romance with her paleontologist mark teaches her the value of honesty and trust in a relationship.

The next sentence skips around in time a little, and I had to rearrange it in my head while I was reading, which would cause some confusion if I were listening. The chained present participial phrases are also a bit hard to track. So let's straighten it out:

After the truth of Sofia's profession is revealed and Dr. Everard Livingston spurns her, Sofia vows to force herself into society and make him fall for her in order to break his heart. Sofia's plan backfires when she falls for Everard all over again.

The "all over again" stopped me because it implies she had feelings for him to begin with, but I thought she was marking him for a con. Maybe get rid of "all over again." Or make it clear that he wasn't just a mark to begin with.

He cannot marry her because he doesn't trust her and he is engaged.

This presents a bit of a logic problem. Why would she target him for connubial shenanigans if he's engaged to someone else? And I thought her goal was to break his heart, not to marry him. Honestly, you could probably cut this sentence and the previous sentence without losing anything of the plot. The next sentence needs to be trimmed so that their deal is really clear:

Piercing her ruse, Everard turns tables on her: in exchange for not turning her into the police, she must uncover a plot against him by a rival. Sofia's profession as a con-artist threatens to topple the fortunes and happiness of many of Everard's relatives.

Is she also working cons against everyone in his circle? That's what that last sentence implies. I'm not sure if it should be cut or just clarified.

Everard's well-planned life falls to pieces when he must reveal Sofia's deception and his own part in it to his family and friends. Everard has spent most of his life trying to please his father at the expense of his own wants and desires. Sofia has been taught to disguise who she was, and has never been accepted fully and unconditonally. Everard finds affection and tolerance from Sofia, and Sofia finds freedom and acceptance from Everard. The Lady Lies is a 90,000 word historical romance appealing to readers who yearn for romances set in turn of the century New York. As a fan of Edith Wharton and a historian of the Edwardian era, I am well-equipped to set stories of passion and adventure against romantic backgrounds.

Putting it all together:

The Lady Lies is a historical romance about a lady con artist whose unexpected romance with her paleontologist mark teaches her the value of honesty and trust in a relationship. After the truth of her profession is revealed and Dr. Everard Livingston spurns her , Sofia vows to force herself into society and make him fall for her in order to break his heart. Piercing her ruse, Everard turns tables on her: in exchange for not turning her into the police, she must uncover a plot against him by a rival. Everard's well-planned life falls to pieces when he must reveal Sofia's deception and his own part in it to his family and friends. Everard has spent most of his life trying to please his father at the expense of his own wants and desires. Sofia has been taught to disguise who she was, and has never been accepted fully and unconditonally. Everard finds affection and tolerance from Sofia, and Sofia finds freedom and acceptance from Everard. The Lady Lies is a 90,000 word historical romance appealing to readers who yearn for romances set in turn of the century New York. As a fan of Edith Wharton and a historian of the Edwardian era, I am well-equipped to set stories of passion and adventure against romantic backgrounds.


Does this seem better? Easier to track? Now we get a strong sense of the premise, a plot sketch, character insight, and a few marketing details. The last two sentences feel more like a query letter than a pitch, but they wouldn't throw me off during a pitch.

Theresa

7 comments:

Dave Shaw said...

A very tiny grammatical quibble:

'Turning her into the police' does NOT mean the same thing as 'turning her in to the police'. The first makes me think he's engaging the services of Hermione Granger... ;-)

Edittorrent said...

Yes, that's right, but we wouldn't hear the difference during a pitch. I'm trying to approach these written examples as if they were actually being pitched to me in person. But yes, you're right about that.

Theresa

green_knight said...

The first thing that caught my attention was Dr. Livingston. And I'm afraid to say that it's a dealbreaker.

I can't comment much on the rest of this - romance is not a genre I read, and saying that this doesn't work for me is not, I feel, a fair comment.

However, I feel that the turn-of-the-century NY should come at the beginning of the pitch; it shapes the book.

Dave Shaw said...

Theresa, yes, I understand. Some of us would say the two differently, of course - INto vs. IN TO. Just FWIW - no biggy.

Edittorrent said...

I like it that she's identified as a con artist right up front. I love books about con artists. Hard to credit, since I'm a really law-abiding sort.
Alicia

La Belle Americaine said...

Oh! This is my pitch!

Now that you've mentioned you approach these pitches as they'd sound verbally, I understand the adjustments made to them. In the process, I've discovered just how difficult it is to condense a story that has a lot going on into a short paragraph!

Thanks!

Edittorrent said...

I think any character who lives boldly will be of interest. I like con artist stories because these are outside-the-box characters with big personalities and clever minds. In our real lives, we might be the kind of people who always pay our bills on time and give up our bus seats to pregnant women, but in the world of fiction we can be lawless and dashing. Con artists have that Robin Hood flair. Gotta love 'em.

Theresa