Friday, May 30, 2008

Pitch #4

Okay, let's try something a little different here. Here's a pitch from someone we all respect, someone who shares very wise insights in the comments. I've already run through a couple of practice pitches here, and I can tell from all the comments that people are starting to understand the nature of pitching. It's not like a query letter, right? And that's because I'm processing your story with my ears instead of with my eyes.

Now, let's all pretend that you're the editor. An author is sitting across a small table from you. You see a very fast pulse in her throat, and her voice shakes just slightly when she greets you. She's nervous. And you know that the pitch will go better for both of you if she's less nervous than this at the end of your very brief meeting. She'll be better able to answer your questions if she's calmer, and that means you'll be able to make a better decision about her story.

So, here goes. Read the following pitch out loud, one time, and pretend that you're merely hearing it instead of just reading it.

Gaining acceptance by the Rhiaton Crowd was not a problem for Kinush. Admittedly they had helped him to celebrate his elevation with a bath in the sheep dip, but now their world of elegant balls and magical discussion was wide open to him. When the Crowd drive his boyhood friend Meriok into hiding, and his best friend shows more interest in the cut of his sleeves than the fate of his brother, Kinush must make a choice between all he ever wanted and the friend he had served badly.

But magic is more than an elegant pasttime: with the right spells a group of mages could take down whole cities. Inevitably, the ambitions of the Rhiaton Crowd begin to attract unwelcome attention.As he gets more and more entangled in the politics of magic, Kinush - whose idea of hardship is a bed at a country inn - finds himself camped in an olive grove playing stare-me-down with two powerful mages, and he cannot afford to blink...

You're the editors. What questions do you ask the writer?



Edittorrent said...

What kind of book is this- genre?

Edittorrent said...

I mean that's a question I'd ask-- what genre?

Anonymous said...

I reckon it's fantasy by the names and the magic. But I am lost as to who or what the Rhiaton Crowd is, what Kinush is elevated to, is Meriok his best friend admiring sleeves, who is whose brother, and which of the friends has he served badly.

I think this points out that there are far too many characters in the opening paragraph.

In the second, the opening statement is not related to the second that I can see because we don't know if the Crowd are mages.

I don't know what the story is about.

I don't think I could memorize this as a verbal delivery and carry it off, either. It works as a written style.

Interesting that there are no comments. Are folks going on summer holidays already?

Anonymous said...

This pitch doesn't work for me. It rambles all over the place, so my question would be: what's this book actually about? I can see that there is some sort of 'saving' of a friend, but it's not delievered in a way that it makes an awful lot of sense to me. The second paragraph breaks the line of logic. In the first paragraph, I thought it was about the friend, but the second paragraph veers off at right-angles. The friend seems to be totally superfluous for what is described in the second paragraph.

Dave Shaw said...

Some questions I would ask:

This is obviously fantasy, but what subgenre? What's the target audience?
Why does the Rhiaton Crowd drive Meriok into hiding?
Why does Kinush become 'entangled in the politics' - ambition, accident of birth, destiny, bad luck, or...?
What's his real goal - protection of his friend, survival, leadership, personal gain, or...?

Natalie Hatch said...

I'd like to first off know the name of the book and what area it's targeting. Then I'd like to hear about the main character and their plight in two sentences or less. Then I'd like to hear what the black moment is, what's stopping them from overcoming it.
(If I was an editor that is). It's giving a lot of backstory isn't it? From what I've seen this would be on the inside cover of a book giving more explanation.
Anyway, just my two cents worth.

green_knight said...

I haven't *quite* died from the embarassment of posting my query blurb instead of the pitch I meant to post, but it was a close shave. And since every time I try to post a reply to this my computer has decided to walk out on me, I guess the universe is telling me something: and that something is that I've got a fast-paced, fun, coming-of-age fantasy novel that sounds either trite and boring, or completely confusing whenever I try to talk about it.

This is the story of a young man who runs with the in-crowd and slowly comes to realise that he values other things more - his integrity, friendships, his love of learning. There's no romantic substory, because Kinush is too wrapped up in becoming himself to be a good partner to anyone else, and I look at terms like 'the black moment' and find them rather meaningless, because that term would best be applied to the inciting incident - the moment when he realises that his boyhood friend Meriok has left the city and nobody, not even Meriok's brother cares- because after that there is never an all-or-nothing point; each challenge Kinush faces is one that he has already acquired the tools to solve, he just sometimes needs a bit of time to convince himself of it.

The search for Meriok is what inspires Kinush's journey, but in the end, it is not the most important aspect of it, and while Kinush *does* find and make up with Meriok, the fate of the world does not rest on whether he does or not. In fact, the fate of the world does not seem to be at stake at all, because everything Kinush does is a logical step that arises from the previous incidents; to him it's only how any decent guy would react. The monumentality of his breaking down of barriers only becomes obvious when you're a) steeped in the culture of this book, and b) realising that he's not so much flattening a boundary wall as chipping away at it, making it easier for the next person to do a little bit more.

Overall, like all good speculative fiction novels this books makes little sense without the background: without the latent hostilities between two groups of mages, who used to fight wars but nowadays mostly stop at implied threats and the odd beating-up-people-in-dark-alleys, without the self-picture of this world and its mages who see themselves as tremendously civilised.

And I'm not certain how to even lay out the plot in the brief time allocated, because it's a quest plot - Kinush looks for his lost boyhood friend - which consists of a number of small episodes, each of which appears relatively unconnected to his final goal. Only that every person he meets, every challenge he overcomes, makes him a better person (more tolerant, more willing to accept hardships and lay aside his selfishness), and each of these pieces helps Kinush at the climax.

One of the aspects of magic in this world is that it's a fairly academic style of magic, with six levels through which mages advance, and for each level they are stringently tested. The reason behind Meriok's disappearance - a 'I don't want to have anything to do with any member of the Rhiaton Crowd, ever, not even my brother - especially not my brother, and sod Kinush, he's one of them, too' is that members of the Crowd decided that Meriok was not worthy - not posh enough, not the type of mage they want to see succeed, so, regardless of his magical skills, they failed him. By the time Kinush catches up with him (which took a couple of years), he's in another apprenticeship and vastly more skilled, and there are high-ranking mages who want to make utterly certain he gets the testing he deserves, and they do not take kindly to Kinush camping out nearby insisting that Meriok should talk to him.

As I said, it makes more sense if you read the book.