The Pitch

I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe the Sue Allen story in that succinct, pithy way that gets other people to want to read it. I’m really struggling. Janet Reid has a simple set of things over at her blog:

If you’re having trouble with this part of the query letter, step back a moment. Write this sentence down: My book is about (write down what book is about) 

Then write: My main character’s name is:

Then write:  s/he must: (followed by a verb) 

Then write: My antagonist is: name.  S/he wants to thwart (main character’s name) goal by: verb.

My book is about Nashville’s greatest unsung medium and her strange family and a Thing and the Civil War and history in general and a cave and time-travel.

My main character’s name is Sue Allen.

She must first, thwart the guy who wants to marry her, and then protect herself and her family from his vengeance.

My antagonist’s name is Lee Overton.

He wants to thwart Sue’s goal by either marrying her or destroying her.

See, the story at the center of my book–boy meets girl, boy kills wife to be with girl, boy talks girl’s step-dad into marrying her off to him, girl takes drastic measures to ensure that doesn’t happen and then drastic steps to thwart his revenge–is the skeleton of the book. And the Spiritualism and The Thing and the Civil War and the history in general and the cave and the time-travel are all the heart of the book. I’m kind of struggling with how to marry those things in a succinct way.

I think the short, elevator pitch is something like “two occultists fight over the future of a post-Civil War Nashville.” I think that’s good.

I wonder if I could go something like

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Lee Overton is sending letters to his wife’s cousin, the widow Sue Perkins Hayes, instructing her in the ways of communicating with and controlling ghosts. When she succeeds beyond his wildest dreams and conjures up a demonic Thing, he realizes that with her, he would be the most powerful Spiritualist in Nashville. The only problem? Mrs. Hayes has no intention of replacing the conveniently recently-deceased Mrs. Overton.

Sue manages to banish Lee one-hundred and fifty years in the future–where he becomes Middle Tennessee’s best Civil War reenactor–but like a bad penny, he’s just turned back up looking to get even.

Ugh, that’s not quite right. But something. I guess my question is whether that sounds good.

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5 thoughts on “The Pitch

  1. I like that version at the end of your post. It’s clear, it intrigues, it sets up lots of questions to be answered.

  2. You seem to be on your way there, ma;’am…My guess is that your key–and the one-liner sales guide is not wrong about this part–is that you need to describe the story as what Sue does, and sure, in a context described in a few words at most–not all the things the guys around her are doing; they’re background.

    It’s like the dang movie trailer voice “In a WORLD where xxx, Sue xxx’s ( or must xxx.) They put the “world” part first because you can see that ion-screen in the trailer seconds before they get to the selling point, the drama. On the page, you can get right to the acton then add the WORLD.

    For whatever that’s worth..

  3. So, something more like “In a world where ghosts smoke cigarettes on your front porch in the evenings and your mother can smell a lie on your breath, one woman must stop an old family friend from recreating Confederate Nashville, even though she, too, would like someone to wait on her hand and foot. Can Sue Allen learn the importance of getting her own damn tea before it’s too late?”

    Ha, I was just fucking around, but I kind of like that.

  4. I don’t like “In a world where ghosts smoke cigarettes on your front porch” — it seems too ordinary.

    I like the version you’ve got in the OP, but with Sue stuck in as the main character instead of Lee Overton. You know: “In the aftermath of the Civil War, the widow Sue Perkins Hayes is getting letters from her cousin’s husband, instructing her ….” and so on. though I would absolutely pose the question of Sue getting her own tea at the end.

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