This phrase comes from the idea that if you got into an elevator and a conversation with a stranger, could you say what your book is about before two floors pass and one of you steps out?
On the 16th of this month I’ll be presenting a session on this at the 2nd annual Cuenca International Writer’s Conference up in the Andes in Cuenca, Ecuador. I’ll be combining it with how to write a synopsis that sells…but I’ll save that for another blog post so we can focus right now on the elevator speech that describes your book in one sentence.
This is your mini sales pitch. Most start with the main character’s inciting incident, describes his/her problem or challenge, and introduces the deadline and/or consequences.
If your story is historical, you want to establish the time period:
“In 18th century Suriname, wealthy black plantation owner Elisabeth Samson schemes to get the one thing her money can’t buy—and Dutch law forbids—a white husband.” — Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride
You want to introduce your main character and say just enough about the plot to make your listener or reader curious to know more.
If your story location is critical to the story, you want to identify that:
“When the world’s most famous magician dies in a Las Vegas roller coaster escape stunt on national television, single mom detective Cheri Raymer faces the most devastating personal threat in her career when her teen-aged son, fascinated by magic, becomes the protégé of a suspected killer.” — Magicide
If there is a deadline key to the story, you want to say that:
“The search is on for six million dollars hidden in a vintage Las Vegas Hotel/casino destined for destruction.” — Implosion
You want to use powerful high-drama words like, schemes, devastating, threat, incredible, unimaginable, inconceivable, forbidden, destruction…to spark curiosity.
And keep it short. Most elevator speeches can be under 100 words.
Check out the bestsellers in your genre at Amazon.com for more examples that will spark the ideas to describe your novel.
Then share your one-line story “pitch” with us in the comments section below.
And why are we so obsessed with it? Is it based in a fear of somehow not being good enough?
Where does this idea that things should never be flawed come from, anyway? Was it something mom said, or a favorite teacher?
Does the challenge to write the perfect book scare the bejeeses out of you?
It’s one thing to have high standards—we should all aspire to something—but to be obsessed with achieving perfection will only hold us back. It will keep us from writing our strongest messages, our strongest dialogue, our strongest characters.
We accept that great literary characters are flawed characters. It’s their quirky flaws that make them memorable.
We should accept that we are not perfect writers, either. We can only do the best we can do. And often, that’s enough. So, I challenge you to just write, and don’t think about whether or not it’s “perfect.”
After all, DONE is better than PERFECT.
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
Are you addicted to writing? Can you honestly say it’s your passion?
In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury (who died at 91 in 2012) inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create.
During his career he wrote hundreds of short stories and almost fifty books, as well as poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays.
One of the most celebrated writers of our time, Bradbury won numerous awards and honors and was even nominated for an Academy Award. So if you are serious about writing, you want to know what this man has to say.
In these nine essays on writing and creativity he will entertain you, inspire you and remind you that there is joy to be found in writing.
“I have learned, on my journeys,” says Bradbury, “that if I let a day go by without writing, I grow uneasy.”
Learn from the best. Learn from Ray Bradbury.
All memorable characters in fiction have a personality or character flaw that affects their judgement and tends to work against them.
Here are some famous literary examples:
1 – Scarlett O’hara – hard-headed, determined, willing to do anything to survive
2 – Madame Bovary – unrealistic belief in romance, sentimental flights of fancy, and melancholy.
3 – Anna Karenina – insecurity manifesting in jealousy
4 – Peter Pan – never wanted to grow up
5 – Matthew Scudder – ex-cop and recovering alcoholic
6 – Captain Jack Sparrow – pride in dishonesty, ability to easily manipulate others
Can you add to this list?
Who is your favorite literary character?
Have you written a character with a flaw that holds him back and keeps him from getting what he wants most?
Sometimes some of the best motivation can be found in the words of famous authors.
Here are 5 great literary quotes to inspire you:
1 – If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write. – Somerset Maugham
2 – A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God. – Sidney Sheldon
3 – It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.– Ernest Hemingway
4 – “I can shake everything if I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
5 – “Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly—they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.”
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Onward into 2017: writing, thinking, writing, eating, writing, laughing, writing, living, writing…you get the picture.
The trouble with life is that it gets in the way.
It comes along just when we’re planning to jot down that great line or write that poignant scene. Life comes in every form imaginable: a child with a last-minute requirement for school, an aging parent with special needs, a job that consumes at least 40 hours a week, a husband (say no more).
Often all of the above at the same time!
On the other hand, without those sad-glad-mad experiences of our own, would we really be able to get in touch with the motivations and feelings of our characters? Would we really understand what love, pain, jealousy, hatred, ambition and guilt feel like? Would we meet those interesting people who inspire our most colorful characters?
No, I think “life” is something we need to support our creativity.
One of my goals last January was to complete a series of online courses by the end of 2016. Now I see it aint-agonna happen. . . My excuse? Life just got in the way. There was the publication of another adult coloring book, teaching real live classes, family obligations, a renewed interest in watercolor painting and unexpected travel for work.
Now I get to make new goals and resolutions for 2017… but first, I’d better figure out how to balance my responsibilities so that “life” becomes my friend, my source, my inspiration, my sustenance—so that I can’t say, “Life got in the way.” But rather, “Without ‘life’ I wouldn’t be who I am, think as I do, write as I must. I welcome ‘life’ as a part of the universe that will not only build my character, but build my characters, too!”
Onward to 2017!
Wishing you another year of writing, fun, and creative inspiration!