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.
Can you answer this question in one sentence?
This type of “answer” is often referred to as “your elevator speech” or your “book blurb.” It tells the reader in simple terms what to expect when they read your book.
On March 16 I’m scheduled to present a session at the 2017 Cuenca International Writers Conference in Cuenca, Ecuador. My 50-minute session is entitled: “Getting to the Essential: How to Organize & Write Your Elevator Speech & Your Synopsis.” The focus will be on how and why you need to do this.
It’s easy to break down your novel and say what it’s about if you follow the basics of journalism: who, what, why, when & where? Addressing these questions forms the basis for your elevator speech and your blurb, your description of what your book is about.
Let’s look at two such descriptive sentences and break down what makes them effective.
“The search is on for six million dollars hidden in a Las Vegas Hotel destined for destruction.” (IMPLOSION)
The search (what) is on for six million dollars hidden (why) in a Las Vegas Hotel (where) destined for destruction (when).
“When the world’s most famous magician dies on national television in a Las Vegas roller coaster escape stunt, it’s no accident and all the suspects are magicians with plenty of secret motives for murder.” (MAGICIDE)
“When the world’s most famous magician (who) dies on national television (what) in a Las Vegas roller coaster escape stunt (where), it’s no accident and all the suspects are magicians with plenty of secret motives for murder. (Why)”
Another way to approach this is to describe your character, the inciting incident (what happens to him that triggers the story), what he/she must then do, and why (or else!)
Here’s a formula you can use:
Description of character…must do….verbal action….by…..or…..
To further get a feel for this, read imdb descriptions of movies and tv series:
“Jack Bauer, Director of Field Ops for the Counter-Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles, races against the clock to subvert terrorist plots and save his nation from ultimate disaster.” (24)
“A working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.” (Fences)
“A manipulative Southern belle carries on a turbulent affair with a blockade runner during the American Civil War.” (Gone With the Wind)
“Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.” (The Legend of Tarzan)
“A bipolar CIA operative becomes convinced a prisoner of war has been turned by al-Qaeda and is planning to carry out a terrorist attack on American soil.” (Homeland)
Now, I challenge you to take ten minutes and write one sentence that describes your story, and share it in the comments below.