AND HERE’S THE PITCH
First things first: I am by no means the absolute best, end-all-be-all type of guy to be asking about this sort of thing. There are people out on the internet who are so, so, SOOO much better at this than me and can do so in ways that are a heck of a lot more entertaining than me. For example, Chuck Wendig. Be ready for some booze-soaked, profanity-laden advice from an expert when you go to his site. I wouldn’t be half the writer I am now if I hadn’t read his stuff. (I’d also probably have a much cleaner vocabulary.)
Still with me? Good. Gooooood. Gather ’round, my freaky darlings. We’re going to be tackling the subject everyone wants to ask about – the story. Not just the story, but THE story. The story in which you and your characters go off and do grand things, be they good, evil, or vaguely slime-covered. The story. Your novel, your season one, your comic.
“But holy crap, Doc!” you might squeal. “That’s a lot! Like, a whole heck of a lot! How can you do this in one blog post?”
…weeell, maybe I sorta-kinda-halfway lied. We’re not going to be jumping straight in and writing your story from beginning to end right here and right now. Rather, we’re going to be tickling the very tip of that iceberg. Today, we discuss pitching your story.
Last time we discussed having your characters put together and fleshed out. We talked about all the potential stories they already have deep within the folds of their character bibles and the things that you can draw from their individual stories with which to create a story arc. Let us assume you’ve already done that. If not, no big deal. Starting with characters is a personal preference of mine, not carved in stone doctrine. (If you do accept everything I say as the gospel truth…well, DANCE MONKEY, DANCE. BRING YOUR MASTER A COOKIE.)
The very, very, very first thing that you should sit down and do is ask yourself “What the crap is this going to be about?” Sounds dumb, right? But seriously, you’re not going to get very far without asking yourself this. In writer-business terms, this is your pitch. Your query letter, your treatment or synopsis. For a good example of what I’m talking about and what I personally use, look at the back of a DVD case, VHS box, a book, or a game. Since it’s on hand already, I’m going to use the back of ALAN WAKE.
When the wife of best-selling writer Alan Wake disappears on their vacation, his search turns up pages from a thriller he doesn’t even remember writing. A dark presence stalks the small town of Bright Falls, pushing Wake to the brink of sanity in his fight to unravel the mystery and save the woman he loves.
Two sentences. In two sentences, we’re told who the protagonist is, what the catalyst for the story is, given a hint as to what we’re up against, and shown the main character’s goal. In the time and space it takes to read that, a good synopsis should already snare your audience and leave them wanting more.
When we were writing the Season One of Steamworks & Shadows, the synopsis looked something like this.
In the alternate-history world of 1886, a group of super-powered terrorists threatens to send the world into a global catastrophe, forcing legendary soldier Jacob “Gunny” McManus and his team of mercenaries to try and put an end to the uprising. However, when the job begins to take a toll on the team’s already-strained comraderie, the crew must put aside their differences or risk the destruction of the world as they know it.
Even for me, that’s a little wordy, but when you’re starting out, it doesn’t need to be perfect. You just need to have something. Somewhere to start. Kinda like you’ve got right now.
Anything I’m missing? Anything you’d do differently? How would you start your project? Tell me in the comments and let’s have a grand ol’ time.