How to pitch: 3PO edition

By Lucasfilm - C-3PO - Encyclopedia
Not the droid you’re looking for…
By Lucasfilm – C-3PO – Encyclopedia

If this looks familiar, it’s because I’m continuing to pull useful artifacts from certain deteriorating social media sites to preserve them in my own internet museum. Hope this one helps!

I often write the pitch or blurb for my novels before anything else. I may scribble some notes here and there, spitball a few ideas, but that pitch helps me crystallize essential stuff that I can then expand into a synopsis, then an outline. It’s not quite the Snowflake Method, but it’s close.

So after writing so many pitches, I thought: how do I write them? What stuff do I include? How much coffee do I drink first and what does chartreuse smell like once the caffeine hits?

  1. Magic.
  2. Magic.
  3. Magic.

But seriously, here’s what I do; maybe it will help you.

To write a pitch, I need three things. Three P’s, in fact. And sometimes an O. Hah, Threepio. Anyway. The three P’s: Protagonist(s), Place, Problem. Who is the main character? Where does the story take place? And what problem are they facing?

For the protagonist, I try to focus on what’s most relevant to the story. Whatever the reader needs to know for problem to make sense, to matter, and to suggest why THIS person is the one doing the stuff and why they’re worth following around.

For the place, I want to show how the world of the story is different from ours. Again, ideally I focus on things that are relevant to the character and problem. Think of every “in a world” setup you’ve heard in a movie trailer, and how it establishes the status quo.

For the problem, I try to tie it into character. Here is the thing that has gone wrong and needs fixing, the secret that forces the character to make a choice, the event or situation that sets them on the path to Hijinks. I establish the win condition and price of failure, aka the stakes.

What about the O in Threepio? That’s for Opposition. If you’ve got it, you can include something about people or forces trying to prevent your character from solving the problem. Sometimes (often) the opposition includes the character themself, getting in their own way.

Every story is different, so stuff won’t always fit neatly into the three P’s I’ve outlined. But it’s somewhere to start, and it can help focus you whether you’re planning a book or you’ve already written it and are trying to distill its essence for querying purposes. Good luck!

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