STATUS: Just added the finishing touches to the workshop presentation.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? WICKED GAME by Chris Isaak
Of course I’m doing this workshop for Chicago Spring fling (an RWA chapter) so all my examples have a strong romance and women’s fiction leaning at the moment but it’s a great way to kick off this segment.
Once you’ve identified your plot catalyst that occurs in the first 30 pages, then you are ready to start building the rest of the pitch paragraph that will be in your query letter.
In looking at the back cover examples in my presentation, it’s clear there are three different ways to build the paragraph around the plot catalyst:
1. The back story that sets the story and creates the context
2. Contributing plot elements that will broaden the story
3. Character elements that are imperative to the story.
Pitch paragraphs can either focus on one of these elements to make it strong or a combination. I’ll give you three examples from my presentation and if I can get creative next week, I’ll try and grab examples from literary fiction and other genres.
So in my presentation, I offered the back cover copy of PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS as a good example of how the back story can be used to build the teaser paragraph.
The perfect marriage… Exquisitely planned.
And a complete disaster.
To all of London society, Lord and Lady Tremaine had the ideal arrangement: a marriage based on civility, courteousness and freedom—by all accounts, a perfect marriage. The reason? For the last ten years, husband and wife have resided on separate continents.
But once upon a time, things were quite different for the Tremaines…When Gigi Rowland first laid eyes on Camden Saybrook, Lord Tremaine, the attraction was immediate and overwhelming: she simply had to have him. But what began in a spark of passion ended in betrayal the morning after their wedding—and Gigi wants to be free to marry again. Now Camden has returned from America with an outrageous demand in exchange for Gigi’s freedom—a proposal that defies propriety and stuns his wife. For Gigi’s decision will have consequences she never imagined, as secrets are exposed, desire is rekindled—and one of London’s most admired couples must either fall in love all over again…or let each other go forever.
Step 1: identify the plot catalyst
In this paragraph, the plot element that will launch the story forward is that Gigi would like a divorce so she can remarry and Camden makes an outrageous proposal in exchange for granting it.
This does indeed happen in the first 30 pages of the novel.
Step 2: Now let’s analyze the rest of the paragraph. This is a great example of how back story will shape the “pitch.” If you look at the first paragraph, we as readers need to understand that Gigi and Camden have an ironic perfect marriage as they live in separate countries. Then we get a hint of what caused the estrangement.
Once that is established, the current event or the plot catalyst that starts the story is revealed. We get a hint of what they must face in order for it to resolve.
There really isn’t a focus on the characters or other plot elements in the story and yet, it’s strong copy (or at least I think so). Not too much is revealed but enough intriguing hints to make us interested in reading on.