Pub Rants

Building The Pitch Paragraph (Part Six: Ysabel)

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STATUS: So it’s after midnight, which should tell you how my day went. And is this Tuesday’s entry or Wednesday’s?

What’s playing on the iPod right now? DESERT ROSE by Sting

Okay so we didn’t have much luck analyzing the cover copy of THEN WE CAME TO THE END as we couldn’t find it online. Tonight (or this morning), let’s try a title where the commenter provided the cover copy for me. What can I say? I get lazy when I’m tired.

Are you ready? This one has elements of many genres so it should be fun.

From Guy Gavriel Kay’s YSABEL:

Ned Marriner is spending springtime with his father in Provence, where the celebrated photographer is shooting images for a glossy coffee-table book. Both father and son fear for Ned’s mother, a physician for Doctors Without Borders, currently assigned to the civil war-torn regions of Sudan. Ned has inherited her courage, and perhaps more than that.

While his father photographs the cathedral of Aix-en-Provence, Ned explores the shadowy interior with Kate Wenger, an American exchange student who has a deep knowledge of the area’s history. They surprise an intruder in a place where he should not be: “I think you ought to go now,” he tells them, drawing a knife. “You have blundered into a corner of a very old story.”

In a modern world of iPods, cellphones, and SUVs whipping along roads walked by Celtic tribes and Roman legions, a centuries-old saga seems to be beginning again.

In this sublime and ancient corner of the world, where borders between the living and the long-dead are most vulnerable, Ned and those close to him are about to be drawn into a haunted tale, as mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, changing and claiming lives.

Step One: Find the plot Catalyst

Step Two: Identify what method is being used to build the paragraphs in the cover copy?
* Back story?
* Other plot elements?
* Character?
* Combo?

Step Three: Analyze the copy as a whole.
How many sentences is it? What elements make up each individual paragraph? What seemed effective and why?

I’ll check back in tomorrow (or today) so we can discuss.

9 Responses

  1. suelder said:

    This will be short because I have to go to work.

    Catalyst – surprising the intruder

    Method – My first inclination is backstory, information about his parents and the girl. But the writer also juxtaposes the past and present, creating a mystery.

    Seven sentences, although the last one’s a little long :wink:. What works is the set up of the story question – what’s going on? How will the past invade the present? And what does Ned’s mother have to do with all this?

    Hmm, I may want to look this book up. 🙂


  2. Tia Nevitt said:

    Wow; this is like a school assignment.

    1) Plot catalyst: the intruder confronting them with a knife. I wanted to read more!

    2) It seems to have a lot of backstory. I don’t see much hint of the plot, other than the words of the intruder and that bit about the centuries-old saga. I wish the ideas in the second and third paragraphs could have been emphasized, and the first paragraph de-emphasized.

    3) I was confused at first because I thought Ned was the “celebrated photographer.” Also, the blurb makes me think of a spotlight that shines all around: first on Ned’s father, then his mother, then Kate, then the intruder, and then pulls back to shine the light on the setting as a whole. There seems to be a lot of telling. Eight sentences, some of them very long.

    The part about the intruder with the knife was effective for me. I’m not so sure about the rest of it.

  3. lj said:

    1) Plot Catalyst: When the intruder speaks, threatens, and warns.

    2) Methods used– a combo. I’d break it down, sentence by sentence:
    #1: setting, intro main character
    #2: backstory relationship
    #3: character development
    #4: add new character, probable love interest
    #5: Threat & mystery = catalyst
    #6: Camera pulls back for overarching view on a grand scale; stakes are raised (this is not just a personal threat; it will affect many, and even span time)
    #7: Teaser– gives us an intriguing taste of what’s coming, moves us to action (buy the book).

    3) Most effective, for me: the contrast of surface appearances and what is swirling in the depths. Things are not as they seem at first glance; there is more here than meets the eye. This element shows up in each paragraph, and calls to my human longing for significance: in a life that seems prosaic on the surface, is there a deeper meaning? Do I matter, in more than a small way? This book plunges me into a world in which the answer is YES.

  4. Anonymous said:

    This is a bit off topic but I can’t resist commenting (ranting) about AND THEN WE COME TO THE END. It is one of the best books I’ve read in ages. Compelling, original, moving, thought-provoking. Entertaining! One of those well-crafted, inspiring books I’d love to have written.

    BUT! It took me forever to even give it a try because of the cover. The paperback edition is almost cartoonish in an I-Dream-of-Jeannie way. It looks dumb, lightweight, meant for either teenagers or really old people. It does not look compelling, original, moving, thought-provoking, or entertaining. The hardcover apparently was covered with post-it notes. Not quite as silly but I still never picked it up in the store even though I saw it often.

    I know it’s a huge matter of personal preference but the fact is I don’t know a single person who has picked it up.

    Why did I eventually buy it? A writing blog recommendation.

    Cover aside, READ IT!


  5. Heather said:

    I was the one who suggested “Then We Came To the End.” Apologies for the confusion about cover copy… what you posted was correct, though. I loved the book, and while I may be in the minority, I actually did get interested in it based on the the front cover (hardcover edition) and back copy. Guess I was wondering how to handle a literary novel that doesn’t have a traditional plot structure and thus doesn’t fit as easily into the formulas. (I’d still love to see what you think about the copy for “The Blind Assassin,” one of my all-time favorites… I believe Amazon has a back cover shot.)

  6. Kristin Laughtin said:

    Catalyst: Intruder with the knife

    Method: A combination of back story and character, especially in the first paragraph. I find the mention of Ned’s mother odd, though. We learn he inherited her courage and that Ned may have inherited “more than that” from her, but I am not sure what her profession has to do with the rest of the story. (It may very well be important, but the back copy doesn’t indicate much.)

    3) Overall analysis: Additionally, the fourth paragraph mimics the third in structure and somewhat in information. Why not make it one paragraph? The entire thing seems a bit long for what it tells us.

    Still, I’m intrigued by the story, so overall the cover copy seems to work.

  7. RyanBruner said:

    If I read this as back cover copy in the store, I’d set it down. It doesn’t work for me at all. It feels confusing and unfocused. It wasn’t until the third paragraph that I felt any sort of hook. But even that seems poorly worded “…seems to be beginning…”. Very awkward.

  8. shariwrites said:

    Catalyst – definitely when they meet the intruder

    Method – there is some backstory, mostly explaining why he’s in his current location, and then we get into just a little bit of plot elements, not enough to really tell us a lot, just a little to pique the interest

    Analyze – I personally didn’t love the first paragarph, but neither did I hate it. I felt the rest gave enough that I would be interested. Still, I thought it could be more compelling.