Recently, I discussed the six questions you should try to answer before you start your first draft. This week I want to discuss question two – tell your story in three lines.
It is a great test for your story idea. Whether you call it a ‘pitch slam’ or an ‘elevator pitch’ this forces you to consider your whole story. Try writing it as if you were finished with the manuscript. This is something you will rewrite several times, but try to write one before you start.
It does not matter if you want to self-publish or never publish, this exercise will help you. It is hard, don’t expect it to be anything else and remember it will change. I just want to get you going. Just as you would approach an agent or editor you should try to wrap up your idea in a paragraph. Here are some points you can consider:
- You need a title. Write your working title in big letters at the top of the page. You can even make a mock-up of your cover. It’s inspirational.
- Who, what and why? You need a character, start with them and the inciting moment. The inciting moment gives you a goal and that conflict will give you an antagonist.
- When, where and how? If you are writing sci-fi or historical fiction, this question becomes even more important, but you should pick a moment in time and then tell me how all of this is going to happen.
[Character’s name] + [inciting moment] + [story goal] leads to [intriguing question]
For example: Paint It Black by Janet Fitch
Josie’s boyfriend commits suicide. She wants to find out why, but that means dealing with his crazy controlling mother. Should Josie let herself be lured into a life of riches by the woman who destroyed the man she loved?
In short: Ask yourself, who wants to do what and why?
Then print it out, stick it to your wall and when in doubt go back and ask yourself if you are answering the question.
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