When writing non-fiction, essay, journalism, it is easy to answer when asked, "What are you writing about?" I could just repeat my Thesis Statement using two easy formulas: Aristotle's 3 part Minor Premise, Major Premise, and Conclusion; or an abbreviated Toulmin method of Warrant, Support, and Claim. And journalism requires that the first 37 words answer who, what, where, and when.
But what about Fiction? How do I cut away the side-stories and get straight to the main plot? Here's an exercise I did that helped me to do just that. This is a process, as my WIP (Work in Progress) is in progression from a Nanowrimo draft to a first draft.
Within the first ten pages of her non-fiction book Goosing the Write Brain, A Storyteller's Toolkit, Chris Rogers, Author and Writing Instructor challenges the reader to state their idea in twenty-five words or less. She advises to create a "one-sentence concept" which defines the character, goal, and conflict. Rogers provides a detailed exercise which is easily followed.
Then I started brain-storming. I started writing by hand, with a cup of morning joe and a spiral notebook. I wrote three pages of various statements (some of which are repeated below). Many were the same story with different words. I set it aside for a while, came back to it. Wrote some more. Set it aside again. Reviewed again. Wrote some more...then rinse. Repeat. You get the idea.
Meanwhile, I pick the best one to date, and USE IT! When someone asks what my book is about, I have a one sentence answer (though just try to stop me there...).
Second, I put it out there. On social media, in conversations, at writing groups, workshops and write-ins (you know the drill, tell us your name and what you're working on). I'm observing how people react to it, making tweaks, and repeating again.
In doing this, I have discovered another very helpful and motivating advantage from this process. With this concise, focused, oft-repeated statement on my mind, I am always aware of the main story line as I write. Even if I am in the middle of an intense sub-plot related scene, the Pitch statement is unconsciously guiding me to remain focused and true to my main story.
I have also found this useful on a smaller scale, too. I started using this formula in my first re-write, one for each Part and Chapter, and even when writing Scenes.
This is a sample of some of the pitch statements I came up with for my WIP, "GUAXU" (working title). My protagonist has a goal, BUT there is a conflict that must be overcome.
An enchanted Meso-American princess with a cursed destiny wants to free her people from their wandering existence, but must first battle the witch who controls the tribes sustainability.
The princess of a pre-historic clan tries to overcome a cursed destiny and free her people from a dependent existence, but she must first outwit a powerful and controlling witch.
In Meso-America, a princess envisions an agrarian existence for her people; but, she must first outwit and battle a powerful witch for the secrets of the seeds.
A tribal princess in Meso-America envisions agrarian sustainability for her hunter-gatherer clan, but must first overcome the dictatorship of a powerful witch.
In early Meso-America an enchanted girl wants to free her people from their hunter-gatherer existence, but must fight a powerful witch.
An orphaned girl raised by a Meso-American tribe dreams of an agrarian society, but must overcome her destiny and outwit a powerful witch.
Giving Thanks to Nanowrimo, Happy Writing! Tell me YOUR experiences, processes and ideas with Pitch Statements! And while you're here, join the Green Association for Sustainability to help promote and support Social Sustainability through the Arts.