Monday, 3 October 2011

Is it possible to say too little?

My friend Nicola Morgan has been asking people to pitch their books in 25 words. (There is an ulterior motive of course but do go and have a look at her blog post about it on "Help I need a Publisher".)
Now, I tried just because I thought I should. I cannot do it. I can do succinct. I cannot do this in 25 words or less.
Oh yes, I can say that my young hero has found a body. I can say his parents have been killed. I can say he is on the run. I can tell you he is running from the people he should be able to trust. At the second attempt I put that into 24 words. It sounds boring. Put like that it is boring.
In my first attempt I had informed the reader that my young hero is eleven and that the body he has found is by no means a fresh corpse. Both those things had to come out for Nicola's purposes. I understand what she was getting at but, for me, it did not work. (I told her this and she agreed that the second attempt was not actually gripping.)
There are things that matter here. They need to be said for the idea to have any impact. The likelihood of a child falling over a fresh corpse is pretty low - and it would not suit the story line at all. I have tried to suggest a scenario where an old corpse might well be found - and no, it is not in a graveyard. (It matters that my hero is eleven and not twelve too but that could come out for Nicola's purpose.)

I have written the first draft of this book. I am working on the revisions. Despite the apparently trite story line I think it may work. One adult has seen it and said nice things and, of the ending), "All the clues were there but I did not see that coming." That is the way I want it to be.
But, if I try to put it into twenty-five words, or less, it does not work. It needs the words "long dead" to suggest there is something more than "boy finds body, parents get killed, he's on the run".
I think it is possible to say too little. Some things simply need more words.


Anonymous said...

Curious idea. Must admit that I like the idea of someone being long dead. It does put a whole new perspective on it.

JO said...

Can you call him a runaway, not just a boy, that tells us he's on the run. Say he found bones. With no-one to trust he had to work this one out for himself?

No idea how many words that it - just musing here. Good luck with it.

widdershins said...

It's sometimes called the elevator pitch ... 'cos imagine if you stepped into an elevator with ... erm? ... James Cameron, and had five floors to sell him your story idea.

It's also useful when people ask you what your story/novel is about.

Try this:
My Story is about .... (Character/s) ... that wants more than anything .... (goal) ..., but can’t because ... (conflict) ...

The Wizard of OZ as an example...
This story is about ... (a teenage girl from Kansas named Dorothy) ... who ... wants more than anything ... (to go home), ... but can’t because ... (she’s stuck in a strange land)

catdownunder said...

No, I don't think so Jo because he is not actually a runaway... and yes Widdershins I could do it in a lift (elevator)journey but I would have said more than 25 words.
Try putting Romeo and Juliet into 25 words and it sounds trite too. I still say some things do not work.