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Author Topic: Graveyard: Agent pitch
BoredCrow
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Hi all,

I'm working on various lengths of my pitch to give to an agent this weekend. Here's the first version for your ripping apart pleasure. Please feel free to be as harsh as possible; the agent won't be impressed unless my pitch is awesome.

Oh, and this is a fantasy novel, 62,000 words (yes, I know that's short), complete manuscript. (EDIT: This pitch will be presented orally, which means i really have to start memorizing it here soon!)

4/3/09 (1am): FOURTH version (Help, I hate the first paragraph...):

"Seventy years ago, the gods deserted the world. The only hope to bring back them back is a key hidden in a graveyard guarded by demons. Legend decrees that each person only has one chance to search for the key. Celeste has just failed her one chance, and everyone says she should give up and go home. But Celeste has never paid much heed to what other people say.

Instinct tells her that there should be much more to bringing back the gods than a one-time search. To try again, she must enter the dry lands, risking insanity and death. But she considers those fates preferable to the depression and the ennui that haunt her daily life. Celeste crosses barren lands and passes through the skeletons of huge cities, maintaining her sanity and surviving demons, ghosts and flash floods. She is certain that her experiences have changed her, made her worthy to bring back the gods. But as she finally reaches the graveyard, the Guardian of the key turns her away. "You are not ready," it tells her.

Depressed by her failure but unwilling to give up, Celeste travels to the city of Berzid. There, she intends to research possible reasons behind the Desertion and how she might become "ready" to find the key. Instead, she is caught up in a power struggle between the two most prominent politicians in the land. The obvious choice would be to ally herself with the current governor, her childhood mentor. But Laurel has become a different person, more cold, calculating and angry than the woman Celeste used to admire. Laurel's charming rival wants Celeste's help in a secret mission to defeat the religious extremists threatening Berzid. Any association with him would destroy her friendship with Laurel, but he has promised to tell her the secrets of the Desertion.

With demons roaming the streets, and a religious conflict reaching its boiling point, a task that was difficult to begin with has become more complex than Celeste could have imagined. And with the sudden reappearance of powerful magic that drove mages insane after the gods left, she must stay alive long enough to act on what she has learned. It will take all her strength and ingenuity to separate truth from misconception, so that she will finally be able to uncover the real truth about why the gods abandoned humanity and what it will take to bring them back."


First (dropped) version:
Celeste has just failed at her one chance to find the artifact that will bring the gods back to her dying world, and the rules of society say she doesn't get a second chance. But Celeste has never been one to follow conventional wisdom, so she risks her life to try once again, even if it means traveling through a dead land that drives insane anyone who stays there for more than a few days. Barely surviving encounters with demons, ghosts and flash floods, she arrives at her destination only to be turned away once more by the creature guarding the artifact, who tells her she is 'not ready.'
Still refusing to give up, she travels to another city to search for clues, only to be caught up in a turf war between the local government and religious extremists. With the two most powerful politicians in the region oddly interested in her emotional well-being, and demons roaming through the streets of a once peaceful city, Celeste must realize that what might seem a simple task is more complex than she could ever imagine. And in the end, she must surpass all her own flaws and desires to find out the truth about why the gods really left and what it will take to bring them back.


[This message has been edited by BoredCrow (edited April 03, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by BoredCrow (edited April 03, 2009).]


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Dogmatic
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Hi BoredCrow,
Overall I liked it but I of course have a few remarks.

I would lose the word "just" in the first sentence, it seems to lesson the impact.

Depending on your story what about changing the sentence to:
so once again she risks her life

This sentence could be smoothed out a bit:
even if it means traveling through a dead land that drives insane anyone who stays there for more than a few days. (Especially the part "that drives insane")

Also
to be turned away once more
maybe try
to once again be turned away

I like the end sentence. It lays out a good question. I don't know if it's brought up in your story or not but "should" the gods be brought back? Are there any dangers of them returning. Just a thought.

Good job and thanks for sharing.
Steve


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Owasm
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An interesting concept... finding out why the gods left.

I thought the issue of confronting the guardian for a second time and being told "she's not ready" would, in my thinking launch the MC into getting prepared or finding why she hasn't achieved the necessary state of being ready.

The rest of the action takes place in the other city. The aspect of her preparing herself is not even mentioned. I'm assuming it's in your novel. The thrust of her preparation should be, in my mind, the focus of your pitch, the politics and demons walking in the street is setting. I'd concentrate on the forces arrayed against her gaining the necessary steps to return a third time.

If the complexity is part of the conflict, I'd try to find a way to get it in rather than just a realization it's complex. She is headstrong and detemined. A bit of complexity may be frustration, but its part of her problem to gain access to the artifact.

I thought the trek through the dead zone creating insanity was a bit clunky. I don't have a good alternative, but I'd work on the phrasing a little.

You don't have to use the word 'another'. She travels to a city.

Those are a few considerations. I hope they are helpful.
Good luck with your pitch!

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited April 01, 2009).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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My take:

quote:

Celeste failed at her one chance to find the artifact that will bring the gods back to her dying world, and the law says she doesn't get a second chance. But Celeste has never been one to follow the rules, and risks her life to try again[.] If it means traveling through a dead land which drives trespassers mad, encountering vicious demons, ghosts and flash floods, she is determined to arrive at her destination[.] When, after all of that, she is turned away by the Guardian of the artifact, who claims she is 'not ready,' Celeste refuses to give up[.] She travels to {another city<--Is this the "empty"city? If so "ghost town" would be more intriguing.} in search of clues, only to be caught up in a turf war between the government and religious extremists.

I separated this, because it seems the crudest (needs more refinement).

[With the two most powerful politicians in the region oddly interested in her emotional well-being<--How? Is this important in the pitch?], and demons roaming through the streets of a once peaceful city, Celeste must realize that [what might seem a simple task<--what simple task?] is more complex than she could ever imagine. And in the end, she must surpass all her own flaws and desires to find out the truth about why the gods really left and what it will take to bring them back.

Form what I see, maybe:

Caught between dodging demons roaming the streets of (town name) and the affections of two powerful politicians, Celeste must discover the truth about why the gods abandoned them, and what it will take to bring them back.

I hope this is helpful.


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Unwritten
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quote:
Celeste has just failed at her one chance to find the artifact that will bring the gods back to her dying world, and the rules of society say she doesn't get a second chance.

When Celeste fails at her one opportunity to find the artifact that will bring the gods back to her dying world, the rules of society say she will never get a second chance.

quote:
But Celeste has never been one to follow conventional wisdom, so she risks her life to try once again, even if it means traveling through a dead land that drives insane anyone who stays there for more than a few days.

But Celeste has never been one to follow conventional wisdom. Trying again means traveling through a dead land she knows will either drive her insane or kill her, but Celeste finds those choices preferable to the despair that haunts her.

quote:
Barely surviving encounters with demons, ghosts and flash floods, she arrives at her destination only to be turned away once more by the creature guarding the artifact, who tells her she is 'not ready.'

No matter how I tried I couldn't find anything wrong with this part.

quote:
Still refusing to give up, she travels to another city to search for clues, only to be caught up in a turf war between the local government and religious extremists. With the two most powerful politicians in the region oddly interested in her emotional well-being, and demons roaming through the streets of a once peaceful city, Celeste must realize that what might seem a simple task is more complex than she could ever imagine. And in the end, she must surpass all her own flaws and desires to find out the truth about why the gods really left and what it will take to bring them back.

I like what IB said about this part.

Good luck! It's a great story, and I hope this goes well for you. It definately deserves publication, and I hope that somewhere between your pitch and your meteoric rise to fame things settle down long enough for you to send me the ending!
Melanie


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Meredith
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quote:
Celeste must realize that what might seem a simple task is more complex than she could ever imagine.

Granted, I've only read the first three chapters, but the task never seemed simple from the beginning.

Maybe:

a task that was difficult to begin with is more complex than she could have imagined. ?

I'd go so far as to say the task seemed nearly impossible to begin with.

I have no experience in this area (yet). So take my comment for what it may be worth.

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited April 01, 2009).]


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BoredCrow
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Thank you so much, everybody! I've taken many of your excellent suggestions. Many are apparent in the new, longer thing I've posted up there. How does that one work?

To address some of your comments...
Dogmatic, I do address whether or not the gods are worth bringing back, but it's not a major part of the conflict (I establish that even if the gods aren't worth bringing back, the world is screwed if they stay away).
Owasm, did I do a better job this time of representing her internal conflict? That is a good part of the novel, but I'm having trouble spelling that out in the pitch. Any suggestions?
I happily expanded the paragraph that you didn't like, IB. And hopefully I've gotten rid of the worst of my run-on sentences. Any horrible grammar in the new one?
I took your rewording suggestions, Melanie and Meredith. Much appreciated.


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Meredith
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I think it's better.

quote:
To try again, she must enter the dry lands, risking insanity and death. But she considers those emotions preferable to the despair that haunts her daily life as she watches the remaining living lands slowly die around her.

Insanity and death are not emotions, though. She considers those fates . . . maybe?


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BoredCrow
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D'oh!

::changes it::


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Owasm
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Although the pitch is longer (I don't know what is appropriate in this circumstance)the explanation is a lot better.

Her 'readiness' is clearly impeded by the political situation. You introduced the spectre of magic without addressing it specifically. I would be a touch more explicit about that juicy little problem... not a big explanation, but weave a little description of what her threat is in the sentence might be enough.

As far as a suggestion on presenting her 'readiness', if she does become ready, at the end of your pitch you can end by splitting the last sentence... something like this:


It will take all her strength and ingenuity to separate truth from misconception. Her new level of readiness will be tested in uncovering the real truth about why the gods abandoned humanity and what sacrifices will have to be made to bring them back.


I added the bit about the sacrifices, but it would be a hint at what the ramifications of bringing the gods back have for her and for her world. You would substitute sacrifices for whatever affect her success will have on her.

One nit in your pitch, if you present this in writing, the first sentence of the last paragraph has the word 'streets' twice and the conflict simmering under Berzid's streets gives an impression of something happening in the sewers.

[This message has been edited by Owasm (edited April 02, 2009).]


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BoredCrow
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Owasm - I laughed so hard at the idea of something simmering in the sewers! Definitely an idea I don't want to put in the agent's mind.

I have nine minutes to present this, so I decided that I can give myself more than thirty seconds for the novel concept. (Edit: it took me about two minutes to read this out loud to myself).

I'll have to think about how to work magic in. It's fairy strongly connected to the Desertion; once the gods disappeared, so did their control over magic, all the mages in the land went insane and had to be killed. Is it worth lengthening my pitch yet again to include that? And if so, should it go at the beginning or the end?

[This message has been edited by BoredCrow (edited April 02, 2009).]


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Owasm
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It would involve restructuring the sentence where you mention it (most likely splitting it up) but I think all you need is something as simple as:

The reappearance of the same magic that drove mages insane when the gods left...

Some general thoughts I've picked up interviewing, Go over your pitch and at every interesting point jot down an answer. Example, why did she fail before? Why is she involving herself in Berzid's politics? What has happened to make the vast areas of deadlands, well, dead?

You already know the answer, but it helps to write it down as a preparation aid. In job interviews, which is, in essence, nothing more than a pitch, it has helped me to keep from stammering as I think of a good response.


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satate
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I think your pitch sounds really good. I think throwing in about the magic is a good idea, it adds to why they want the Gods back.

A few questions came up while reading the third paragraph. Why does the other politican tempt her? Is his request bad, or is it only out of loyalty to Laurel that she doesn't want his help? If this is an internal struggle to save the world or be unloyal then it may stregthen the pitch to point it out. I think it works as it is too though.

Great job, I like the last paragraph and I'm dying to finish reading it too.


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Unwritten
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It sounds great! I'll keep my fingers crossed until you're done. (I'm not getting much writing done lately anyway ).
Melanie

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Natej11
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I don't know if this helps, but in Give 'Em What They Want, a guide to selling your story, they advise that a strong way to begin a pitch is with a hook, then a brief introduction of the character, before you start on the world itself and the story's plot.

The hook would be something like a one-line summary. I think Unwritten's suggestion looks fairly good: When Celeste fails at her one opportunity to find the artifact that will bring the gods back to her dying world, the rules of society say she will never get a second chance. But Celeste has never been one to follow the rules, and doesn't mean to start now.

After that you can give a bit of background and lay out the plot.

Just my two cents, but aside from that suggestion it all looks very sellable! Best of luck with your meeting, and fingers crossed.

Nate


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