Provide a one sentence elevator pitch of what you believe is your best completed story.
1. Entry Deadline: Wednesday 14 NOV 6PM EST (1 week).
2. Primary Vote (*You must enter to vote): Email me (address on link above or firstname.lastname@example.org) your three favorites candidates and critiques. Any entrants who fail to submit their votes by the deadline will become ineligible. Deadline: Wednesday 21 NOV 6PM.
3. General Election (*Any Hatracker may vote): Choose the best of the three candidates. Election Day: Wednesday 28 NOV. Polls close at 6PM. (Early balloting will be accepted once three candidates ar announced).
4. Post-election Pundit Analysis: All entrants invited, encouraged, to share how their story fared: --where their story was submitted, --rejections (form or personal) and/or acceptance.
Challenge Prize: No reward but glory, the respect and admiration of your peers, and a critique by me of a short story of your choice.
Respectfully, Dr. Bob
P.S. This is the first "writing challenge" I have proferred. If I screw it up, be kind.
P.S.S. I am assuming the stories being pitched may have had "1st 13" postings and/or been shared on the other Hatrack subforums. Therefore, I did not believe it rational to make the entrants anonymous for this particular challenge.
Posts: 1439 | Registered: Aug 2010
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I'm game. Did it off the top of my head as if hitting the hold on the elevator. Nothing like pressure to get the blood pumping.
********** Resigned Project Engineer, Mary Calaunt, takes it upon herself to end 'Project Resurgem' by shooting its first bio-scaffold clone--the project director's dead wife.
Posts: 333 | Registered: Jun 2010
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And...ding! ding! ding! ding! The candidate entry deadline has passed. On to the:
Primary Vote (*You must have entered to vote): Email me (address on link above or email@example.com) your three favorites candidates (excluding your own of course ).
Any entrants who fail to submit their votes by the deadline will become ineligible. Deadline: Wednesday 21 NOV 6PM.
You may also send me your critiques of the ten fine upstanding entries. I'll post the three finalists and all received critiques on or after Thanksgiving. Even earlier if our ten candidates do their civic duty before then.
I'm working on my critiques now. I thought I'd explain the rubric I'm planning use to judge the entries. Things that I will look for and how I think I'll weight them:
A. Story Clarity: do I come away with a sense of what this story is about? 3 pts.
B. Genre clarity: can I tell what audience this story might appeal to? Does it push the right buttons for readers of that genre? 3 pts.
C. Memorable: does this pitch stand out from the crowd? Things I'll be looking for are wit,theme, and interesting conflict. 5 pts.
D. Brevity: does this stick to essential points and make them efficiently? 3 pts.
E. Focus: is this pitch free of distraction and confusion? 3 pts.
F. X-Factor: I want to give folks some substantive to work with, but this game is ultimately all about gut reaction. Normally I'll award zero points for this, but I'll give up to five bonus points for reactions you can get out of me beyond what can be accounted for above.
Note that it'll be nearly impossible go get full marks in everything. For example pitches that make the story clear will tend to be longer. The best aggregate score I hope will be for authors who manage the best compromise.
I will not take the pitch format into account. Some entries are plot descriptions, others are loglines or marketing tag lines. None are story concepts (e.g. A zombie story as Jane Austen might have written it), but that's a possible elevator pitch too. Since the form of "elevator pitch" wasn't stipulated in the contest I'll just note it without scoring.
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The one sentence stipulation has hurt some entries in my evaluation, because it has led to instances of what should be stand-alone sentences in a paragraph being welded together into a single, awkward sentence.
I am unsure as to whether I should penalize the authors who did this, because I think the one sentence stipulation doesn't quite get to the true requirement of the elevator pitch: that it be brief. A pitch can be brief yet contain several independent sentences. I think the stipulation should have been one paragraph with 50-60 word limit. That would put appropriate complexity and length bounds on the pitch.
I am inclined to dock points for awkward syntax, because other entry authors have chosen to take the risk of making more stripped-down pitches in order to fit in the one sentence limit.
Posts: 1404 | Registered: Dec 2010
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1st. MattLeo An irascible space captain always manages to give her gregarious ex-husband the slip, but this time he's coming for her with something she desperately needs: a job.
2nd. Owasm What's a girl to do when she holds the greatest magical power on her world and absolutely no ability to use it, while those who can are actively seeking her death.
3rd. Rabirch An old woman, dying of a fever that has left her the last of her tribe, has one last wish--to meet her grandson before she dies--but, with the help of Raven, discovers she must make the painful decision to pass on before her family arrives, or risk spreading the contagion.
Mazel tov, Matt! I'm halfway through critiquing your novel "Quest for Norumbega". Between editing my 83 yo father's ninth novel and my own scribblings, I hope to be have this back to you before New Years, unless you have a short story you prefer me to critique.
Reconsidering the format I initially proposed, I recognize I have no good way to accomodate an open vote "General Election" in hope of collecting even further critiques for the benefit of the three finalists. Of note:
First, it is the non-finalists who would most benefit from further critiques.
Second, there could be no hidden ballot. Votes would need to be in-thread because my poor personal email server could not accomodate any large volume.
(On the other hand...) Third, there may be voter apathy, particularly during the Thanksgiving holiday. The idea of assessing the differences in opinion between the "general public" compared to the entrant candidates themselves in selecting their favorite pitch was intriguing to me, but I don't believe it is feasible. Anyone who wishes may still do so, but I believe I'll wrap this up tonight.
Here are the Points (3, 2, 1 pts for first second and third place votes) and the # votes (i.e. # received):
Meredith was a close fourth, and everyone received at least one vote! Congrats!
Critiques: Axeminster --Dual conflict potential, key protagonists and antagonist(s?), genre. What more can you want? --This promises good tension, both plot and character. A little uncertain about a killer being given permission to kill; the echo is a bit noticeable, but not much. --The problem with this one is that I don't know who's deceased mother has given him freedom to kill? Detective, student or serial killer? If it is the serial killer, which I'm leaning towards, does it matter why the serial killer is being directed by a deceased mother? Where is the conflict other than to find the serial killer? Not quite enough to pull me in. --I don't see how the recently deceased mother giving the serial killer freedom to kill adds to this. It doesn't feel like it fits with the rest. Is there some other detail that would be more vivid? --Story Clarity: Author gives us a very clear picture of what the story is about. 3/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Seems to be a thriller story, but might be a mystery. Might even be supernatural. 2/3 pts. Memorable: Sounds like a lot of other stories; not clear what sets this apart from other serial killer stories. 1/5 pts. Brevity: Full marks 3pts. Focus: the bit about "given the freedom to kill" raises unwelcome questions. Doesn't *everyone* have the freedom to kill? Are we talking about some kind of supernatural influence? It's not clear at all what we are to make of this. 1/3 pts. Format: this is a plot summary. Total: 10 pts --On first glance I came away with "homicidal detective" Not a good sign.
Meredith --Clear adventure or journey story, with fantasy elements. Room for multiple conflicts, but could add something to increase our understanding of how any internal conflicts to tie the story together. --Love there "Here there be dragons" reference. Intriguing. I also like that we learn a bit about the protagonist's gift. --Although this promises an intriguing setting/world, I get the impression of pirates here, but I don't know how her story telling is going to help them and perhaps that should be the focus here. Finding a new home is important, yes, but what's going to pull me into the story, the dragons or the story that Astrid is going to tell? --Story Clarity: Author gives us a very clear picture of what the story is about. 3/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Clearly a fantasy story, likely YA. 3/3 pts. Memorable: A careful listener will note some intriguing possibilities both in structure (stories within stories) and theme (the power of stories), but the unique appeal here could be made more clear. 3/5 points. Brevity: Full marks 3pts. Focus: Full markes 3 pts. X-Factor bonus: looking over the entries again, this one sticks out because of the theme of storytellig. 1 points. Format: this is a plot summary. Total: 16pts. --I needed a second reading to understand the idea of the plot.
Brendan --It's not immediately clear what a devotion virus is. Is there a more easily accessible word than devotion you could use? I like that you have given your protagonist a clearly definable challenge--his Alzheimer's. --I'm at a little bit of a loss of what a devotion virus is (and the pitch isn't enough time to explain it). I'm wondering if this is going to be a politically incorrect story, which is okay, but if it is it doesn't come out as strongly as it should. If I was an editor/publisher, I wouldn't quite know if this would suit my taste. --Devotion virus? I'd like a word or two more info on that. What does it do? --Story Clarity: Full marks 3/3 pts. Genre Clarity: A bit unclear whether this is a techno-thriller or science fiction. 2/3 pts. Memorable: High concept which is good, would score a little higher here but for the "devotion virus" confusion. Also, this would benefit by promising some kind of conflict. Stories are about conflict; while it's interesting that the protag has Alzheimers it would be more interesting if we had a sense something specific was at stake for him (e.g. nobody believes him, or pursuing the virus somehow might make his condition worse). 3/5 pts. Brevity: Full marks 3pts. Focus: "Devotion virus" raises unwelcome questions. What the heck is that? A computer virus? How can a virus "take over" a shopping mall? 1/3pts Format: this is a plot summary. Total: 12pts. --The use of a person suffering from dementia lessened my opinion of the plot. --I like this one. Not sure what a devotion virus is. Also, remove the word it before it falls... It refers to nothing and should be reworded. Sounds funny.
Teflonmail --Nice idea, intriguing of itself, but may need a hint of the conflict. --Intriguing concept. I'd like to have a glimpse of who your protagonist is, though. --I liked this one. You get the genre, the hook and a couple of interesting worldbuilding insights. My only question is what is an alien model? A human-looking kind of alien? That stopped me for a second or two. --Intriguing. --Story Clarity: Nice job imagining the POV unusual character's dilemma, but we know so little of the protag or alien it's unclear whether they're as close to humans has Vulcans or far as Horta. Are we talking about a comedy of manners in disguise or a tale of sexual deviance? 2/3 pts. Genre Clarity: A humorous sci-fi with hints of romantic comedy. Full marks 3/3 pts. Memorable: OK, we've got a wonderfully concise explanation of the protag's dilemma. Could use a sense of conflict or who that protag is, although that would hurt brevity. 4/5 pts. Brevity: Full marks 3 pts. Focus: 1 pt deduction for "portal", which makes me wonder in a way that that is irrelevant to the appeal of the story. 2/3 pts. Format: tagline. Total: 14 pts.
Rcmann --Interesting conundrum, but insufficient information to understand what the story is about --Again, an intriguing concept. Your protagonist is a wolf? Real wolf? Werewolf? Would like a little bit more grounding. --Good hook. Maybe not quite enough for a pitch. If it said wolfman or something than just the animal, I think it would make it stronger. Or if it is a wolf, how would it get through the doors? --Ooh. I think I want to read this one! --Story Clarity: Not clear whether this is about a member of species C. lupus or a metaphorical wolf. 1/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Unclear who this story is for. 1/3 pts. Memorable: Pithy. Promises a story with a certain wit. Full marks 5/5 pts. Brevity: Full marks 3pts. Focus: Not enough words are here to invite distraction, and have already docked you for the lack of clarity above, so I'll award full marks. Nothing to discourage me from reading on but lack of clarity. 3/3 pts. Format: tagline. Total: 13 pts. --Nice and concise.
History --Internal and external conflicts, fantasy/mystery genre, key protagonist and antagonist. However, it is just a touch too much like “The Mummy”. --Why is the rabbi oppressed? Does it relate to the murders? Would suggest using 'the victims' remains, rather than 'their dead' remains, since 'their' is a little vague and open to misinterpretation. --This has a lot of meat on it. My only problem is that I had an issue with understanding whose remains were dead? His victims… if that is so you could just say victim's remains and it makes the pitch more smooth. --The "oppressed by his past" part doesn't seem to add anything to the rest of the sentence. Also, maybe, "their dead remains" could be a little clearer. It's referring to the murder victims, not the murders, Kind of a nitpick. --Story Clarity: Full marks 3/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Full marks. 3/3 pts. Memorable: rabbi detective has been done before, but not I think in an urban fantasy context. A week later I'd say, "Oh, there was that rabbi murder fantasy..." Slight reduction in that the sense he has some special stake in the game or special conflict could make this more compelling. 4/5 pts. Brevity: Full marks 3pts. Focus: Again we have a case of unwelcome questions detracting from the appeal. Exactly how can a demon be composed of "their dead"? And who is *they* anyway? Hell on earth seems to be almost redundant. In exactly what way is the rabbi "oppressed" by his past, except in the way everyone is? How does mentioning any of these things make the pitch more compelling? 2/3 pts. Format: plot summary. Total: 15 pts. --Extremely complex structure made it difficult to follow. --Oppressed by (specific event) instead of his past. His past could be 60 years. A demon composed of their dead remains -- are you being redundant? Hell to Earth is always a good story problem.
Owasm --Fascinating overarching conflict and idea, some characterisation of the protagonist brought through the voice, clear antagonist. Nicely done. --Covers all the bases, but feel a little bit sterile. What is the greatest magical power? That might help make things a bit more concrete. --As phrased, should end with a question mark, but rhetorical questions aren't usually the best way to phrase a pitch. --Story Clarity: Full marks 3/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Full marks. 3/3 pts. Memorable: Having magic you don't know how to use seems to be a very common fantasy malady. Note that you hint at conflict, which is good, but again it strikes me as generic, almost boiler plate. Of *course* the magician's enemies want her dead. It might be more interesting if they were after something different ("while those who can seek to ruin her reputation"), or if we had some idea of why this opposition is significant to her ("... while her identical twin, who can use magic, seeks to destroy her."). 1/5 points. Focus: "What's a girl to do" is cognitive fluff, and a bit of a cliche that detracts from the appeal of the pitch. 2/3 points. Format: tagline Total: 9 pts. --Interesting idea but somewhat contradictory that may work in your favor. --I find loglines that pose questions difficult to process. Tell me what the story is about, don't ask me. Also, if she has no ability to use the great magic, what is her defense? Friends? Allies? This reminds me of the Magician books. (in a good way.)
AndrewR --Room for some fun conflicts, but why “pre-owned”? Perhaps a little more information needed about the protagonists and antagonist force (if any). --This one made me giggle, which is probably a good thing. I can imagine all sorts of comedic issues. If that's what you're aiming for, good job. If your goal is something more serious, you might consider revising. --This presents a problem, of desperately seeking, but so what? Why do the aliens complicate their quest… perhaps a taste of that might make this stronger. There isn't any action. --Why pre-owned? And why so desperate? The conflict isn't quite clear. --Story Clarity: It's clear this is a familiar task in a funhouse mirror type story (comical?), but why they are looking for a home under these circumstances and why it would be hard is unclear. What is the conflict or dilemma? 2/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Full marks. 3/3 pts. Memorable: Well, a sci-fi story about house-hunting puts it in rare company, but the lack of any kind of telling detail of why this would be a compelling story knocks the score down a bit. 3/5 pts. Focus: nothing to deduct here that hasn't been deducted elsewhere. Some might find "different types of aliens" to be one of those unwelcome question triggers, but I assumed it's a kind of late 30's New York City melting pot. 3/3 pts. Format: plot summary Total: 11 pts. --I like the story idea and it was a concise pitch. --This is very general. Loglines should include: who the story is about (protagonist); what he strives for (goal; what stands in his way (antagonistic force).
Phule1970 --The idea and conflict (and relationship) are cookie-cutter – doesn’t stand out as anything different from other stories. --Who is 'he'? Give me a detail or two about 'he' and you'd have me hooked. --'he' is an uninteresting character. Who is 'he'? A typo is death in a pitch (a unpredictable). This one seemed to try too hard for me. Is he a magician? Does he have any special ability? A word or two of who 'he' is would make this much stronger. --A character name wouldn't hurt here. Also, it should be "AN unpredictable". --Story Clarity: OK, this is a rescue story, but save his daughter from what? Is this guy a magician himself, or is he a non-magical person braving magic? Does his rescue attempt involve some kind of alteration in the chances of success the chaotic forces enjoy? 1/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Full marks. 3/3 pts. Memorable: Fairly generic sounding story. What's special here that hasn't been done before? 2/5 pts. Brevity: Full marks 3pts. Focus: Note the profusion of unwelcome questions. What is the fabric of the world? Gabardine? "Chaotic forces threatening to destroy the fabric of the world" is just cogntive fluff. Chaotic forces are by definition things that act to destory order, it's just a distraction unless there is some connection between the rescue attempt and the threat. 2/3 pts. Format: plot summary Total: 11 pts. --I needed a second reading to understand the idea of the plot.
Rabirch --Needs to be cut down to the key elements. But fascinating internal conflict brewing. --(I am on my knees to the mighty WotF finalist) For the pitch we don't need to know about Raven's help, but we do need to know a smidgen more of her disease. Is is a killing fever, an uncurable fever, a fever that turns the victim into a zombie or a unicorn? Other than that, which are more nits, this has a good flow and texture to it. --Whew. That's a lo-o-ong sentence. I think you could find a way to say the same think more succinctly. Also--if she wants to see her grandson, then she's not REALLY the last of her tribe, is she? --Story Clarity: Lays out the essentials of the story, but it is unclear how somebody can have faminly yet bee "the last of her tribe". 2/3 pts. Genre Clarity: Possibly an epic/mythic fantasy (Pacific northwest Indian setting?), or possibly a historical novel. 2/3 pts. Memorable: Consciously setting aside the syntactic problems caused by welding this pitch into a single sentence, I see a number of virtues in it. Most importantly, we have a sense of the dilemma the protagonist faces. 4/5 pts. Brevity: Sentence is run-on. 1/3 points. Focus: The complicated syntax of this pitch makes it hard to parse. Not clear whether Raven is a person or the Indian trickster-hero, and without a clear answer it's an unwelcome question. Note this isn't entirely fair, as the contest rules restrict this kind of entry unnecessarily to one sentence, but to be fair to other writers who also had that limitation I'll issue a two point deduction. 1/3 points. Format: plot summary. Total: 10 points. --You lost me somewhere on the second or third line. --Last of her tribe - meet her grandson. Sounds contradictory. The word -but- doesn't belong. Her family, being her grandson or more? If she's sick, she shouldn't even contemplate meeting her grandson. I like the idea, but the presentation raises too many questions.
MattLeo --Has all the necessary elements, but the idea doesn’t seem to stand out enough. --This one worked well for me. Sets up character conflict and plot conflict and doesn't feel like something I've seen before. --Although this is very appealing from the relationship standpoint, it's a point of departure and I have no idea where the job leads or what kind of job it is that might lead the pitchee to wonder what exciting things are in the rest of this. --I'm cheating because I've read the whole story. I like this. It might be better with a hint at WHY she's avoiding him. --Seldom used adjectives made this pitch too intricately complex. --Your vocabulary, as always, is amazing. Might I suggest cooling it for a pitch? I like the twist of needing a job.
Thank you all for participating, and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
quote:Originally posted by History: P.S. These were supposedly the pitchs for what you consider your "best story". If you are willing will, please share how your story has fared.
Well, it hasn't "fared" at all yet. I just finished the second draft last night. At least one more draft to go before it's ready for readers.
THE BARD'S GIFT is a YA alternate history involving, not pirates exactly, but vikings (close). Specifically, the Norse colony in Greenland and an expedition to settle (no, not Vinland) Markland (the Saint Lawrence River area). Oh, and an encounter with a thunderbird (which looks to them a lot like a dragon, especially from a distance).
Posts: 4051 | Registered: Dec 2008
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Congratulations, MattLeo and Owasm, and good stuff all around!
My story, "The Memory of Huckleberries," earned an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest, six form rejections from pro markets, a very nice personal rejection from Beneath Ceaseless Skies (my first time to the head editor), and sold to Penumbra for their Native American folklore themed issue. (Featured story!)
I absolutely agree with the comments that the pitch was far too wordy and run-on. Also, it would be more accurate to call the old woman the last of her village. Good catch. I am very grateful that short stories don't generally require pitches, because they are my Achilles heel.
Thanks for the comments! It'll be useful to keep them in mind for future pitches.
Thanks also, Dr. Bob, for running the challenge. It was very challenging.
Posts: 224 | Registered: May 2012
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Congratulations, all and Happy Thanksgiving.
My pitch is for a finished novel that I self-pubbed. It's on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. under The Power Bearer by Guy Antibes. If you want to read the book, send me an email and I'll send you a freebie coupon for a Smashwords e-book (it has all e-reader formats).
Posts: 1607 | Registered: Feb 2009
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It's the short blurb on Smashwords for my short story 'To Skin A Werewolf'. So far I have 1 (one) sale:) But the century is young, and it's not going anywhere.
One thing about this challenge that made it difficult, is that these pitches are usually made when the title to the story is also known. A one-two punch, so to speak. A well-chosen title can supplement the pitch, and a good pitch can highlight the title. Seldom do you see them isolated on actual sale sites.
For those who were confused, the pitch is a reference to the ancient 'wolf at the door' saying wrt to hard times. The wolf is metaphorical. I'm not good with puns.
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Congratulations all around, and especially to MattLeo, Owasm and Rabirch for making the top three.
My pitch was for the story "Who Lived in a Shoe," which won a prize in the first Phobos contest many years ago, and appeared in the anthology, "Empire of Dreams and Miracles," edited by none other than our gracious host. It was about a couple of diplomats on a UN planet that needed to find a home and had to choose from the pre-owned homes of other aliens on the planet. (Hmmm...maybe I should have used that as my pitch instead. ) And, yes, it is a humorous story, since none of the homes quite suits them (to put in mildly!), and the BEM real-estate professional "helping" them doesn't have a clue as to what they really need.
And another thanks to Dr. Bob for this challenge. Randy Ingermanson, in his "Snowflake Method" of creating a novel, suggests that you start out with a one-sentence summary of the story. After doing this challenge I realized how much a single-sentence description really helps you to focus on the central idea of the story. Hopefully, this will help improve my stories in the future. So, thanks again!
Posts: 176 | Registered: Jan 2003
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I've sent nine queries *The Keystone*, got five non-responders, three outright rejections, and one partial request which I believe was never read (after two months with no response I sent a tickler email and got an immediate rejection). Writers I've done the whole query pitch on are uniformly enthusiastic, although I think the genre-bending aspects of the story may be off-putting for agents looking for "the same thing, only different". There don't seem to be many agents soliciting comical or satirical sci-fi.
One of the tricky aspects of this challenge is choosing the kind of pitch to make. There's more than one way to do it. Eventually, though, they all amount to a kind of promise, even when they are masquerading as a synopsis. It is more important to be accurate about the kind of reading pleasure you're offering than the details of the plot.
I considered two different elevator pitch, a high concept pitch, and the log-line teaser I settled on.
Conceptual pitch: A 1930s screwball comedy movie (e.g., His Girl Friday, Bringing up Baby) reimagined in the anachronistic future of contemporary 30s pulp sci-fi (e.g., Doc Smith's *Skylark* series).
Log-line teaser: An irascible space captain always manages to give her gregarious ex-husband the slip, but this time he's coming for her with something she desperately needs: a job.
I settled on the logline because that was consistent with what other people were entering.
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