Author Topic: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)  (Read 228 times)

Offline NaomiShulman

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One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« on: December 06, 2021, 11:43:14 PM »
Please help... I can't figure this one out at all! Here are a few ideas I came up with, but none of them sound right to me. Too wordy? Run-on sentences? Too much crammed into an elevator pitch? This is taking longer than the synopsis. (This is not the blurb - this is the one-line pitch.)

OPTION 1 - (way too long and blurb-like?)
Emotionally repressed firefighter Libby is trapped in a lucid dream with a dark version of childhood self. To wake up, she must piece together the significance of five fragmented memories. But when the truth is darker than she anticipated, Libby must decide if the risk of acceptance is worth the pain of unlocking the dungeon of her psyche.


OPTION 2 (this is the best, I think?)
A firefighter on administrative leave is forced to confront the source of her recklessness with the help of a dark version of her childhood self.


OPTION 3 (eh...?)
An emotionally repressed firefighter is forced to confront the source of her risky behavior after placed on administrative leave. Trapped in the lucid dream that haunted her since she was ten, Libby comes face-to-face with a dark version of her childhood self who isn't about to let her off easy.

Does OPTION 2 work okay? Please weigh in, especially if you've read my blurb and/or query for this same book. Thank you!!

Offline Tallis

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2021, 08:08:40 AM »

Hi Naomi,

Cool concept!

I'm a newbie too... but my gut tells me that a one-line pitch should read effortlessly.  (As opposed to a synopsis, whose density will inevitably require more concentration.)  So I agree that option 1 is too long. 

Option 2 feels like the right length... yet sounds like a library catalog entry.  Neutral, rather than persuasive or enticing.

What if you played around with the second sentence of Option 3?  Something like...

"Every night, Libby drops into the same dream:  the reckless firefighter is trapped in an endless tussle with the darkest version of her childhood self."

This still needs work, but maybe it will spark some ideas?


Offline NaomiShulman

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2021, 08:57:30 AM »

Hi Naomi,

Cool concept!

I'm a newbie too... but my gut tells me that a one-line pitch should read effortlessly.  (As opposed to a synopsis, whose density will inevitably require more concentration.)  So I agree that option 1 is too long. 

Option 2 feels like the right length... yet sounds like a library catalog entry.  Neutral, rather than persuasive or enticing.

What if you played around with the second sentence of Option 3?  Something like...

"Every night, Libby drops into the same dream:  the reckless firefighter is trapped in an endless tussle with the darkest version of her childhood self."

This still needs work, but maybe it will spark some ideas?

Ooh, you're good! Thanks! What about this:

A recurrent dream about a vaguely familiar street haunted Libby's childhood. Now thirty and suspended from firefighting over her reckless decisions, Libby finds herself on that same street once again, forced to confront a dark version of her childhood self.

Ugh that's too long also, isn't it...

Offline Tallis

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2021, 11:44:44 AM »

I like this one a lot better!  There is one possible misreading -- that Libby is now physically on that street.  Tiny shift:

A recurrent dream about a vaguely familiar street haunted Libby's childhood. Now thirty and suspended from firefighting over her reckless decisions, Libby is thrust onto the dream street once again, forced to confront a dark version of her childhood self.

I left out 'same' because it's implied in 'once again'.  But alternatively:

"trapped on the same dream street, forced to confront a dark version of her childhood self."
"walking down that same dream street, forced to confront..."

I'm sure you'll find something better. 

Good luck!

Offline NaomiShulman

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2021, 12:00:44 PM »
I like it! I'm not sure how well any of these sum up the book. The blurb does it much better obviously, but how much can a pitch actually encompass?

What about:

A firefighter on administrative leave hunts for the source of her recklessness with the grudging help of a dark version of her childhood self.

Offline Tallis

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2021, 12:32:49 PM »

> I'm not sure how well any of these sum up the book. The blurb does it much better obviously, but how much can a pitch actually encompass?


That's a fair question.  I think it's worth stepping back and figuring out -- at least as best you can -- the purpose of each of these distillations.  Why would agents (and subsequently publishers) want a pitch, a blurb, and a synopsis?

Again, I'm a newbie -- and I hope any more experienced folks will correct me if I'm wrong! -- but my best guess is that each fills a different function.  Something like:

synopsis:  proves you can develop and then satisfyingly resolve a plot -- so the whole story must be laid out
blurb:  whets a reader's appetite, like jacket copy -- the story is begun but leaves us curious
one-line pitch:  catches an agent's interest, noting that their time is limited -- could be plot, or character, or premise, whatever's most likely to catch their eye.

Or another way to put it:  the blurb sells the book to a potential reader, like jacket copy (which can be read unhurriedly in the store) ... but a one-line pitch sells the book concept to an agent or editor (who must read many of them every day, and make rapid decisions).

If I'm right about that (a big caveat, of course), then you wouldn't really need your one-line pitch to "sum up the book" as you put it above, or worry about how much it can encompass.  You just need to snag the agent's attention and curiosity, with whatever you think is the coolest hook about your book.  Then they'll presumably read on.

If I've gotten something wrong about this, I hope someone will let me (and forum readers) know!

Offline NaomiShulman

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2021, 12:43:59 PM »
Smart! I've been too literal then. What about this? Is there a way to reword it? It feels clunky and cliche.

Suspended firefighter Libby confronts a dark version of her childhood self in the recurrent dream that has haunted her since she was ten.

Offline Tallis

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2021, 02:00:34 PM »

Okay... thinking as if I'm an agent, I fear this wouldn't catch me yet.  First, the sentence itself is entirely unpunctuated -- which isn't wrong, grammatically;  it's not missing anything -- but it thus lacks any rhythm.

Second, the content.  Without checking back on earlier posts, just staring out my window for a moment, what I remember is that the main character is a firefighter, but a reckless one, who is now battling her childhood self in dreamland.  So those are some details that stuck with me, suggesting they might be useful.  For example, the contrast of a firefighter who is reckless is interesting -- is she arrogant?  an adrenlin junkie?  suicidal?  We don't need to know why yet, but it's one angle you could take.

Maybe you could try completely letting go of plot, or even scenario, and just think:  what's the coolest thing about my book?  What was the kernel of an idea that got me writing it in the first place?  How would I describe it to a polite neighbor on an airplane, without telling them the story itself?

A random example (not necessarily a recommendation, just to show what I mean):

       The dream is always the same:  the same street, the same dread, the same angry child shouting in her face -- but it's Libby herself, decades before she joined the fire brigade.

Two things happen in my mind as I read that: 

1)  I think:  "Man, how weird would it be to argue with my childhood self?"
2)  I wonder what the dream means, and what it has to do with her current firefighter role.

And there we go.... intrigue about the concept (1) and curiosity about the specific story (2).  Isn't that basically what you want an agent to experience?

This is way too long for two cents' worth of advice!  But hopefully helpful in some way.


Offline NaomiShulman

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #8 on: December 07, 2021, 03:29:11 PM »
Wow you're amazing at this! Thank you for taking the time to help me, I really appreciate it!

Ten-year-old Libby forced the same dream every night, waiting for her older self to arrive. Still haunted by memories of the lonely dream, and under investigation for recklessness as a firefighter, adult Libby decides to go back and face her waiting inner child. But in the years that passed, the dream - and Libby's inner child - have grown dark.

Still too blurby. :-(

Offline Tallis

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2021, 04:49:04 PM »

Yes, might be too blurby still!  But you'll get there.  I'm probably out of wisdom (it wasn't a huge supply to start with) -- but I hope this little exchange will spark some ideas as you keep working on it.  I wish you the best of luck in getting this novel out there!

Offline NaomiShulman

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2021, 06:04:14 PM »
Thank you!

What are you working on? Maybe I could return the brainstorming favor? :-)

Offline Tallis

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2021, 06:56:21 PM »

Thank you!  I actually just got a whole bunch of query feedback from the brilliant Susan-Louise, and am now just waiting on agent replies... so maybe you should pay it forward instead.... :)

Offline NaomiShulman

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2021, 07:46:12 PM »
 :up:

Offline Munley

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #13 on: January 01, 2022, 01:55:16 AM »
I like the original Option 2 best:

A firefighter on administrative leave is forced to confront the source of her recklessness with the help of a dark version of her childhood self.
=========================
I would re-word it, though, to nail down the reason for being put on leave up front.

Revision of OPTION 2
A firefighter put on administrative leave for recklessness is forced to confront the source of her actions with the help of a dark version of her childhood self.

The dream included in other versions explains how the story starts to play out, while Option #2 simply does what an elevator pitch is meant to do ----- answer the question,  "What is the book about?" That's it. Your story sounds very intriguing with just that much.

Mentioning a recurring dream could conjure up an image of some character endlessly writhing under the covers, idly/passively wishing the dream would end, rather than a protagonist going about doing things.



Offline NaomiShulman

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Re: One-line pitch: LIMINAL (psychological thriller)
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2022, 05:02:28 PM »
Wow - perfect! Thank you so much for this!!!

I like the original Option 2 best:

A firefighter on administrative leave is forced to confront the source of her recklessness with the help of a dark version of her childhood self.
=========================
I would re-word it, though, to nail down the reason for being put on leave up front.

Revision of OPTION 2
A firefighter put on administrative leave for recklessness is forced to confront the source of her actions with the help of a dark version of her childhood self.

The dream included in other versions explains how the story starts to play out, while Option #2 simply does what an elevator pitch is meant to do ----- answer the question,  "What is the book about?" That's it. Your story sounds very intriguing with just that much.

Mentioning a recurring dream could conjure up an image of some character endlessly writhing under the covers, idly/passively wishing the dream would end, rather than a protagonist going about doing things.