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Critique of Elevator Speech

Hi All

Is this any good as an elevator speech?

Heartbroken after being deserted by a narcissistic lover, the wound of abandonment reopens to rekindle Jane’s wish to find her father. Desperate for love she falls prey to the charms of a high-class Colombian drug addict, Eduardo. She is blinded by obsessive love until the sabotage of his parents, betrayal of trust and emergence of mental illness lead to a fight for her sanity and self-respect.

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Replies (10)
  • I'm pretty adept at the convoluted, contextually-dextrous sentence (as others on here can attest), but even I struggled to make sense of your opening line. (Congratulations!)

    The reason is this: Heartbroken [Jane's current state, but with Jane as-yet undefined] after being deserted by a narcissistic lover, [third-party's action, making the sentence passive, and the third party is never again mentioned] the wound of abandonment reopens [sharp contextual detour, referencing yet another third party] to rekindle [sonic tempo of the sentence is broken by the re-re repetition] Jane’s wish to find her father [the first proactive element of the sentence, weakend by being presented as a noun rather than a verb].

    After reading that sentence, I've got a lot of questions, all pulling in different directions. IS this about the ex-lover? The desertion? The father's abandoning of Jane? Her search for him?

    But… no, you then throw us down a completely differnt rabbit hole:Jane falls for Eduardo. And you tell us far more, in that one sentence, about him than you do about her. We know she's been battered, but you've provided us only glancing blows of her past rather than anything tangible. Yes, it's a very fine line to describe the difference.

    Into the next sentence, you finally put Jane at the centre of things: blinded by obsessive love. But this doesn't mesh with the apparent self-awareness you teased in the opening sentence. You are effectively telling the audience that they should be more aware than Jane of her mental state. Which, as a writer, you need to be, but the audience doesn't.

    The middle of this last sentence throws a bunch of indistinct challenges in Jane's path. The issues with each of the three elements is different. "Sabotage by his parents" is both indistinct and tortuously phrased - and no, I can't think of a better phrasing on the spot. "Betrayal of trust" is not surprising; Eduardo's character has already telegraphed that this is coming. "Emergence of mental illness" is trickier for a different reason. Does mental illness emerge? Or is it revealed? Also, who gets to decide what qualifies as an illness? A more specific description is needed.

    You wrap with a fight for sanity and self-respect. That part is perhaps the strongest of the pitch. You have identified a theme.

    I would suggest restructuring it. Not so much in the order that you reveal the details, but the internal structure of the sentences themselves. Start with Jane. by name. Tell us who she is. What has made her the person she is at the beginning of the story. She's had to struggle. She's battered and broken. Parental abondonment. A string of bad relationships. Now, on the rebound (which is understood to be unreasoned, obsessive) from another false lover, she falls for Eduardo.

    Who is he? Charming. Classy. But he's an addict. (Be specific, not just drugs.) A dark side.

    The last sentences are harder to guide without more information, but I'm hoping I've broken them down enough that you can fish out the salient points to reconstruct into something stronger.

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    • Thank you very much for taking the time to critique my attempt at an elevator pitch. Looks like I have a lot to learn!

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      • Don't feel bad about it. I've been at this for over 30 years, and still can't get it right myself…

        Also, I meant to mention… Are you using a negative stereotype with Eduardo being Colombian? And, if not, then where is your story taking place?

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      • Hi Carolette - these elevator pitches are pesky little blighters. Rick's done a great job of breaking yours down. I agree with him that there's too much going on. You have to boil your story down to its essence. Focusing tightly on your MC, think about what she wants/needs and what she will have to overcome to achieve it. That might lead you in the right direction.

        Good luck and I look forward to seeing version 2.

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        • To me, a pitch is non-fiction. It’s a truthful account of what’s in the book. I would suggest using non-fiction disciplines - simple sentences (O-V-S) in the active voice as far as poss. This is easier for others to understand, and you’ll see any problems more clearly (like, eg, shifts in whose perspective we’re seeing things from). Leaving aside any other issues about whether it's a "good" pitch in the sense of tactically effective, a re-write in those terms might be this:

          Jane is heartbroken after being deserted by a narcissistic lover. Her wound of abandonment reopens, and with it her desire to find her father [see - the shift in perspective from Jane to her wound is really clear, and does need to be straightened out]. Jane is desperate for love. She falls prey to the charms of a high-class Colombian drug addict, Eduardo. She is blinded by obsessive love. [This repetition is now clear, and can be zapped] However, she fights for her sanity and self-respect after his parents sabotage the relationship, X betrays her trust, and Y develops mental illness.

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          • I meant S-V-O, of course! Subject verb object. Sorry!

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            • I meant S-V-O, of course! Subject verb object. Sorry!

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            • Thank you for your re-write Paul. That's very helpful.

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              • HI Carolette

                Elevator pitches are a bummer but incredibly important. If you're going to query agents it needs to go at the very beginning of any email you send them and has to capture their attention to make them want to open/read the email.

                I would say, as Connie points out above, an elevator pitch is your story distilled down into one sentence, two short ones at most. Agents receive literally dozens of emails every day and only open the ones that intrigue them, that's why it's so important.

                What you've written above, is really a blurb that might appear on the back of a book, or later in any submission email to an agent. The elevator pitch has to be much shorter and more to the point and have a punch to it.

                What is the theme of the story? What is the most important bit of the whole narrative? What is the main message in the story?

                Good luck - and well done for even getting to this stage as it normally means you're pretty close to finishing a manuscript a feat in itself!

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                • Hi Carolette. Thanks for posting your pitch. I've learned from it and the excellent feedback, without having to put my fragile ego on the dissecting table.

                  Just one note from me: I'm working on a 'mental health' story too, and I've recently read some 'industry' talk where they are trying to get it referred to as 'brain health' / 'brain illness'. I'll try to use it where I can, but 'mental health' / 'mental illness' is currently more familiar = more understandable to readers.

                  All the best

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