Friday, 24 February 2017

The Art Of A One Sentence Pitch

Yes, there's an art to the one sentence pitch and it's something I don't find easy. Writing a synopsis is difficult but I prefer it to the one-liner. With a synopsis, I can pick the most important developments from each chapter and condense them into one or two pages. (See how easy I made that sound?) But why do writers need a single sentence pitch and how do we encapsulate a whole book into a single sentence?

If a friend, stranger, agent, publisher or nosey neighbour asks you what your book is about, you need to explain clearly while engaging your enquirer and keeping them interested (and awake). We must endeavour to pick out the highlights of our novel so that whoever we're speaking to wants to buy or represent our hard work.

I've discovered that there are three basic elements to a good one sentence pitch.

- The opening conflict
- The obstacle
- The quest

The opening conflict is the hook, the first step that leads to a quest. The obstacle is a situation/s that prevents your protagonist from overcoming their difficulty. It could be a person, an illness, a lack of courage, a lack of money etc. The quest can be a physical or spiritual journey, but it describes how your story and most importantly, your protagonist, develops between the plot's beginning and ending.

The resulting basic pitch is: When OPENING CONFLICT happens to CHARACTER(s), they OVERCOME CONFLICT to COMPLETE QUEST. There are lots different ways of structuring these basic elements, but each should be included. The important thing to remember is that a good one sentence pitch is a description of the plot, not the theme.

The danger of describing the theme in your one sentence pitch, instead of the actual plot, is that it will sound generic. The pitch for Eat Pray Love, is not A recently divorced woman seeks love and happiness. That sounds like many romantic books on our shelves. A more accurate pitch would be, A recently divorced woman flies to Italy for pleasure, India for spirituality, and Bali for balance, but discovers love instead. Because that's what actually happens.

If your final sentence isn't already half a page long by now, try to add some details that will give a sense of the character of your novel; is it humorous, tense, sad, etc. This will help to give your sentence individuality.

There! Easy! *swallows hard and scratches head*

Good luck...and please wish me luck too!


  1. Ah, the dreaded elevator pitch. You make it sound very easy, Angela.

  2. Oh I can make anything sound easy, Julia. It's the doing that difficult!

  3. This is something I need to create. Even a generic sentence would be better than, 'um well it's sort of a novel, which I um wrote and there are like characters in it.' I rather fear that's been my response on occasion.

  4. Thanks for this post, Angela. I've been pondering this need for a while now and your advice has been very useful.

  5. Hi, Patsy. Good luck and I'd be interested to read your sentence when you've perfected it. x

    Hi, Keith. Perhaps we should all share a blog post and read each other's
    one sentence summaries! : )

  6. Great post Ange, thanks for sharing with us.
    That one sentence pitch is something a group of us are trying to do in our writers group at the moment. I am finding it very difficult.

    As you say, the synopsis is tricky enough!

  7. Thanks, Maria. I'd be interested to know what you come up with for your WIP.