[Pitch Slap] Playing chess with vampires, and other unfortunate encounters

When Vanya Ferreira sent in his short story blurb for a Pitch Slap, we hesitated. I usually don’t look at short stories, but this canary has a weakness for anything to do with vampires, so there you go. Exceptions are made. This is how civilizations end.

In 45 words, the blurb sets out to capture the essence of the story. In general, the fewer words you get, the more tempting it is to be vague – to go broad. But vague language is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It will lure you in by promising to tell the story of your book, and then turn to the reader and say nothing at all.

Resist.

The sharper your words, the less you cry, to reword a recent cooking memoir title.

Here’s what Vanya sent us:

Title: The Story of Lucius Cane

Summary: London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a peculiar vampire, comes upon an opponent the likes of which he has never seen before – a brute with remarkable abilities. But not all is as it seems as their encounter unfolds in a manner that neither of them expected.

Lots of things to like here. Immediately, we get the setting and time period, quick and tight. London, 1795. Now we know place and time, andwith the next five words – the main character’s name and genre. Historical fantasy with a vampire character.

Then, just as I’m expecting the blurb to zoom me into the story…it doesn’t.  It backs off. It goes vague.

London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a peculiar vampire, comes upon an opponent the likes of which he has never seen before – a brute with remarkable abilities. But not all is as it seems as their encounter unfolds in a manner that neither of them expected.

Interpretation: Mr. Vampire and his opponent are playing chess. Being a vampire chess player is hard. Everyone tries to schedule the match close to dawn and don’t get me started on the unfounded accusations that you use bats as a distraction.

Now, in the real story, Mr. Vamp and Mr. Opponent are probably not playing chess.* There’s a higher likelihood that the vampire gets into a fight with someone over something and something happens.

Which…is the summary of pretty much every vampire/adventure story ever. And the very definition of a story.

Here’s what happens when I switch in some concrete, specific plot:

“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, an ancient vampire, comes upon a dangerous hunter, the first creature in more than three hundred years to be a threat – a brute with the teeth of a shark and the eyes of a lost soul. But though a vicious fight leaves both injured, Cane cannot shake the feeling he’s met this creature before.”

“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a bespeckled vampire, is searching for the Librarian – a brute with the power to absorb words from books and throw them like hunting knives. But not all is as it seems as Lucius gains the Librarian’s help and his book hunt leads the two to a lost colony of angry unicorns.”

“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a playboy vampire, finds his match when he meets a butler who refuses him entry to the country estate – a brute who seems immune to Lucius’ hypnotic powers. But as Lucius tries to get an invitation to enter before sunrise ends the party inside (and him), he can’t figure out how he is foiled at every turn by a mere mortal…”

“London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a powerful vampire who often escorts young ladies home from their parties, finds his evening snack interrupted by a hooded  figure – a brute who walks with a limp and knows Crane’s name. Crane ends up losing his dinner. Is he about to lose his life, too?”

 And, of course, the chess story:

London, 1794. Lucius Cane, a vampire and chessmaster cursed to have to finish every game he plays, finds himself stumped by a player who matches his every move – a brute with the muscles of an ox and the eyes of a mastermind. As night creeps towards dawn, Crane knows he has to win soon or his curse will keep him trapped there past sunrise.

The original blurb does itself no favors by trying to create an aura of mystery and playing coy. It’s the details that make the readers’ ears perk up.

Be crisp about what’s happening. Show us what’s at stake.**

Canaries, over and out.

*Though how cool would it be, if they were? Someone, write this story!
**Pun absolutely intended.

Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar? Email it our way  to canarypost@gmail.com. You can also read more Pitch Slaps here. 

The Pitch Slap is Back!

Chirp! We are going to start the new year off with some brand new pitch slapping and fit tossing. In our Pitch Slapped series, we take a book blurb or a book pitch, and then proceed to pull it apart and stick it back together – all the while answering those pesky questions like: What works? What doesn’t work? What could be done differently? Why?

Here are a few of my favorite from last year:

A pitch slap! In tiny, tiny text.

 

I have a few pitch slap requests lined up, but I am always looking for more.

Do you have a pitch or synopsis that you’d like to send to the sacrificial altar? Or do you know an author who does?

Email it our way  to canarypost@gmail.com with “Pitch Article Submission” in the subject.

[ Pitch Slapped ] Dragons and the Perks of Being Straightforward

Let’s face it. The best stories are complex, convoluted little things. We love it when fantasy and sci fi attack the usual tropes from new angles and make the weirdest premises feel completely natural. That’s the wonder of it. But trying to put these ideas into a story’s blurb can be a real challenge. There’s barely enough space to write out the bare bones of plot – and that’s without that extra paragraph saying “Wait, wait, this makes sense and it’s actually really cool!” What to do?

But before we get into that, let’s see this week’s blurb from Amy Rareberth Mead’s dark epic fantasy novel, Dragon Marked: Continue reading

[Pitch Pecking] Does this grab you? –Vote!–

When Madison Woods asked us if we’d be interested in taking over her hands-down-one-of-the-best-ways-to-get-real-reader-feedback series, “Vote for it”. Of course we said “Yes!”

Every week, we give out blog over to a 25-word elevator pitch sent in by authors. Readers of our blog have the opportunity to vote for whether the 25-word blurb makes them curious or not about the book. Would they buy it?

“Authors, what we’re measuring is reader interpretation. What does someone think of your book when they read your short blurb? Does it make them want to buy it or at least read further? Editors and publishers may look at these blurbs differently, but ultimately, they’re readers too.” (Madison Woods)

So what happens now? Read the pitch/blurb below and then vote if you think you’d be interested enough buy the book. Though the voting is anonymous, leave a comment and help the author get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t! Continue reading

[Pitch Pecking] Would you read it? –Vote!–

When Madison Woods asked us if we’d be interested in taking over her hands-down-one-of-the-best-ways-to-get-real-reader-feedback series, “Vote for it”. Of course we said “Yes!”

Every week, Madison gave her blog over to a 25-word elevator pitch sent in by an author. Readers of her blog had the opportunity to vote for whether the 25-word blurb made them curious or not about the book. Would they buy it?

“Authors, what we’re measuring is reader interpretation. What does someone think of your book when they read your short blurb? Does it make them want to buy it or at least read further? Editors and publishers may look at these blurbs differently, but ultimately, they’re readers too.” (Madison Woods)

So what happens now? Read the pitch/blurb below and then vote if you think you’d be interested enough buy the book. Though the voting is anonymous, leave a comment and help the author get a sense of what’s working and what isn’t! Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] Blurbs and navigating the reader-infested waters

Author Elizabeth Krall sent us the blurb for her lighthearted romance novel, Ship to Shore. In her email, she told us that she had used a variety of blurb-writing tools to get the point of her story across as strongly as she could:

“I have tried to incorporate various bits of ‘blurb writing’ advice, such as the use of ‘power words’, keeping it under 175 words and posing questions.”

In this Pitch Slap article, we’ll dive into this nebulous world of blurb writing tricks and talk about what worked and what sank and what swam in this seaside romance. But first… Continue reading

[Pitch Slapped] First Person Time Travel, and why it’s a bad thing in blurb-writing.

When in doubt, use a third person point of view. It’s that black dress that never goes out of style. But sometimes, you venture into the world of magenta skirts and bright blue collar shirts, and the question of place and time rears its head. Author Sonya Lano came to us with the just such a fashion statement when she sent in a short first-person-point-of-view blurb of her Fantasy novel, “Dance of the Tavyn.”

And in this pitch slap, we’re gonna talk about how you too can be a bright yellow canary and rock a first person point of view.

But first, the blurb itself:

As always, my very first instinct when seeing a pitch (any pitch) is to start trimming, rewording, and tweaking the word choice and sentence structure, even as I start in with everyone’s favorite floating canary bubble questions. Here, however, the usual approach just wasn’t working. Something was off.

It wasn’t the story: political intrigue, silver-haired assassins, what more can you ask for in romantic fantasy? It wasn’t the word choices: a few things to tweak for clarity, sure, but it got the story across. It wasn’t the rhetorical question at the end–though anyone who follows my pitch slaps knows I am all but allergic to them. It wasn’t the first person point of view: different, but fantastic dramatic potential.

Pause. No, back up. It was the first person point of view. No, not the fact that the pitch was written in first person, but rather what the use of the first person meant for the story. Continue reading