Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blog Pitch Workshop (Part X)

STATUS: I’m having a good week. Working hard. Getting stuff done. No fires that need to be doused. This is so not normal that I’m just enjoying it.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MY GIRL BACK HOME by John Kerr (South Pacific soundtrack)

Okay. We got a request for a romantic suspense blurb analysis. Piece o’ cake. Let’s take a look at Allison Brennan’s THE PREY—her debut romantic suspense that landed her pretty quickly on the New York Times Bestseller list.

THE PREY by Allison Brennan
Rowan Smith is living in a borrowed Malibu beach house while her bestselling novel is made into a Hollywood movie. A former FBI agent with a haunted past, Rowan thinks she has outrun her demons. But fiction and reality collide when a dismembered body is found in Colorado: the real-life victim had the same name, occupation, and looks as a character in Rowan's novel. By the time the FBI, the LAPD, and her own private bodyguard gather around her, another person is killed—again, the murder ripped from the pages of Rowan's book.

In the company of a former Delta Force officer with secrets of his own, Rowan faces an excruciating dilemma: the only way to chase down the tormenting killer is by revisiting the darkness of her past—and by praying for some way out again.

Now let’s analyze:

1. This back cover copy is 5 sentences. This is the shortest I think we’ve seen in all my workshops. Another powerful example that a writer can be concise and still write good pitch.

2. The first sentence sets the scene. Simple. Useful. Gives us a framework.

3. In the second sentence, we are introduced to the main heroine. Interesting background since she is a former FBI agent and obviously has a few skeletons in her closet. No need to reveal what as that will become clear as we read.

4. The next sentence is her hook—it’s what makes this romantic suspense different from the myriad of RS novels already out there, and it’s quite original to boot. I get chills just reading it.

5. The final sentence of this paragraph ups the ante. The killer has a pattern and Rowan is definitely linked to it.

6. The next paragraph is the final sentence of the cover copy. It introduces the hero (however briefly) and that’s fine because the focus needs to be on the suspense. We also get a little teaser for what is at stake for the heroine. She has to face something dark (probably ugly) in her past to stop the killer.

Romantic suspense is pretty straight forward. All of them will have similar elements but what makes this one stand out is #4 in this analysis—her high concept element. It’s original.

Most of the time I receive queries where the heroine is being stalked or her life is in danger (of course!) and then the hero character has to save her. Seriously, most of what we receive is that generic in the pitch. There’s no spotlight on the original vehicle for the shaping of the story. In this example, the original concept is the former FBI writer who is being stalked by a killer who reads and models his crimes after her novels.


We want that original hook so we’ll ask for sample pages for your romantic suspense. Tomorrow I’ll take a stab at fantasy.