Friday, October 21, 2011

The third character changes everything

I'm continuing to write pitches (one sentence loglines) for Sophia Richardson's 30 pitches in 30 days fest and discovering more pithy pitchy things and a cool character-driven plot tip. 


Last week I figured out that my ideas, if they weren't related to something I was excited about, couldn't evolve into a real pitch. They just sorta stayed in half-pitch limbo land (just like that brief and humiliating moment when my gym teacher wanted to see if I could pitch a ball).

So here's an example of a great pitch, from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire:

Crushed by a court order allowing only weekly visitation, irresponsible dad Daniel disguises himself as a nanny to spend more time with his kids. 
(Netflix is a great source of movie pitches like this one, btw. Also, google "Publishers Weekly previews" for some great one-line descriptions). 

Here's what my half-pitches were coming out like:
An impulsive girl takes on a dare to sign up for missionary boot camp and...

Fizzle.

Anyhoo.... what I've learned this week in building my pitches was actually from a random comment a very helpful soul named William Greeley left on this StoryFix post:
Here is a plotting method that I got from Bernard Grebanier’s “Playwriting.” It does not work for everyone:

A story is about the relationship between two characters, the central character and a second character. The turning point is an action the central character takes on a third character that changes his relationship with the second character.

For instance... In “Romeo and Juliet”, when Romeo kills Tybalt, his relationship with Juliet is doomed.

Eureka! The third character changes everything.

So here is one pitch attempt I came up with this week when I played around with adding a third character:

When a prodigal daughter returns to her family, her bitter older sister tries to ruin her chances of rebuilding her life and complicates a budding romance with a mutual childhood friend. 

Ye-ah. Still needs some work. Which leads me to Sophia Richardson's pitch check-in post today, and how "only lazy thinkers have bad ideas. Everyone else just has ideas that haven't been played with enough."

She also has more pitchfest-related posts, one with great a genre-flipping idea and another one that points out that a better pitch is one where your character is taking an action instead of just having things happen to him/her.

Katherine Owens also checks into today with a pitch and clues about where she gets her ideas, and why letting ideas cook for a while is important. 

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