Saturday, September 06, 2008

The One Liner

I've long meant to work up a one line pitch (or hook) for Kindred. Not an easy thing to do, capsulizing a Very Long Novel into one sentence, without making it run on via endless clauses for a solid paragraph.

So why bother? Editors and agents like them, for one. They work great in query letters. And when someone discovers you're writing a novel and asks what it's about, it's nice to have a concise sentence ready to roll off the tongue, instead of meandering over 800 pages of setting, plot and character, which I tend to do in such situations.

In a series of posts on pitches agent Kristin Nelson recommended examining the first 30 to 50 pages of your manuscript when writing a pitch/hook. Zero in on the main catalyst that starts the story forward--the main conflict from which all else in the novel evolves. She's talking about a pitch paragraph. But I reckon the same holds true for a sentence. It's just a little harder. Maybe.

I've played around with it from two POVs (point of views), Ian's and Seona's. While I had every intention of both characters having equal part in telling this story, Ian took control (stubborn, head-strong guy he is) and now more like 2/3 of the novel is told from his POV. Still, Seona's voice is integral.

Current one line pitches. Ian's POV first, then Seona's.

When prodigal son Ian Cameron journeys to North Carolina to become his uncle's heir, instead of settling to the life of a gentleman planter he becomes obsessed with one of his uncle's slaves—who bears a disturbing family resemblance.

When the master's nephew returns to Mountain Laurel as heir apparent, the boundaries between the Big House and the slave quarter are irrevocably breached, and one slave's secrets perilously exposed.

Anyone prefer one over the other? So far, I prefer the second one, although the two of them together make a fuller, clearer picture of the storyline (which is not genre romance).


  1. I've got to say I prefer #2 as well.

  2. That's been the nearly unanimous pick so far. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Hi Lori ~

    Here's another vote for the second one. It says just enough to capture a reader's interest without telling too much of the story.

  4. Hi Sallie,

    Good to hear from you! How's things back east? *s*

    The second one appeals to me most because it steers away from the romance angle, while still hinting at it. While a romance is integral to the story, it's not the whole story by any means. And Kindred doesn't follow a typical romance genre plot pattern.

  5. Hi Lori,

    The second one. It really PULLS me in and makes me want to know... who is this nephew, what is his story, what is Mountain Laurel like (and the Big House and slave quarter), what sort of boundaries, how are they breached, which slave, what secrets, and last but not least... NOW what happens. I think it's perfect! :-)

  6. Hey Doree. Thanks for posting. *s*

    Now I've had time to think about it, it's really not just from Seona's POV. It's more omniscient than anything. Maybe that's why it works.