Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Magma: Finding the Core of Your Story
Hi all, Lisa Phillips here! I’m so excited to be on Seekerville today!
In June 2012 I participated in a Speed Date pitch with Love Inspired editor Emily Rodmell. In a Harlequin chat room I had to pitch my novel in only 100 words and then hold my breath for her response. From that nerve-wracking pitch, I got a request for the full manuscript (yay!), a set of line edits (ack, she hates it!), and then “the call” (yay again!).
Here is my pitch: Sabine Fraternau, CIA agent, is on the hunt for her brother's killer. When the Delta Force soldier she loves barges in, the mission goes from bad...to busted.
Doug "MacArthur" Richardson is all military, a man of faith with no room in his life for love.
When Sabine is accused of betraying her country, Doug is the only one who believes the woman he's falling for is innocent. But after her ex-husband's betrayal, Sabine doesn't believe in happily ever after.
Together they have to find the killer and prove Sabine's innocence, before the nightmare of her past comes back...to kill her.
When pitching your story in a proposal, or face-to-face with an agent, or trying to convince your neighbor that you don’t just lie on the couch all day and drink tea (okay, that’s sort of true), find the least amount of words with the most punch.
So yes, I want to talk about pitches. But I also want to talk about YOU and your writing. Because, before you have something to pitch, you have to have a STORY.
Editors and agents (and readers) will assess your work in a matter of seconds. What are they looking for, something exciting, sharp and witty, or dangerous and hard-nosed, or sweet and redemptive? How do you know if you have that?
I asked my editor what she looks for in a pitch, and she said, “Plot,conflict and hooks.”
How do you know if you have a plot?
Do you have a person, an event, a plan, an antagonist (human, animal, vegetable, mineral, environmental, it doesn’t matter), a cost for failure (stakes), a lesson to be learned, a prize, a moral dilemma and a pinch of backstory that holds your character back?
Those are the key ingredients—they are the MAGMA of your story.
Conflict can be either internal or external, and try to have both in your story.
Internal conflict would be a heroine who can’t fall for the hero because she’s an accountant and he’d be a “high risk” investment.
External conflict is when the bad guy is framing your hero and heroine for the crime they’re trying to expose.
Check out this pitch for a Love Inspired Suspense novel:
Accountant Victoria Hayes has discovered fraud within her own company, but when her evidence goes up in smoke along with her home, all she has left is her hero dog. Seeking justice, she unwittingly puts herself and her handsome supervisor, Jeff Tucker, in danger. The strict ethics that lead Victoria to trust Jeff also keep him from pursuing a romance, given his hidden past. Victoria has a past of her own and her analytical skills score Jeff as high risk—a risk she’s not willing to take. Framed for the very crime they wanted to expose, Victoria and Jeff must uncover the truth before it’s too late.
Calculated Risk – Heather Woodhaven (coming Spring 2015)
Which leads us to hooks.
A rogue CIA agent. A Delta Force soldier. A hero dog. Fraud. A hidden past.
How about a stripper, running from a cop...?
A teenage stripper, hunted by a cop, discovers the only escape is the one who cursed her.
It isn't like I dreamed I’d take off my clothes for money when I grew up, but life doesn’t always happen the way you want.
I was desperate when I walked into the Wild Lily. When I left, it was more than just a hundred dollars I’d gained. I had hope.
But every time I think I’m in control—I’m not. Every time I think I have a friend—I don’t. And now, the footsteps behind me are getting louder.
Sovereign Ground is an Inspirational YA novel of redemption that is available now at Amazon!
Find what it is about your story that will GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION.
Because when you think about it, every story has already been written. There’s nothing new under the sun, right?
So what makes YOURS unique?
Find that thing. Boil your premise down to its essential elements and find the MAGMA, the fire that makes you excited about what you have to say.
Post it somewhere while you’re writing. It will help you focus your plot, and tighten your character’s arc—their journey to redemption. Because if this chapter, or scene, or conversation, or the thought that your character is having does not relate to the MAGMA of your story then you’re slowing the pace and your reader might decide she has something better to do.
But what if your story is about lots of things and you can’t say them all in a five sentence pitch? What if you have a generational story with multiple points of view?
It only took one moment.
One Josephine Finch to keep them apart…forever.
Sixty-four years have passed since Emmy lost her true love, but the curse still echoes through every second, every breath, every heartbeat, and Emmy’s tired of running. With the help of a Wish Listener named Adam, four generations of troubled women will come together for two weeks in a cabin at Angel’s Cove—their last chance to face down the past and put an end to the dark secret that has haunted Emmy for a lifetime.
But Angel’s Cove is not just a mountain vacation resort. If Emmy gets her wish, her bloodline will finally find true love as beautiful as what Emmy lost so long ago. If she doesn’t, the legacy of Josephine Finch could destroy them all.
Available now at Amazon
This pitch focuses more on the heart of the story—the theme. It’s about what tore them apart, but also about what (or who) is going to bring them back together.
So how about you?
What is the MAGMA of your story? What is it that’s going to wow us, and can you pitch it to us in as few words as possible?
The commenter with the most WOW in their story will win a signed copy of Double Agent, out now!
Target, the prequel to my novel Bait, is free today at Amazon so hop on over there and grab your copy! Click HERE
A British ex-pat who grew up an hour outside of London, Lisa Phillips attended Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California. It was there she met her husband. He’s from California, but nobody's perfect.
It wasn't until her Bible College graduation that she figured out she was a writer (someone told her). She's taken the Apprentice and Journeyman writing courses with the Christian Writers Guild, and discovered a penchant for high-stakes stories of mayhem and disaster where you can find made-for-each-other love that always ends in happily ever after.
Lisa can be found in Idaho wearing either flip-flops or cowgirl boots, depending on the season. She leads worship with her husband at their local church. Together they have two children, a sparkly Little Princess and a Mini Daddy, and there’s only one bunny rabbit now (sad face).
To find out more about Lisa Phillips,visit www.authorlisaphillips.com where you can sign up for her newsletter and see what is COMING NEXT!