“Screenwriters?” you say. “Why would I need to know about what they do? After all, movies and novels are completely different art forms.” Ha. That’s what you think.
Screenwriters must do the same things novelists do. They also must pitch their stories either in person or in query letters. And the best advice they give for pitching is getting the meat of their screenplay written in one to three sentences.
Sound familiar? Literary agents and editors want this too.
Behold exhibit A: The Lennie Literary Agency & Author’s Attorneys, “For Writers” section discusses what they are looking for in a pitch. Here is “number one” on their list for fiction pitches:
Create a PITCH for your story.
1. In 25-50 words, answer: “Who does What to Whom, Why and Where?” Pretend you are writing an ad for a movie and tell the story in 1-3 sentences. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘elevator pitch’, ie. if you’ve got a short ride in the elevator with someone important, what information do you prioritize conveying to them? Note: “My book is so hard to explain; it’s a romance that will resonate with any reader” is a very typical weak pitch. Have fun with it! What will leave your listener begging for more?
And they are just one of the many literary agents, or editors, who make similar requests.
So, one of the best resources I have seen used by screenwriters to achieve the hallowed one to three sentences is to read the TV Guide loglines for movies. You will be able to see how the essence of a story has been boiled down to one to three sentences. This is great practice and shows you how to take your story and whittle it down to its bones.
Thank you, TV Guide!