Should a book be defined in a single sentence? Don’t ask me why this random thought jumped into my head, but it did. Most writers have to create an “elevator pitch” to give to agents and editors. The idea is that you happen to get into an elevator with a top publisher/agent. You have until they get to their next floor to pitch them your grand novel. What would you say?
I hated coming up with pitches…I don’t know why I put that
in the past tense because I still do. They are horrible. A page? I can rock
that summary. Although, a publishing house once asked me for three pages and I had
the hardest time. When I first started, I would sit down with agents at
conferences. We were given 15 minutes to sell ourselves…which is actually a lot
better than a one-page query letter. But part of this was the idea to “pitch”
the book in a sentence. Keep it simple. Tell me the gist. But also wow me.
I haven’t pitched my work for a while, but I still have to
summarize my books in a sentence. Amazon actually has a section on one of their
reading sites where you summarize a book in one sentence. I forget what they
call it, but it was something like the insanely short summary. I had to
practice this art when creating bookmarks last year.
But I got to thinking….should a book even be able to be
defined in one little sentence? I think this goes along with the idea that
publishers want cookie-cutter novels. They want something they can “easily”
sell. But is that something I want to read? The books I love the most are the
ones with two or three plot lines. In suspense novels, I love the authors who
can twist multiple storylines that seem unrelated and tie them together (besides
the whole they are relatives). I wondered if they could define the book in one
sentence. Sure, we can come up with general statements. Lord of the Rings is an
adventure to destroy a powerful ring that corrupts its owner. But, it seems a
disservice to J.R.R. Tolkien’s series to summarize it in just that one
sentence. That series is so much more than that. Likewise, I can say J.K. Rowling’s series on
Harry Potter is about a boy coming to terms with his parent’s death and his
legacy while taking on a wicked sorcerer. But, again, the story is so much more
As you can see, I’m not very good at making a sentence
compelling and gripping, but I start to wonder if we lose something in the
summation. Do we turn into those movie trailers that are nothing like the
actual movie? Books should have layers. They should have a complexity that
shouldn’t be defined in a sentence. And if they can be, then maybe they are too
simple to keep my interest. Or maybe that’s just me.