Monday, February 23, 2015

What I Learned from a Bad Movie Trailer

As many of you know, in January, I hosted a query party for several writers to come together and critique one another’s queries before we send them out. 

There were several moments of realization during the party.  I probably got through two queries when that lightbulb flashed through my mind. 

I was able to pare down another person’s query into something that made sense.  It wasn’t a long-winded, distracted bundle of words, it was short, succinct, and it made sense.  It focused on the main character, who he was, what he wanted, what the stakes were. 

That’s it.

I tried doing the same to my query, and suddenly it was 50 words longer.  Over the past two weeks, I started working on my 35 word pitch for Pitch Madness.  (If you haven’t heard of it, head over to Brenda Drake’s website!  She hosts some awesome competitions.)  I had a critiquer go through it, and she told me that my pitch was muddled, confusing and vague.  It made sense to me, but to someone who didn’t know the story, apparently it wasn’t clear.

I had another AHA! moment last week.  I’m not sure how, but I came across this trailer for a movie that came out last month.  It’s called Strange Magic.

I think I’ve watched it seven or eight times already.  Even so… I’m still not sure what it’s talking about.  There’s so many characters introduced that I can’t keep track of them.  I think I know who the main character is, but she’s only in there probably about a fourth of the time.  I get that a sister is kidnapped, but I’m not sure why, or what the main character (or who I think is the main character) has to do with the bad guy’s ultimatum.  Why her?  Also, who are all those other people?  

I’ve seen movie trailers where they give the whole story.  But this one, it makes me wonder if there is a story, somewhere beneath all of the odd characters and obvious attempts at jokes.

It also makes me wonder if that’s what my query looks like.  I went back to my pitch, and stated who my main character was, what he wanted, and what the conflict was.  That’s it.  35 words, and it makes sense.  It’s clear, and it sets up exactly what the reader should expect in the story.  No fluff, no other characters, or subplots.

Now it’s time to clean up the query.