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How do you respond to this common question?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Coldboots, Jan 29, 2017.

  1. Coldboots

    Coldboots Scribe

    This is one of the more common questions that I get when I let people know that I'm in the middle of or starting a WIP.

    "What's your story about?"

    Does this annoy anyone else, or am I just too obtuse in the head to answer it properly? It's hard to narrow down enough for me to make people understand, without pigeon holing my work into a specific genre. It's been difficult for me to explain what I have written in a story thus far without falling off the tracks and becoming far too vague to be interesting. That's not to say that it isnt' a relevant and useful question, but it's hard for me to answer, usually.

    How do you react to this sort of question?
    Thomas Laszlo likes this.
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Basically, "It's about [Main character] who does [plot-driving thing] because [reason/stakes]."
    Penpilot, Thomas Laszlo and Coldboots like this.
  3. Coldboots

    Coldboots Scribe

    Thanks, that'll help me from falling off the rails the next time someone asks me. And also helps me from falling off the rails in the writing process.
    Thomas Laszlo likes this.
  4. Typically, "Uuuuuummmmm."

    I don't like talking about my stories with people I don't know very well. I freeze up when people ask me.

    It's complicated by the fact that my stories are almost never one genre. The one I just finished, ummm...I'm still struggling to explain to myself what it's "about." Is it a fantasy? Is it steampunk? Is it urban fantasy? Is it dystopian? It's...all of those things, but which is it MOSTLY? Is it about assassins, or wizard immortals, or zombies, orrrrr... I thought it was about assassins but I don't think so anymore. WHAT IS IT THEN?

    So, this is a really hard question for me.
    Coldboots likes this.
  5. Tom

    Tom Istar

    It's hard for everyone to condense their work into an "elavator pitch" (a summary that takes as much time as a 2-3 story elevator ride). I usually keep my responses focused on character rather than plot--I've found that the asker usually cares more about who it happens to rather than what happens. For instance, my WIP elevator pitch right now is "A prince tries to save his people and discover the truth about his heritage." Short, sweet, and to the point.
    Ireth and Coldboots like this.
  6. oenanthe

    oenanthe Minstrel

    being able to talk about your work is essential.

    what's my book about? "It's a fantasy novel about an ex army doctor and a gentleman investigating the murder of one of his patients" is all I say in conversation to people who aren't in the publishing industry. that's basically enough to keep the conversation rolling.

    if you're talking to an agent or an editor, you've got to have more in the can than just a simple sentence, but you need to start with a sentence sized pitch you have memorized.
    Russ and Coldboots like this.
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Oenanthe includes "it's a fantasy novel" which is important. Be sure to say that part. And keep it to one sentence. Seriously, you really do want to do this.

    Mine? It's an alternate history fantasy about goblins invading the Roman Empire, whose front line of defense is a Roman aristocrat who hates the army, and a barbarian princess exiled by her own people.

    Still feels a little wordy. Sometimes I cut it at the comma.
    Coldboots likes this.
  8. Peat

    Peat Sage

    I respond by going uhm and aah and I haven't thought of my elevator pitch yet.

    That means what I should do is work on my elevator pitch.
    Coldboots likes this.
  9. I usually reply 'It's complicated' if I'm unwilling to talk about it. Otherwise I usually answer: 'It's about magic, cats, a fantasy planet, crystals, reincarnation, crazy stuff, true love, space angels, cats, more crystals, cosmic cataclysms, family dynamics, and did I mention cats?" Sometimes I'll say 'true love, fighting, fencing, poison, torture, revenge...' :p
    Coldboots likes this.
  10. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    Having blurbs of different size (one sentence, 25 words, 50 words, 100 words, 250 words) is a good thing to have in response to this question. You can stick to a short answer for some people and for others give a more elaborate explanation.
    My friends and family typically ask me more about the methods I use to create my stories- where do the ideas come from, how do I start, how do I chose what happens, what do I do if I get stuck, how do you know when the story is finished.

    Any questions you are given as an author is good for understanding your own work. If the people asking are potential agents or publishers or buyers then is really important to have prepared answers.
    Coldboots likes this.
  11. I relate, lol.
  12. Thomas Laszlo

    Thomas Laszlo Sage

    Basically, I generally sarcastically respond. Along the lines of: "what's your story about bro?" "Well you see, I had this idea in my head... it's about that" and they leave me alone. I don't like attempting to explain because I never fully capture what draws myself in about the story so my friends are even less interested in books than most people so I don't even try XD

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Coldboots likes this.
  13. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    I glare, put on my best crazy face and scream: "WHAT! Dude, you trying to steal my genius? You $%^#!, get the %^#$# away from me, you !%^$#$." Then, I start hopping around like a leprechaun on coke screaming "Plot thief! Plot thief! 'e's after me pot o' genius!"

    No one ever asks again... but this could explain why I haven't landed any 6 figure book deals.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2017
  14. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    Thanks for that. I hadn't legitimately laughed out loud over something online for quite a while now.
  15. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    Honours student and time travelling pirate orchestrate a treasure heist to save Manhattan from an Aztec curse.
  16. RupamGrimoeuvre

    RupamGrimoeuvre Scribe

    I agree with @Tom, focusing on the character works better because people can relate easily.
    I'd add that if for some reason you don't wanna talk about the character, personify other elements.

    Like, although I didn't spend much time in creating a better elevator-pitch, my workable pitch is: "A dark science-fantasy story about a girl, Ara, who has to save her planet."

    I might add some more details, if there's a follow up question: "Her planet is facing an imminent threat that no one knows about, but there are clues; and she's connecting the dots. She has to fight with her people to save them."

    Art: Grimoeuvre.com | Story: TheGrimBook.com
  17. glutton

    glutton Inkling

    "It's about a badass female warrior who kicks ridiculous amounts of butt while surviving absurd amounts of damage" is the default answer for most of my works. lol
  18. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    I wish it weren't called that. I prefer to respond to the question as posed. What's your story about? I should be able to answer that clearly, or else say, I dunno I'm working on it. I think most friendly, interested folks would accept that. But a long disquisition, a meandering reply, fuzziness, they don't deserve that. They deserve an answer.
  19. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    For me, I know I understand my own story when I can condense it down into an elevator pitch. When I can't, I know I don't really understand it yet. And that's important, because otherwise I find the story tends to wander and becomes unfocused.

    The urban fantasy I'm shopping right now is about a washed-up athlete trying to hold on to past glory, in the arena and in love.

    The epic fantasy I'm editing/rewriting is about what two fathers give up in order to pursue their careers. It just so happens one is an oppressive overlord and the other is the defiant rebel leader.
    oenanthe likes this.
  20. valiant12

    valiant12 Sage

    It's a fantasy comming of age story. It have monsters and magic and other stuff.

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