Elevator Pitch

You’ve got your world and the interesting circumstance, you know the medium you’re going to set the story in and which genre it’s going to fall under. You know your main protagonist and your main antagonistic force. It’s time to put it all together.

The Elevator Pitch or Log-line, if you don’t know it, is basically going to be your intriguing little sales tool and your North Star. The phrase arises because it’s a pitch that’s basically short enough to be delivered in a short journey in a lift (or elevator I can’t decide which is a sillier name for a box that goes up and down)

The aim of the elevator pitch is to sum up your story in a few words, but to deliver maximum impact in those words.

Putting it together

Using what you already have you should be in a position to deliver a first draft of your elevator pitch in one of the following two formats

My story is a [Medium & Genre] set in the world of [world] which is turned on its head when [twist event happens]

My story is a [Medium & Genre] set in the world of [world] about a [flawed protagonist] who [wants something] but must face [powerful antagonist] who wants to stop [him/her/it]

It’s up to you whether you use one version, the other version or combine them both. If your situation is more set-up, situational and plot-based you might want to lean towards the first, but by adding in a main character you at least give the listener a real person to identify with. If your story really is about a character (or group of characters with a shared goal) then you’re probably better leaning into the second.

Once you’ve created a log-line or elevator pitch, you have the kernel of your story. Blake Syder in Save the Cat devotes a chapter to creating log-lines for movies. He adds that they need to

  • Have a strong sense of irony – this situation happening to this person – would you believe it!
  • Create a strong mental image – we ought to be able to visualise elements of the story from just these few words
  • Tell the listener who the story is for – a family audience, teenagers, adults
  • Give a sense of the scale – in other words how much its going to cost to make

Log-lines are often used as sales pitches. Received wisdom says if your story doesn’t work in the log-line it isn’t going to work in long form. There is a lot of advice out there about trying out your story idea and actually pitching it to people before you spend months writing it. I think this is good advice if this sort of thing comes naturally to you, or even if you can bring yourself to pitch it. But I think it’s probably enough to feel like your logline is exciting enough to want to keep you going.

Of course, the elevator pitch and all its elements might change as your story comes to life, you might introduce a different take or different twists.

Gone off course…

If you love your log-line and yet in the heat of the moment you end up writing something different, then you will have to find a new log-line for what you’ve actually written. If your new log-line isn’t as strong as the one you first came up with, it can be a sign you need to re-work your script. After all, you should always be aiming for the best version of the idea you can get. That best version is the one you first came up with and if you’ve created something less strong, you’re not giving yourself the best shot. It’s okay you’ve written an exploratory draft. Now go back and write the best version.

A final line

Finally, before you dive in, you might want to ask two questions that sooner or later are going to be asked of you.

  • Why you?
  • Why this story, now?

Don’t worry, there are some very short posts to help you think about the answers to these…

End of Act One

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. What we’ve done in creating the log-line is reached the end of Act One of the story writing process. We have a set up, main characters, well-researched world, an event that throws things out of balance and a sense of the ongoing conflict. We’re ready to enter Act Two where we actually go ahead and write the damn thing.

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