Monday, November 9, 2015

Here's the Pitch!

When writers have an idea, or a completed script, and are looking for financial support, they sometimes need to give a presentation of that play to a producer (think Shark Tank for writers). Similarly, other writers (usually in television) meet together frequently to share plot ideas with one another. Talking about a story idea in this situation is called giving a "pitch". A pitch is a summary of the story that is usually pretty short and defined by a certain amount of time, amount of words, etc. This is typically something done when you start writing, but I've found it to be helpful to young playwrights at any time throughout the process.

Playwriting Workshop students discussing their story ideas.
If at any point in the process you find that you are stuck, or have writer's block, give this pitch exercise a try. First, summarize the general information about the play by beginning with the phrase: "This is a story about ________ " and then continue by giving some information about the character. This can simply be a noun like "girl" or "boy" or "wallaby", or you can give the name. Next, tell a little something about that person's everyday life, what they want/need to do in the play, and why the want/need to do it." For example, if we were to give a pitch about The Wizard of Oz, it might look something like this:

This is the story of a girl from Kansas who gets trapped in her house during a tornado. The tornado picks up the house and lands in the middle of a magical world called Oz. The girl wants to get back home, but is in danger because when her house fell, it fell on the Wicked Witch of the East and killed her. Now, the witch's sister, the Wicked Witch of the West, wants revenge on Dorothy for what she's done. With the help of a good witch named Glinda, Dorothy begins her journey to the Emerald City to see the Wizard who she is told will be able to send her home. Along the way, she meets three other inhabitants of Oz who also need the Wizard's help.

In that one paragraph, we get a pretty good sense of who the story is about, what she needs to do, who some of the other characters are, and what difficulties they all might face. This isn't a complete story, but it might just give you enough of an idea of what you are writing about to help you move through any writer's block, or moments where you are unsure about what you are writing. You can also use this exercise to brainstorm before writing your play, or as a check-in to see how well your story is progressing at any time during the writing process.

Happy writing!