From Soup to Bouillon Cube
Picture book writers often wonder how to boil down their book into a few sentences for a cover letter, or to even fewer words to form an elevator pitch (or these days, a Twitter pitch). A helpful analogy for the transformation of a story into a synopsis and then into a pitch is to think of a pot of homemade soup, a can of condensed soup, and a bouillon cube.
A POT OF HOMEMADE SOUP—THE STORY
Picture your story as a steaming pot of soup—steeped with richness, nuanced with seasoning, teaming with meatiness, hearty vegetables, and homemade noodles. The pot of soup has taken hours to create and you know as soon as someone dives in to enjoy your creation, he/she will emerge licking the spoon. Like your soup, your story is deliciously memorable, and it’s one of those things readers will want to enjoy again and again, serving after serving.
A CAN OF CONDENSED SOUP—THE SYNOPSIS
Condensed soup has everything that pot of yours contained, only smooshed into a small can. By opening that can and dumping its contents into a pot or bowl, it can soon be heated up to something that gives all the flavors of the original (but with a lot less leftovers). The synopsis of a story is the condensed version. It must contain the same deliciousness as the story itself, but be told succinctly, in far fewer words. In fact, if your story was around 500 words, that synopsis should be 50 words or less. The condensed version should leave the reader satisfied on the one hand, and hungry for more on the other.
A BOUILLON CUBE—THE PITCH
I haven’t seen bouillon cubes in years. We used to cook with them a lot when I was growing up. I remember in a corner of our pantry sat a small plastic jar filled with eight or ten foiled-wrapped cubes. Unscrew that lid and you would smell the richness of the bouillon cubes right through the foil. Basically, a bouillon cube is your pot of soup in a dehydrated, super-concentrated form. That little cube is meant to contain all the richness, meatiness, and flavors of the original. That’s true with a pitch, too. In one or two sentences (the dehydrated, super-condensed version) you must identify the main character and concept of the book. Just like the bouillon cube, the pitch must immediately awaken the reader/listener’s senses and make him/her desire to dive into the full pot . . . I mean, full story.
Let’s use my book, Cowboy Christmas, as an example. To taste the full pot of delicious soup, you can order the book through Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Cowboy-Christmas-Rob-Sanders/dp/0375869859/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1367855325&sr=8-2&keywords=cowboy+christmas) or Barnes & Noble online (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cowboy-christmas-rob-sanders/1108081704?ean=9780375869853). Read and enjoy. (Yes, that was shameless self-promotion!)
A CAN OF CONDENSED SOUP—MY SYNOPSIS (54 words)
Three weathered cowboys—Dwight, Darryl, and Dub—are stuck out on the range at Christmastime, roping steers and wrestling longhorns. They’re feeling low-down and miserable thinking Santy Claus has missed them all together. But a wonderful surprise awaits them back at camp—and it’s just what they need for a rip-roarin’, merry-makin’ cowboy Christmas.
A BOUILLON CUBE—MY PITCH (27 words)
Can Santy find cowboys out on the range? The Circle D dudes are afraid he can’t. But a rip-roaring cowboy Christmas surprise awaits them back at camp.
Try it yourself—take one of your delicious stories and boil it down to a synopsis and then create an even more concentrated version by writing a pitch. While you're at it, why not enjoy a bowl of soup?