I'm going to change what I heard in the presentation and combine it with other elevator pitch rules to fit with what is toughest in reviewing books, especially complicated ones, and maybe help push away the writer's block about explaining things. (I do reserve the right to continue to ramble in my own reviews, though! I often go for a steam-of-consciousness review and then try to right it into something readable. I will be trying this with some of the older reviews that I'm bringing to this blog.)
In a pitch, you might say:
- Who's the main character, and what defines her?
- What does she want?
- What does she have to do to get it?
Headstrong attorney Ann must pass as a cleaning lady to infiltrate the offices of Big Corporation and find out who killed her mentor with a velociraptor.
Harry Potter, a young wizard attending a secret magical school, has to find and destroy the Philosopher's Stone before the evil Lord Voldemort uses it to gain power over wizards everywhere.
Peter Rabbit must dodge Farmer MacGregor if Peter wants to eat anything from MacGregor's garden.
Kinda like that.
And then, as when a real elevator pitch's recipient shows interest, one might go on--a book reviewer might go on for a paragraph or a few--to flesh out the story. I think it's always helpful to give some personal thoughts on the book's strengths and weaknesses, your reactions as an individual reader, and even whether or not you like or would recommend the book: I'm friends with people who have completely different tastes in reading from mine, and when one of us likes a book, the other generally won't, so sometimes, a negative can sell a book, and a positive won't.
What do you think? How do you approach reviewing, especially if you read a lot of books? I'm thinking this approach works best for plot-based stories, and ones where even if there are a lot of threads, there's still a well-defined central conflict.