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  • Selling Your Story: From Elevator Pitches To Prototypes

    - Gregory Pellechi
  • Today we're going to do something different. We're not going to talk about writing, or storytelling theories. No, we're going to get practical.

    Practical in this case, is in how to sell your story to your team. Cause until telepathy becomes a thing you'll just have to interact with others to get them interested in your writing. So why not have some props to help.

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    And if all else fails you can always rely on interpretive dance...

    "Humanity's legacy of stories and storytelling is the most precious we have. All wisdom is in our stories and songs. A story is how we construct our experiences. At the very simplest, it can be: ‘He/she was born, lived, died.' Probably that is the template of our stories-a beginning, middle, and end. This structure is in our minds."-Doris Lessing

    So, you've got to sell your story be it to a publisher, your lead, your team, or an investor and you're not quite sure that they're going to understand your brilliance. Or they may want something a little more "traditional" in structure, form or character. Which is another way of saying a 3-Act structure, the hero's journey, and a straight white dude.

    By the by, I'm disappointed that Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order is about another young, straight white dude. They could have done so much more with any other character, and had more themes, stories and motivations available to them. That doesn't mean I won't play it, cause I do like me some Star Wars.

    That aside, there are a number of tools you can use when conveying your story to the intended audience. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, and as with anything you'll have to figure out what will work best with those you're speaking to.

    For this episode we'll go through each of those tools, which include: the elevator pitch, an outline, a synopsis, a story breakdown, storyboards, and references.

    The Elevator Pitch

    You've heard the term and you're probably thinking it's saying something like "Our game is X meets Y." That's not an elevator pitch. At best it's an attempt to give your audience references for what you're making, but in fact tells them nothing. I hazard to call it dangerous, since no one's in any actual danger, yet the trouble with saying "X meets Y" is that you don't know what aspects of either X or Y your audience has grasped.

    I'm currently working on a game, A Giant Problem. Yes that's really the name. If I were to describe it as Breath of the Wild meets Tower Defense. What are your immediate thoughts? Is it the art style? Or the focus on a single character? Breaking weapons perhaps? The world of Hyrule? Do you even know what tower defense is?

    A good elevator pitch, especially when it comes to talking about a story, sums it up in as few words as possible. Something like, and I made this one up based on a real game-"Descend into an alien hell and fight your way out as a lone super soldier in a bid to save your crew, the universe and yourself."

    Care to hazard a guess as to what game I'm talking? If you said-Halo: Combat Evolved, you're right. If you said anything else... You could also be right. Ultimately some of these story arcs are going to repeat or be so similar it's hard to tell them apart. Was I talking about Doom, or Duke Nukem, or Wolfenstein, or any number of other series? Probably.

    I say the elevator pitch needs to be a single sentence. Other people say it can be as many as needed, as long as you can say it all within 20 to 30 seconds, or an elevator ride. Personally, I prefer the constraints of talking about something in a single sentence. It requires you to really analyze what the focus is and hone the story.

    This holds true whether you're talking about a character, a quest-line, a story arc, a piece of lore, or an entire game. Or a YouTube and podcast series. In this case the elevator pitch is-"The Writing Game is a series about analyzing the theory and providing practical advice about designing stories." Hence why I use the tagline, Designing Stories.

    Here's one final example of a great elevator pitch: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."-Inigo Montoya

    In those four lines you learn everything you need to know. Who the characters are, what their relationship is, what their motivations are, and what's going to happen. And even with Mandy Patinkin stretching those lines out for dramatic effect, it all happens in 11 seconds. Perfect in a manner deserving of a chef's kiss.

    So you may find yourself needing to provide more detail than an elevator pitch to get your team onboard with your story. That's why we have Outlines.


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