Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What is your book about??.....

For years I worked in the film industry, both as a producer and screenwriter, and I quickly learned how to summarize a film project in industry parlance, what I'll call the "A meets B" method. If I was working on a project about a woman going through a divorce with a man who may or may not be a serial killer, let's say, I would pitch it as KRAMER VS. KRAMER meets CAPE FEAR. A film about baseball and friendship became BULL DURHAM meets BEACHES, and so on. The "A meets B" trope became so ubiquitous in Hollywood that often people conceived of projects based on these crazy combinations - SCHINDLER'S LIST meets CADDYSHACK, or BIG meets COLD MOUNTAIN. The combinations are so ridiculously wacky they become high concept by virtue of their incompatibility, and everybody loves a high concept. But as much as this tool is overused in Hollywood, it remains a punchy and effective way to get the essential idea of a project across in as little time as possible.

Now that I am a writer for children, when someone asks me what my book is about I stumble, and I generally ramble on, trying to impart the full plot and all of the complex themes of my work, all the while boring the person to death no doubt. So, my question is, should the publishing industry, should we writers for children, take a page from the film industry playbook, and describe our stories in this facile and often reductive A meets B way? Since publishers love high concept ideas, should we be conceiving of our stories by mashing together wildly different ideas to create something never before written?

GOODNIGHT MOON meets LEMONY SNICKET?? I think I'd like to read that one.


  1. That quiet old lady whispering hush always seemed a bit sinister to, who is she,and why is she there?

  2. I struggle when it comes to summarizing my work. I often ramble on, trip over my tongue and sound like an idiot. For me, writing the synopsis is as hard as writing the whole story! I think editors/agents love the idea of A meets B. But I'm sure I'd find that simple devise as difficult as describing my story in 20 words or less.

  3. Editorial Anonymous (see our Favorite Links) has a July 20th posting announcing a best/worst pitch contest.

    Will be interesting to read the winners.