The Impossible Pitch

My novel Charlotte’s Inheritance is nearly impossible to describe well and makes writing a good pitch difficult. I’ve just read about a contest that I want to enter, but I need a good pitch. I’ve written a new one, but I’m still not completely satisfied. What do YOU think? Would you want to read it? Have you already read it? Offer suggestions! Help me! Here’s my pitch:

What happens when a Jane Austen heroine finds herself surrounded by Darwinian men? She takes notes about the mating habits of the common dunnock and attracts a mate of her own.

Charlotte’s Inheritance is the coming-of-age story of Charlotte Wasseaux, born in nineteenth century England and raised in an Anglican convent. Her father is an ornithologist, a man of nature and logic in this pre-Darwinian era. At seventeen, Charlotte is re-united with her father and brought to live on the family estate, Endersley. Charlotte is quiet and insecure and wants only to please her emotionally-distant father. Because she has a talent for painting, he allows her to help him in his work. Charlotte attempts to break down the barriers her father erects, not suspecting the secret he holds about their past, and how that secret is hidden in her prized pocket watch.

Charlotte must decide what sort of person she wants to be, what sort of road she wants to walk. She has many role models to choose from: her father, the cold, logical naturalist; Theodore Drell, the affable, atheistic scientist; Mrs. Pearson, the wise Quaker; Lucien Bonaparte, the patriarchal Catholic; Lucy Gibson, the hard-working governess; Reverend Farrell, the generous romantic; Angelina Handley, the selfless nurse; Morton Greenwood, the clumsy explorer. From each of these friendships, Charlotte gains knowledge, confidence and direction.

Charlotte’s Inheritance is a story about a young woman, finding herself, in a world re-defining itself.

4 thoughts on “The Impossible Pitch

  1. Elizabeth,

    Your book sounds very interesting. I love historical fiction. It is my favorite genre and it is also the genre I write. Unfortunately, from reading your pitch I don’t get a sense of your voice. It comes across as bland. I’ve found that it is both important and difficult to weave your voice into a pitch. Also, the second paragraph comes across a little clunky. It is one giant list. I don’t know how you could change that but ponder it and you might come up with a solution. I really like your logline and your last sentence is a great hook 🙂

    Good luck with submitting your manuscript!


  2. Thanks for the suggestion of trying to get my voice in my pitch. It is a new angle that I’ll work on. This was my first novel (I’ve written one and a half since then), and I’ve been working on this pitch for years! I think the story is good, it is just extremely hard to summarize without ending up bland and with a list! I have more work to do! Thanks for your help!

  3. I like the premise: girl thrust from convent into her father’s world of science and debate (though I’m confused by “Darwinian” followed by “pre-Darwinian”). The pitch nicely shows your novel’s two major themes, “fish out of water” and “coming of age.”

    Your challenge, as I see it, is to bring the novel’s specific conflicts and energy into your pitch. I get the sense of a timid girl slowly coming into her own, building relationships with a secretive father and a diverse cast of supporting characters, but I don’t get a clear sense of struggle or movement. I’d start with the verbs: you have many linking and passive constructions here, and some active verbs that are not as strong as they could be (“allows,” “attempts”). Additionally, try enlivening your list of supporting characters by introducing them doing something (ideally, with Charlotte), instead of just being something. And I’d pump up the “family secret” aspect by moving it to a stronger position, perhaps the end of the second synopsis paragraph.

    That being said, you’ve done an impressive job boiling the novel down to its essentials. Now it’s just tweaking.

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