Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

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Obscura
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Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#1 Post by Obscura » Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:28 pm

Hey guys, one thing I've noticed in a lot of WIP threads is that I often find myself wondering, even after a bunch of paragraphs and concept art, "what the heck is this about?

I think one thing that might be helpful is to be able to sum up your Visual Novel into a very, very short pitch like they do in the film industry. A lot of times we as readers gloss over the info you give us. Especially since it seems like there are a lot more WIPs up at Lemmasoft these days.

Before you even start telling us about your WIP, reduce everything down to three sentences. Put this at the very top of your submission. Remember, three sentences to grab the reader's attention. No more. If you're not able to do this...you've most likely got a problem with your concept.

(From http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/p ... tudio.html)
The teaser pitch
The teaser pitch is a short pitch. Traditionally, you get three sentences to hook listeners into the premise, the genre, and the scope of your film. When crafting this pitch, pay particular attention to what you think they might be listening for.
Here are some examples:

Europe, 1912. Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater enjoy a secret and passionate romance after they meet on a ship chartered toward New York. That ships happens to be the Titanic.
Jessica Stein has met and refused virtually every man in New York City. Maybe it's time she looked for a woman. (Kissing Jessica Stein)
Northern England, 1984. Young Billy Elliot, the son of a poor local miner, decides to start training for a career. In ballet. (Billy Elliot)
These examples suggest the skeleton of a short pitch.
A concise pitch is especially important for those WIPs lacking artwork or with very rough art.

These are teaser pitches...you can also just give us the premise if these are a bit too "market-y" for you. The important thing is that your premise is short and less than three sentences. I cannot emphasize that enough. As the boards get more and more crowded you're fighting for a lot more attention. Don't lose a reader's interest with a giant wall of text. Start short and sweet and grab the reader's attention.

If you like, go ahead and pitch your WIP here using less than 3 sentences. I'll start:

- You play college student Mark Matthews, who is finally ready to come out of the closet and hit the gay dating scene. It's not too long before he meets a hot stranger at a bar. Unfortunately, it turns out to be his anatomy professor.

Yeah, I'm sure I could work on phrasing here, etc. But you get the idea. Hopefully it was enough to pique your interest. Your turn...
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#2 Post by specialtantei » Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:35 pm

Hmmm....let me think...
Akiko is living a normal life in a normal all girl highschool in a normal Japanese mountain village. But nothing is at normal as it seems. For women are never what they appear to be.
This would be like a super duper reduced version of the plot xD.

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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#3 Post by Obscura » Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:42 pm

specialtantei wrote:Hmmm....let me think...
Akiko is living a normal life in a normal all girl highschool in a normal Japanese mountain village. But nothing is at normal as it seems. For women are never what they appear to be.
This would be like a super duper reduced version of the plot xD.
That's a great start. I'm halfway there in terms of interest. I still need more info though. Can you make this more specific? The problem is I think this could practically be 1/3 of the stories out there..."something isn't what it appears to be." Do you mean psychologically? Personality-wise? Are they demons in disguise?
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#4 Post by specialtantei » Tue Oct 16, 2012 6:49 pm

Obscura wrote:
specialtantei wrote:Hmmm....let me think...
Akiko is living a normal life in a normal all girl highschool in a normal Japanese mountain village. But nothing is at normal as it seems. For women are never what they appear to be.
This would be like a super duper reduced version of the plot xD.
That's a great start. I'm halfway there in terms of interest. I still need more info though. Can you make this more specific? The problem is I think this could practically be 1/3 of the stories out there..."something isn't what it appears to be." Do you mean psychologically? Personality-wise? Are they demons in disguise?
I don't wanna spoil the story, and the plot itself is pretty short xD. I like keeping my stories secret but uhm...This would be better then.
Akiko is living a normal life in a normal all girl highschool in a normal Japanese mountain village. But nothing is at normal as it seems. For women are never what they appear to be, and Akiko is about to find out the darkest secrets of her friends... or are they really secrets? What is that thing that she should never have forgotten? And why does she never feel at ease with herself, even though she's living a beautiful life? To discover the final answer and decision rests in your hands.

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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#5 Post by junna » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:19 pm

^^ yay, I did good by sticking the plot-ish on the very first part of my TL;DR idea/wip post.


hmm... I'm used to reading blurbs on book jackets so I tried that style...
Saoirse (SEER-sha) (name can be changed) has lived her life as any 18 year old could possibly live in the 21st century. Until the day the Accident happened. Her true body lies on the hospital bed hooked up to a life support machine. In spirit, she is transported to another plane completely different from the one she knows, living the life her ‘alternate’ reality self lives, in a time that has already come to pass.
Captured by rebellious males who refuse to submit to their female masters, she is now given this second chance in life to right a wrong. Will you choose to let Saoirse continue on the path of her fate? Or will you change her destiny, and all those who are affected?

Welcome to Tearramatta, in the world of An Domhain.

Where everything may not be as it seems.
Is there anything I should add/delete?
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#6 Post by Obscura » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:24 pm

@specialtantei

The problem is, as soon as you go over three sentences, I think you lose a lot of interest again. A reader going through the WIPs will start thinking..."is there a point to this?"

I took your own words and just rearranged them as an example. I don't know if it quite fits your story, but you get the idea.

"Akiko is living a normal life in a normal all girl highschool in a normal Japanese mountain village. But even though she's living a beautiful life, she never feels at ease with herself. For there's one thing Akiko should have never forgotten..."

I know it sounds like a terrible limitation, to keep this to three sentences, but I don't think I'm alone in saying once you start dragging out your premise, people will close the thread and move on to the next WIP.

Even in WIPs with good art, I'll just skip it if it seems like the writer takes too long to get to the point. To me, it's an indication that the writer has not fully thought out the story, doesn't edit enough, and the story is going to be really longwinded.

This might be a cultural thing though as someone who lives in the U.S. and has a very short attention span, so YMMV.
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#7 Post by Pyonkotchi » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:26 pm

hrmmmmmmmm is this okay?
Zane Legacy and his best bud Josh are just two average guys who want to start over
little do they know their lives are about to change forever. Zane meets the Elemental Spirit of fire, who begs him to help her out, Zane agrees, and he sets off to find the rest of the Spirits, and perhaps learn the truth about his past.
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#8 Post by Obscura » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:27 pm

Rewrite this so it's three sentences. I'm being serious. :wink:
junna wrote:^^ yay, I did good by sticking the plot-ish on the very first part of my TL;DR idea/wip post.


hmm... I'm used to reading blurbs on book jackets so I tried that style...
Saoirse (SEER-sha) (name can be changed) has lived her life as any 18 year old could possibly live in the 21st century. Until the day the Accident happened. Her true body lies on the hospital bed hooked up to a life support machine. In spirit, she is transported to another plane completely different from the one she knows, living the life her ‘alternate’ reality self lives, in a time that has already come to pass.
Captured by rebellious males who refuse to submit to their female masters, she is now given this second chance in life to right a wrong. Will you choose to let Saoirse continue on the path of her fate? Or will you change her destiny, and all those who are affected?

Welcome to Tearramatta, in the world of An Domhain.

Where everything may not be as it seems.
Is there anything I should add/delete?
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#9 Post by Obscura » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:35 pm

Pyonkotchi wrote:hrmmmmmmmm is this okay?
Zane Legacy and his best bud Josh are just two average guys who want to start over
little do they know their lives are about to change forever. Zane meets the Elemental Spirit of fire, who begs him to help her out, Zane agrees, and he sets off to find the rest of the Spirits, and perhaps learn the truth about his past.
I like how you tried to keep it to three sentences...but I think we could use more info here. These are questions that immediately came to my mind as I was reading and think the answers could further serve to interest the reader.

I rewrote the first sentence just so it would carry more weight, and added my thoughts...

The lives of two average guys, Zane Legacy and his best bud Josh, are about to change forever. Zane meets the Elemental Spirit of fire, who begs him to help her out, (<--I'd suggest saying why she needs help or the nature of the help.) Zane sets off to find the rest of the Spirits, and possibly learn the truth about his past. (Do you mean Zane and Josh? What happened to Josh? He seems important if you introduced him in the first sentence.)
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#10 Post by junna » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:46 pm

:p Book blurb style! the premise in 3 Sentences but with added title head.
A Strange World
Saiorse wakes up from her coma to see a strange world with no streets, no technology and MEN AS SLAVES?
As her mind tries to adjust to what she is seeing, she is suddenly captured into a war between rebel slaves and their female masters.

Will you choose to let Saoirse continue on the path of her fate? Or will you change her destiny, and all those who are affected?
meh...sounds odd to me. but I'll work on it.
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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#11 Post by LateWhiteRabbit » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:56 pm

specialtantei wrote: I don't wanna spoil the story, and the plot itself is pretty short xD. I like keeping my stories secret but uhm...This would be better then.
A marketer once told me to never be afraid to spoil the story. Above all you need to hook and interest your audience and get them to read or see your story, and if you have to spoil parts of it to make sure they become interested in your story, that's better than withholding too much and the people passing your story over. Don't hide your hook or "OMG moment".

Everyone went into Titanic knowing the boat would sink. It is still the second highest grossing movie of all time. If you have to hide parts of your story, it may not be a good story to begin with, or you might be relying too much on twists. Twists only work once. A good story works every time.


Allow me to rephrase your story pitch:
Akiko thought she was living a normal life. But all her friends are keeping dark secrets. And Akiko is keeping the darkest secret of them all ... from herself.

Remember, like Obscura said, you need to keep it short and punchy. The 'pitch' has also been described as something you could hook a person with on a elevator ride between floors.

From Christopher Lockhart:
“Pitching” is the art of presenting the story in a truncated and intriguing manner that piques the listener’s curiosity.
Present the genre.
Begin with a question to create initial desire in the listener.
A good pitch raises questions; and questions create suspense, which is an essential tool of the dramatist.
Less is more.
I, for one, would like to see more WIP and pitch threads that dumped all the excessive writing and descriptions, and focused on "back of the box" hooks and pitches. I don't want an synopsis of your plot, I don't want a bio for every character, etc.

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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#12 Post by specialtantei » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:03 pm

LateWhiteRabbit wrote:
specialtantei wrote: I don't wanna spoil the story, and the plot itself is pretty short xD. I like keeping my stories secret but uhm...This would be better then.
A marketer once told me to never be afraid to spoil the story. Above all you need to hook and interest your audience and get them to read or see your story, and if you have to spoil parts of it to make sure they become interested in your story, that's better than withholding too much and the people passing your story over. Don't hide your hook or "OMG moment".

Everyone went into Titanic knowing the boat would sink. It is still the second highest grossing movie of all time. If you have to hide parts of your story, it may not be a good story to begin with, or you might be relying too much on twists. Twists only work once. A good story works every time.


Allow me to rephrase your story pitch:
Akiko thought she was living a normal life. But all her friends are keeping dark secrets. And Akiko is keeping the darkest secret of them all ... from herself.
I would have written it like that...if it were like that xD.
Because well, she's holding no secrets, she's just too forgetful e.e
Well, you're right. I don't like stories with too many twists. So just one twist, nicely placed, for the whole story, is enoguh. Of course, the twist affects the outcome, but a twist wouldn't be a twist if you don't create a proper background first. So telling the background, keeping twist a secret :).

I actually like the pitch Obscura wrote for the story. I'll keep it (not forgetting to mention he wrote it, of course xD).

Thanks for the tips! I am thankful to this kind of comments <3!

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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#13 Post by CheeryMoya » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:14 pm

Woohoo advertising Capturing your reader's attention is very, very, very important. The attention spans of people on the internet are short and even more so if they aren't interested in what you're saying. Since we're talking about pitching our VNs, your first priority is to hook people who are in your target audience; anyone outside your initial audience is a bonus that you should still aim to hook if you can.

The "3 sentence" rule isn't absolute, and if you need more then by all means go for it. 40-80 words (personally) leaves me with little information, 100-150 is alright for me, but once we go over 200 words I'm bailing out unless you've written something exceptional. Less is more, you have to find a good balance of length and content. What I consider a good pitch contains information about:
  • Setting (Where is this taking place?)
  • Circumstance (Background info?)
  • Conflict (What's happening?)
  • Protagonist(s), Antagonist(s), and various other characters (Who is in this story?)
In the case you never finish your game (which happens too often, sadly enough), I should be able to know what your story could have been like with your premise alone and even brew up some wild theories about it. You only have so many chances to get my attention, so you make sure your pitch looks good.

Also, when I'm reading a pitch for a story, I don't like distractions like SUDDEN CAPS LOCK for emphasis or bright blinding pink text. I prefer italics over bold, but that's just me. Don't overuse smilies either :3 It makes it look bad XD Also unprofessional >_> In fact, don't use them at all! I'll probably pack my things and go if I see a smilie tossed in there for no reason whatsoever. As for typos and grammar, damn right I care about that. I'm not fond of strings of questions either, you know? How should I know if he can defeat the Big Bad? Why are you asking me this? I see strings of questions are amateurish and cheap. If you do have to ask a question though, make sure it isn't a yes/no question or it poses a difficult moral situation.

If you ignore the quality of your pitch, I can't expect much from the game itself. If you aren't a native speaker, try your best to find a proofreader to fix everything up for you. It'll help loads.

Take it with a grain of salt, but I think it's pretty accurate in terms of what most people would like to see.

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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#14 Post by specialtantei » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:24 pm

@CheeryMoya Wow thanks a lot. Didn't ever realised smilies were so bad. I ussualy use them to show my mood or intention because, well, my face is kinda difficult to see on the internet. I also due that so nobody misunderstands my intentions or 'tone'.
I will try to work more then on the summary and pitch, and have them nice and polished for when I post the game I'm working on as a WIP (still waiting for promo art and default sprites to be finished).
I am really glad I joined this forum. I learn a lot from you people. I am here to improve my writing and comunicating, also how to express myself through the magic of VN's. And you are really helping me, even though I kinda mess up pretty badly (like the recruitment thread I made, it wasn't well done at all).
Thanks again to you and everyone on Lemma!

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Re: Pitching Your Visual Novel - What's Your Premise?

#15 Post by Carassaurat » Tue Oct 16, 2012 8:29 pm

For what it's worth, I'm a European and I like to think that I wasn't suited to my career if I wasn't at least somewhat patient, and I fully share your enthusiasm for such pitches, Obscura :) . I'm trying to make it into a habit to have the first thing I do for an idea to be such a short elevator pitch. If it isn't good in three sentences, it's not going to be good in 50.000 words.

I don't know if specialtantei's problem is with the wording or with the plot in itself, though. If we accept that a story generally follows the structure of normal—until problem—finally solution, then you've got at least two exciting parts: the problem and the solution. People with secrets? That's not a problem that hooks me. I've played dozens of games with people with secrets. I've played games with handicapped girls with secrets, with green girls with secrets, with demonic girls with secrets, and if the Adversity comp is an indication, everybody and his or her mom are writing stories about girls with secrets. If finding out about the secrets is a solution, there needs to be a more interesting problem to get to that point. For example:
Akiko is living a normal life in a normal all girl highschool in a normal Japanese mountain village [normal], until she finds out all her friends used to be pirates [problem]. But what drove them to plunder on the high seas [hint at solution]?
That's still a secret, but now I know it's about pirates (fuck yeah!) and I want to know more because this first relevation was interesting. I think a pitch needs to spoil at least the transition from the first to the second act; I don't know if specialtantei didn't do so, or whether she has no second act.

---

Don't take these as examples, but here are things that have been on my mind:
X is an elderly widow fed up of being robbed at the market, who rallies her neighbourhood and forms a plan to catch thieves. But can the elderly strike back at the criminals of today and will they find love again during this cooperation? Old people otome.
A boy and a girl decide to get into shape for an event and start bicycling together a couple of times every week. But his fierce and uncompromising drive and her reluctance and excuses drive them apart. Where lies the difference between helping someone overcome a problem and bullying her into becoming something you want her to be?
Duke John has locked out his wife and has sold her lands to her merciless uncle. The Estates are in revolt over this and other parts of his policy. His cousin, the Duke of Burgundy, sends a team led by John's brother Philip to see if the two parties can be reconciled — and at what cost.
Admittedly, that last one is my research paper, not a visual novel.

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