Friday, January 18, 2019

The Pitch Document

Here is a blog, interspersed with some photos of the Ben on the dog walk this morning.   I only had my basic lens with me so the pics aren’t very good. Neither is the blog. But think yourself lucky that I’m not blogging about the vote on Wednesday night. Or the one onTuesday night. As one famous MP said as he got in the lift afterwards ‘You’ve got to laugh.’


When I do my talks about novel writing, and plotting in particular, I use a template that I stole, with his permission, from the rather lovely screenplay writer Adrian Meade.   He devised it from various sources ( what ‘s that saying? Steal from one source is plagiarism, steal from many it’s research!) and he recommends that a young screenplay writer hones this document, keeps it in his/her head in case he/she gets stuck in a lift with Mr Spielberg.

I use it to clarify the thoughts of young or inexperienced writers and ask them to stick it somewhere within their vision when they are writing. Just to keep them on track and stop them falling foul of that nasty little devil, the wandering storyline minstrel.

Have I ever used it myself? No. But after my enthusiastic talk about it on Tuesday night, I so impressed myself that I will use it from now on.

But for a bit of fun, here’s a version with the first two categories empty.  You can guess the film? (It was a book, I’m waiting for the bloody musical though)


The log line; I’m not saying because if I told you, you know the film straight away

Title; Ditto ( no Jeff, the film wasn’t called Ditto…..)

Genre; thriller

Protagonist; An Ex NYPD police person

Goal; At the start- a nice slide into a peaceful, beachside retirement, on an island
          At the end- staying alive

Obstacles; he’s an outsider, he’s scared of water, he can’t swim, the council who want to protect the income from the holiday makers, his wife who fancies the other bloke, nobody listens to him…. And maybe, the big beastie under the waves,…..oh and he NEEDS A BIGGER BOAT and he doesn’t have one!

Theme…. Do dooo, do dooo, do do do do (yes you are humming it now,) well that is the theme tune, the novel itself is a quest novel.

Setting; Amity Island

In the end; He has redemption in the eyes of the community. He is alive. The big beastie is shark meat, but he is mourned. There is a sense they should have just closed the beach and killed the mayor instead.

Anyway, I guess you got what the film was.


Here’s the lecture as I witter it….



The log line         The natty little phrase you spout in the lift when you meet Spielberg.
Have it on the tip of your tongue so you don’t start ‘well It’s about a bloke who does this then that then something else and zzzzzzz

Title                      And put the letters W/T after it, to show it’s not a deal breaker.

Genre                   What shelf does it go on in the book shop?  And write that. A hard boiled Glasgow murder where the murderer escapes by running down a dark alley and climbing  on a turquoise glittery unicorn that then leaps over the moon and deposits him in a space ship crewed by Raquel Welch clones, might struggle on this one. (Those of you who have taken a writers group will know what I mean
Protagonist         the main bloke/blokess. If they aren’t mentioned for a few chapters, and another character is butting in, maybe you have the wrong protagonist. I’ve noticed a few newbie writers think they are writing about who the book is about rather than who is running around doing the action and moving the plot forward.

Goal                      What the main character wants to achieve.
                              What he needs to achieve is sometimes a more interesting story.
Obstacles            What is getting in his way, personally and professionally, and the Bruce Robinson thing of stick the hero up the tree and don’t let him come down. Every time he gets close to the ground send a Rottweiler after him…. Or a hippo in Stan’s case.

Theme                  There are only seven themes out there. There is nothing new. The writer has to give that theme a new life and a new meaning.

Setting                  Good if  we are in need of an unreliable mobile phone signal, some extreme weather, heat/ cold/ rain/. And where is a human more lonely? At the top of the Ben looking down at the loch, or in a bedsit in any inner city?

In the end…         and what did happen in the end… it might not be the right thing but it has to be the satisfactory thing. And in crime fiction, the baddie can get away but he’s not going to gain what he set out to gain…. Like the Italian Job.

I did get a laugh in the lecture when I was talking about pantsers and I showed a picture of Brexit. ‘This is what happens when you decide on an idea with no concept of what might be involved.’

 Caro Ramsay  18 01 2019


  1. Thanks, Caro! I've been wondering how to become a great writer. Now, I'm on my way, stardom awaits, I no longer have any time for you little people, call my agent, let's do lunch...

  2. I'm still hung up on Ditto, but then I thought the answer was JAWS...what with all your Spielberg references and the ex-NYPD tidbit--JAWS Roy Scheider was also in "The French Connection" as an NYPD detective. Obtuse I know, but that seemed in keeping with all else that happened last week on both sides of the POND.

  3. Carissima Caro, I believe this is the right approach for some. For me, I lose interest if I know the story already. My characters telling me the story keeps my interest. I am nowhere as creative as they.

    Why is it that you plotters condemn us pantsers? We accept your approach as valid, for you. What’s all this holier than thou business all about?

  4. Honestly Annamaria, I did start off the lecture by saying neither way is wrong, it's horses for courses. But even then I think the subconscious of the pantser guides the hand. For me, I know the beginning, I know the end..... and I go pantser for the muddle in the middle!

  5. Great blog, Caro. I may well have a go at this list myself. As for the muddle in the middle (very good description, as it so often turns into one) I've tried to play it by the seat of my pants a little more with the latest WiP and have ended up having to go back and unpick more than I usually would, so it's outlining for me in future...