I don’t know much. I haven’t sold any fiction (yet). But there might be an “Always Be Connecting” gem buried somewhere under a mountain of details. Or. I might have uncovered a simple “water is wet” thing that’s new to me and pretty clear to everyone else.

At the risk of ridicule, I’m sharing my findings.

After studying a bunch of Book Riot summaries, I think I’ve found some patterns for the pitch they make for published works:

  • Backstory, Character, Concept

  • Backstory, Initiating Incident, Two Characters, Concept

  • Character, Concept (5)

  • Character, Initiating Incident, Concept (3)

  • Four Characters and Concept

  • Deep Backstory, Initiating Incident, Concept

  • Opening Quote

  • Two Characters, Concept (3)

  • Two Characters, Initiating Incident, Concept (3)

There are many minor tweaks, but these seem to me to be the most common ways to structure a 140-word pitch.

In order of popularity, the "Character, Concept” pitch is first. The "Character, Initiating Incident, Concept”, "Two Characters, Concept”, and "Two Characters, Initiating Incident, Concept” variants are tied for second place. The other five are tied for third.

(Putting on my technical writing hat. This is a subset from a starting population of 50, and the definitions are fuzzy.)

I’ve written my own examples of these (and a many others) for The Forge.

Note. I’m not talking about the proper plots of the books themselves. For summaries of the common plots, look at Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces (and related works.) Or read The Seven Universal Story Plots That Still Entrance Audiences. I’m talking about the arc of the pitch.

And, yes, they almost all end with the “Concept” or the core dramatic situation that carries through the story. While this seems like it should go without saying, the distinction between the "Opening Quote” and the others is profound; it means the opening quote communicated the concept.

Armed with 34 variants on the pitch arcs, I’m ready to restart querying.