In this video, Disney character designer and webcomic creator Chris Oatley shares the most common mistakes that comic creators make when pitching their comics at comic-cons.
He also shares four tips to improve your comic pitch which can increase the sales of your comic, grow your readership and get (and keep) the attention of publishers and producers.
Using Back To The Future as an example Chris demonstrates how these tips can be applied to any story.
PLUS, we’ve included one of our ever-so-popular CHEAT SHEETS for this video at the bottom of this post.
The Common Flaws Of The Comic-Con Pitch:
1.) The Pitch Starts With Genre Generalizations:
“It’s a sci-fi thriller set in the future…” or the barely-more-specific “It’s a film noir with aliens…” This is a terrible way to start because we’ve all seen sci-fi thrillers – even film noirs with aliens. Don’t make your original comic more generic by reducing it in this way.
2.) The Pitch Is Bloated With World-Building & Techno-Babble:
“So there are these guys called the flimflams and they can walk through walls but only if they have their norgatronicskeptoticklers set to gamma-pulse-mode.”
If the words mean nothing to someone who is not yet in love with your comic, ditch the world-building and techno-babble in favor of something we can relate to.
3.) The Pitch Is Just A “Fast Forward” Version Of The Plot:
This is not a pitch. It’s an abridgment. …a synopsis. You need a way to share the heart of the story and the potential for plot. You shouldn’t just start blandly explaining the plot scene-by-scene.
4.) You Can’t Pitch Without The Book In-hand:
You don’t know the heart of your story so you just start pointing to the art. This often goes hand-in-hand with the abridgment pitch. And PLUS, what if you don’t have your book with you when you need to pitch.
You should be able to convey the heart of the story and the potential for plot without any visual aides. Of course, you should “show and tell” with the book when it’s appropriate to do so, but your pitch should stand on its own.
5.) Your Nerves Psych You Out:
You just stumble over your words and it ends twenty minutes later in an incoherent mess. And when this happens, you are usually at the mercy of the person listening. If they are nice, they bail you out by asking questions and “coaching” you through it.
You need a quick, catchy, clean, rehearsed, memorized pitch for these kinds of high-stress pitching situations. This way, if you’re completely nervous, you still have something rock-solid that you can robotically spit out and at least you know it will make sense.
4 Steps To Find The Heart Of Your Story:
Using ‘Back To The Future’ As An Example…
1.) Find The Human Point Of View:
Here’s how I found the “Human Point Of View” in ‘Back To The Future’:
Marty McFly, is the teenage son of an alcoholic mother and a pushover father. He has the potential to be a successful, responsible family man but his rebellious tendencies could completely wreck his future. When Marty is sent back in time 30 years, his own Mother falls in love with him instead of his Dad and unless Marty can get them to fall in love, he will be erased from existence.
Often times, the universal human emotion is found along with a universal human fear.
In regard to BTTF: We have all felt disappointment with our parents or parental figures; We have all made rebellious decisions despite the consequences. We all have wondered what our parents were like when they were teenagers and we certainly all fear being “erased from existence.”
The fear of a fate WORSE than death: In the movie, we learn that Marty’s family ALSO ceases to exist. So it’s not just his own existence that is in jeopardy. (I could have worked that into my pitch for BTTF.)
If you can engage a universal human fear in your pitch, you’re doing well. If you can ALSO engage the fear of something worse than death, you are a storytelling wizard.
2.) Avoid World Building, Techno-Babble, Genre Generalizations and Proper Nouns:
Again, why do we care?
Techno-babble is not something people can access unless the terminology already means something to them. So, until they are fans, leave the techno-babble out.
Notice how I made no mention of the DeLorean Time Machine, Time Paradoxes, 88 Miles Per Hour or The Flux Capacitor (which makes time travel possible).
I think would have been fine to put the DeLorean into the pitch for the same reason I chose to use Marty’s name. Both proper nouns evoke the ironic tone of the story so those specifics help to communicate what the story is.
But because the TYPE of Time Machine isn’t necessary information in regard to Marty’s character story, I opted-out.
Again, avoid details that only fans understand – and don’t attempt to define or translate them within the pitch itself.
3.) Focus On The Character:
Who is the character? What is their passion? How are they flawed? Why do we care?
The character story is what makes people care. It’s what engages your audience’s emotions. It’s what they will remember because everyone else’s pitches are bogged down with techno-babble and genre generalizations.
In the character’s story, you find the universal human emotion, the Theme. And that’s the thing that pulls people in.
Read more about Finding The Theme Of Your Story.
4.) Keep It Short But Open For Conversation:
1-3 sentences. 2 is good. If the pitch is interesting enough AND they’re interested, they’ll ask you questions.
And even if they don’t, but they are still interested, you can just take them through the first scene. But the context is already there with the pitch, so they’ll be tracking with you..
Don’t just tell a fast version of the plot. Just communicate the story’s heart and the potential for plot.
Lee Wiley’s Updated Pitch For ‘Expiration Date’:
In the future, your life has an expiration date. Every person born in the US has an implant in their heart that randomly triggers a person’s death during the REM cycle of sleep. This Government sanctioned population-control program encourages you to not focus on the “quantity” of your life, but the “quality” of it. However, Dack Cutter’s time is running out as he is roped into unravelling a conspiracy that has already caused the death of a Presidential Candidate and his friend, Nix, due to their their “expiration dates.” How far will he go to stay ahead of the conspirators, protect his teenage brother, his former-girlfriend, and attempt to save his own life is “Expiration Date.”
What was so great too, was that when I got a good grasp of reciting this, I could then tailor the pitch to my conversations. If I could read in the person’s face that they were intrigued, I would often expound a little bit more and add a few details about the characters or situations. I was often told that it reminds them of “Logan’s Run” or “In Time”, which is correct, it is directly in that genre, but it opened up the opportunity to then expound on the characters and relationships in the story that really set this story on its own. On the flip side, if I could see their interest was fading, I could keep the pitch short and sweet.
FREE ‘Cheat Sheet’ For This Video!
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What is a ‘Universal Human Emotion In YOUR Story?