Workshop Episode 11 (Guest Host: Tee Morris)

The Roundtable Podcast, Workshop Episode 11, with Tee Morris and Hugh O'DonnellTee Morris – author, podcaster, and Renaissance Man of the New Millennium – takes the Roundtable by storm as we workshop a fantasy tale by the host and producer of The Way of the Buffalo podcast, Hugh O’Donnell.  The energy is high, the ideas are flyin’, and Tee shares a wealth of experience and insight regarding story pitches, characterization, romance (in fiction) and more.  Yup, it’s yet another not-to-be-missed workshop episode. (and check out Tee’s Showcase Episode, too!)


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Workshop Episode 11 (Guest Host: Tee Morris)

[caution: mature language – listener discretion is advised]

Check out this episode on iTunes

On Tee’s Plate:

Hugh’s Projects:

Comments (10)

The story pitch comments were interesting and generally useful but a little confusing given the context of the session–it would be difficult to workshop the story based on an “elevator pitch,” I think.

The thing that struck me about the protagonist’s desire for rest/retirement is that the village he wakes up in could present itself as the perfect place for that: idyllic, quiet, beautiful single woman hanging about–it has all the elements of what he wants at the beginning of the story. It seems a natural tension in the story might be his desire to have that vs. his inclination to peel all that back and figure out what’s really going on. I could see the lure of peace being pretty seductive to someone who has fought on both sides of a pretty bitter war for the last ten years. I could also see that someone who has fought a war for the last ten years would instinctively mistrust the appearance of everything…

I think Tee was just presenting a variety of options for pitch situations. But he raises a good point (and something that will be the subject of a future blog post)… I think a lot of writers mistake the events of the story for the story itself. It’s fine point of distinction, but I think it’s an important one.

There’s a difference between:

“He travels to a city, gets robbed by thieves, learns to live on the streets and becomes a great thief himself.”


“In the city, he losses everything to the greed and cruelty of the thieves there. Stripped of everything, including his dignity and honor, he wanders the streets, learning their ways in the desperate day-to-day struggle for survival. Down to the last shred of his humanity, he finally succumbs to the cold reality of the streets and embraces it. Abandoning his past – and all that he loves with it – he reinvents himself, becoming “The Grey Raven”.

It’s a matter of presenting a clear expression of the character’s transformation and the motivations that drive him or her to action. Ultimately, that’s what the story really is… a character’s journey from being one person into another and the events and choices that bring about that change.

You raise some good points about the character’s primary motivation. The problem I (still) see is the danger of that time in the village becoming a major lull in the story. Your suggestion of him having a probing inquisitive nature would help keep the information flowing, but something needs to be happening there, some conflict or obstacle that the hero needs to take action against (echoing Brion’s admonition about passive characters).

I agree that an elevator pitch is not enough info for this format, but I think Tee is right that all the authors would benefit by starting off with one before launching into a series of plot points. It can be hard to follow!

One possibility would be to follow this format (In usual Roundtable Podcast form, feel free to reject my idea as absurd!):

start with the 1-2 sentence summary (which can be the comparison to a couple known stories) to give us a sense of the flavor. Take a minute to elaborate why you think your story is The Human Centipede meets Glee.

Give the writing style. 1st person? 3rd person omniscient? How many POV characters? Undecided?

Give the two paragraph summary, limiting it to the main plot arc. What is the main conflict? What does your main character want in the beginning? Have you figured out how to resolve it?

Listen to feedback on this main arc. You may lose sight of it once you dive into detail.

Then give the details. List the main events and the twists and turns in the plot. Keep in mind the idea is to give a sense of some (but not all) the details you have in mind so that people can give more specific feedback. Be clear about areas where you are still fishing for ideas and any plot holes you know about but have not yet solved.

That’s all I’ve got!


Michael Brudenell

I like your idea, Bryan. It will help the writer think about how the story can be sold.

Like Christopher I was taken aback by Tee’s first comments. Hadn’t he heard at least Pip’s guest host episode? How come he doesn’t know the format? But, then after hearing Tee break it down I took another look at the story I am currently working on, and came up with my own elevator pitch.

In the end the goal is to create some literary gold, but if you can’t convince anyone it’s not fools gold, then it could likely languish, read only by the writer’s mom.

I have to admit that I’m uncomfortable with the idea that an author should come up with an elevator pitch before they’ve finished writing the story. That sounds more like a very effective way for an author to distract him or herself for hours or days without actually writing more of the story. I always understood an elevator pitch as marketing, not development–it’s a way to get someone who doesn’t have a lot of time want to make time to learn more about your project.

Obviously Tee has more experience than I do, so take with a grain of salt. (Salt will make it more palatable when someone forces me to eat my words anyway…)

Michael Brudenell

Haha, I’ll take some of that salt.

I won’t be able to make you eat your words. I understand your position.

I am kind of on the fence. I know established authors might be asked for an idea pitch without having the story completed, but most guest writers are not established, yet. I wouldn’t want a new writer working for days on this either, but after listening to this episode I came up with one in 20 minutes. It also helped me think about my story in different ways. I felt I benefited from the experience.

Sometimes the elevator pitch might be harder to define. My advice would be to give it some thought and then put it away. Even if you come up with one, put it away. I think the idea of this type of elevator pitch is so amorphous that the end product can go many different directions. In the end the story will be what it will be.

A comment for Hugh: Firewalker mentions at the outset that he feels he is going on a suicide mission. My ears pricked up at that, but it wasn’t explored in the workshop session. I think it an important aspect to the plot; why is he assigned a suicide mission? how does he know it is a suicide mission? That could explain the actions of the mages who are sent to find him.

As for elevator pitches, I personally find that developing an elevator pitch helps me to keep the story straight in my own mind, otherwise I get lost in the details.

That’s an excellent point, Dan… we DID totally miss that in the discussion. That actually speaks to a LOT of aspects, including character (and yet he goes on the mission anyway. Is it honor or a death-wish?) and the larger possibility of a conspiracy. Good catch! 🙂

I can’t believe that nobody mentioned “Lost Horizon” by James Hilton. The “village” in this story is clearly from the archetype of Shangri La (not that there is anything wrong with that).

I also was a bit taken back by Tee Morris’ “You need to work on your pitch” comment. I see the point that many writer with use the elevator pitch as the opening sentence of a longer pitch. However of the 11 Workshop episodes I have listened to so far, I would put Hugh’s pitch in the top three. I’m not necessarily saying his story is in the top three, I’m saying his ability to summarize is well above the average. The level of detail he included was enough to make me interested without being so much detail that I felt overwhelmed.

My suggestion for a mash-up type elevator pitch is “Harry Dresden in Lost Horizon”

Thanks for all the awesome comments and notes! Peter, that’s a REALLY good pitch. “Lost Horizon” was an early influence, but I’m not familiar enough with Butcher to be name dropping him quite yet. Dan-there is a LOT of political stuff going on with the Sensates, but I don’t know how much I can fit in this one without info dumping. That’s where the sequel would come in. 😉
Pitching is probably one of my weaker author skills, so I was glad to get a little practice at it. This is the story I’m saving for Traditional Publishing (for the moment) so it really needs a sharp pitch.

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