Have you ever told a tale to a child--without reading it from a book? My son and daughter in law started a very neat thing with my granddaughter. It began as a way to help her cope with things that overwhelmed or frightened her. They told her stories that began with "Once upon a time..." and then pulled a story from the real world. From the family, from history, from life. It didn't matter. She loves to hear stories.
Recently, I told her a tale about something that happened in my childhood, yea...I know. It was an ancient history tale ;-) And what occurred to me is how telling a child a story is a lot like writing a brief synopsis, or even a blurb. We simplify and condense.
To test my theory, I worked through a condensed story about an ancestor. I added fictional elements for interest. Admittedly, this is not one I'd tell my four year old granddaughter--at least not for a few years:
"Once upon a time Antis was born in the middle of a tribe of children. Unlike the rest of his siblings, his feet never sprouted roots into the farming muck of Pennsylvania clay. No woman captured his heart; no church captured his soul. So he lit out when the Oklahoma oil boom called to him.
Roughnecking paid good, but no money ever found its way back home, or into a place of his own, or into a church basket. He deposited it into the hands of bartenders and fast women.
Letters from home begged for something that would never happen. He'd not go home to help them farm. He didn't need them.
The years went by. His mom and dad died. The rest of his tribe all married, had children and went to church on Sundays.
The years went by in Oklahoma, too. Then the oil dried up. So did his life. He was old, bent over from injuries, and diseased by alcohol. He was dying, just like the oil wells.
He found his way home. But no one would have him. With no place else to go, the county poorhouse took him in. No holy man visited there. No god even knew the place existed. And he lay there in the smell of people dying until his own breath left him.
They took him out in a field, in the shade of tall hemlocks where the ground was useless for anything else. They chucked him in hole, threw dirt over him, and left him there without so much as a cross made of wood to mark his resting place.
The wind sighed through the soft branches and needles above him, "Now...now, finally, Antis. You'll sink roots into the Pennsylvania clay."
What a mental leap, huh? But, when we are
writing blurbs, or even pitches, maybe we need to think about them as a
story for a child? :-)