Introducing your world, and writing that elevator pitch, is a really hard step to take. You know your world better than anyone, but sometimes that can make it even harder. Which parts are important? How do you sum up all the things you’ve made quickly and without overwhelming readers?
Even if you’re writing for fun, you need an elevator pitch when you’re talking about your world. If you’re using your worldbuilding as an RPG setting (even for private use with friends), it is a lot more important because you need to convince people, and quickly, why they should play in your world.
I also find them really helpful to guide my own worldbuilding. A pitch should be something you can refer back to.
What should you write in an elevator pitch?
I personally like to break this into two pieces. An elevator pitch, and an introduction. An elevator pitch is short, snappy and straight to the point. It needs to be something you could say in 30 seconds.
Imagine you get on an elevator and Steven Spielberg happens to be there! You have just a moment while you go between floors to convince him you have something worth making a movie from. The words you pick would be an elevator pitch.
An introduction is aimed at a consumer of your world who has a bit more time. Someone who came upon your world, or already heard the elevator pitch and wants to know more.
When introducing a world, it helps to think critically about your world from afar. I start by identifying the genre. Is it horror, comedy, high fantasy, swords and sorcery, etc?
Then, I try to identify the defining aesthetic. You want to get this across in your introduction, because your reader (or the person you’re stuck in an elevator with) needs to be able to visualise your setting.
Finally, identify what the core theme of your setting is. Is it about swashbulking heroism (Conan the Barbarian), or the strength of people against adversity (Lord of the Rings)? Is it about love conquering all (My Little Pony), or the hopeless fight against something bigger than us (Lovecraft)? These are just some examples. Your world should have some core themes, maybe not just one, that drive it.
My personal world of Macalgra is about coming to terms with a nihilistic world, and how character deal with that fact. It is also centrally themed around diversity in fantasy, where people like me (LGBT) are not often portrayed
Don’t be afraid of being poetic
Your introduction will be a lot more catchy if it includes a bit of flavour. Don’t just make it about the hard facts, add something eye (or ear) catching.
Take the themes and visuals you decided upon in step one, and write something that conveys these to the reader. What scene from your world sums up the type of setting you’re creating? Is it a bustling city, or a dingy spaceport? Introduce your reader to the colour of the world.
I love the Ethnis introduction on their World Anvil page. The authors have used a lot of visual imagery to unpack the world. There aren’t a lot of hard facts given to us; the introduction is not about that. It instead conveys the visuals and the themes you, as a reader, should go into Ethnis expecting.
“A stalwart crew explores distant, vivid planets, dancing with those poor folk rich of spirit and fighting against rich lords poor of morals.”
Every new paragraph breaks our expectations after reading the last one, and quickly tells us that this is a very diverse universe. There is both good and bad. The rich and poor. We can tell this is science fiction, that it is colourful, exotic and dangerous, but that there is religion, magic and the supernatural among the trappings of space and technology. You want to know more! How do they fit together? What happened to that girl, where did the angels come from, who is the Somnolent?
In reading the introduction, you don’t feel overwhelmed with place names or facts. But you do get a very solid idea of the type of world Ethnis is.
Now, the elevator pitch
In someways, I find the elevator pitch harder than an introduction. I like to write it second, personally. The elevator pitch should be a lot more about the facts, and less flowery. You don’t have time for flowery language in an elevator pitch.
Ideally, make it one to two paragraphs. Identify the pitch, the unique selling point, and the themes and tell us about them.
Here is my elevator pitch
Macalgra is an Aetherpunk post-scarcity High Fantasy world. That’s a big sentence to unpack. Magic, through aether or mana, powers the technology of the world, acting much like electricity – yet perhaps even more flexible and important. Golems fulfill many menial jobs in society, and magic allows almost every basic need to be fulfilled at near zero cost to governments. This is post scarcity; an economy where nothing is rare, and the only valuable goods are the bespoke, the luxury, and the experienced.
Share your elevator pitch
When you finish, share your World Anvil introduction with me in the comments (either link to your world, or post it on its own!)
If my own pitch interested you, you can read about Macalgra here.