In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath wrote, “Analogies make it possible to understand a compact message because they invoke concepts that you already know.”
They work so well because they relate the familiar with the unfamiliar.
Similes also wield a lot of power in a pitch. Like analogies, they help articulate abstract concepts that are difficult to describe.
Development execs LOVE similes and analogies because they can reuse them to sell your concept up to their boss(es). And that internal up-sell is an extremely vital part of the process.
If you pitch your show and the takeaway is, “It’s like Star Wars with singing hats,” mission accomplished. They understood. And the bosses will too.
This also works with characters: “He’s like a cross between Batman and the Pillsbury Dough Boy.”
Places too. “It looks like the Smurf’s Village but smells like Times Square after all the New Year’s Eve parties.”
Like salt, similes add flavor to anything. If your main character has a weapon that’s like the Sword of Omens if it was made of bananas, say so!
Studio execs receive hundreds of pitches each year, so you’ve got to stand out. Like the knocked over toy on their desk, or the animation book on their shelf they’ve actually read. You get the picture.
Most execs are trained to trust their gut instincts and say “no” to 98% of pitches. There is a lot of company money at stake, and individual reputations on the line for those execs that say yes to an idea. A great concept pitched with memorable similes could land you in that 2 percent.
The humbling truth is, you’re there to sell the DNA of your concept–not the execution. Your show idea will be changed at some point along the way. Each executive, writer, director, artist, and actor who touches it, will put his or her fingerprints on your baby.
The network is going to invest millions of dollars into your concept. They’ve technically (and legally) bought the rights from you, so expect changes. But you knew that coming into the room, right? That’s the nature of the industry.
The good news though, is that after you’ve sold one show, you’ll have the experience, reputation, and confidence to sell more ideas now. You’ll be a master, like Mr. Miyagi, or Dumbledore. (Simile alert!)