I have spent this week sorting what I know about asthma, indoor air, air, houses, and the costs thereof, into different boxes. I have also taken inventory of what I don’t know, and what no one knows, about these subjects.
I’m constructing a work of short, utilitarian literature called a “pitch.” The function of this work of craft (not art) is to convince an editor to hire me to write the story that my pitch epitomizes.
Writing a perfect pitch is difficult. Writing a sloppy pitch is easy. Here’s a first try:
Surprise! Asthma is a lot cheaper to treat with home repair than drugs.
Would you buy that?
What I need to build is a microcosm, a simulacrum, an epitome, of the story I want to tell. The parts of the pitch have to work together like the parts of the story. The shin bone has to connect to the knee bone. The goal is not an outline.
Here’s the Problem, boiled down to one sentence.
Many homes in the U.S., perhaps most, contain air unhealthy for the people breathing it.
Yes, I think that’s it, finally.
Next, the Cause of this Problem.
… since the 1974 energy crisis, making houses airtight to save energy has trapped noxious gases and particulates, released from the myriad of synthetic materials now used to build and furnish homes.
Which is really two Causes, air sealing, and the synthetic substances that are being sealed in, but it’s their combination that causes the Problem.
The next section is traditionally called the So What? I suspect there are other names for it.
Since the 1970s, asthma prevalence has almost doubled. … $56 billion a year …
Many stories stop there. Those are the stories that View With Alarm.
This story can cheerfully continue on to What To Do?
… some asthma sufferers have discovered it’s more effective, and much cheaper, to treat their illness with home ventilation than with drugs.
The same idea, but so much more elegant than the Surprise! Version above.
Now, I’m not sure how to fit the next section of the story into the pitch.
I’m tempted to call it (just between us) the You Can’t Get There From Here section.
Because, while I offer a Solution to the Problem, I must also, in all honesty, be clear that the Obstacles to the Solution ever actually reaching the people who need it are formidable.
Ha, ha! Viewing With Alarm after all!