Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Query Letter Pet Peeves #1

A couple of months down in the trenches reading queries and poking queries and trying to write queries and critiquing queries has left me with a lot of random thoughts about queries. So I thought I'd do a series on them, in no particular order.

Query pet peeve #1: Normal character's motivation given as, "Just wants to be normal."

This only works if your character is not normal to start with, and the thing that's making them not normal is unpleasant. For example, "James just wants to go to prom like all of the normal kids, but he lives in a giant bubble because he has no immune system and dancing with Polly Stevensen could give him a cold that would kill him. But when Pretty Polly asks him to dance, James decides to ditch his bubble and risk death for a normal life."

Alas, every query I've seen where the character is described as "just wants to be normal," does not meet this standard. (Sometimes there is something abnormal about the main character, but it's something awesome, which just leaves me scratching my head. I mean, who wouldn't want to have superpowers? Isn't that the whole reason we read these things, for vicarious wish-fulfillment?) Instead, "Wants to be normal" is usually a hand-wavy way of saying, "Has no particular motivations, doesn't want anything, and is just going along with life," which translates in my head to, "BORING BORING BORING."

Look, even BORING people have real motivations. Maybe they want to get an A on their test so Mom won't yell at them. Maybe they want to find the perfect ice cream cone. Maybe they're trying to avoid their nagging spouse. Or maybe they want to sprout wings and develop telepathy and running off with a super-hot elf prince to become nomadic Mongol warriors, let's not judge, some people have slightly more ambitious dreams than others.

Point is, everyone has dreams, goals, and motivations, so PUT THEM IN YOUR QUERY. And if your character really, truly has no motivations, GO BACK AND REWRITE.

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