Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Query Peeve #6: The Research Montage

The research montage takes many forms, from tracking license plates to reading the contents of the enemy's file cabinet, from Googling folks to "being informed" by all and sundry. The research montage takes the place of your plot, devouring whole paragraphs of a query and pooping them out as images of your protagonist spending 2/3 of the book sitting on their butt, reading Wikipedia.

In case you are still unconvinced, here are some more reasons why the Research Montage should be banned from your query:
1. It tends to be very passive. Characters are often just given the information by other characters, or find it somewhat by happenstance. Some of that is fine for a story, but queries are short, and need to be active.
2. Research is boring. It may be necessary, it may be the mark of hard work and dedication, but it sure ain't interesting, not unless you're researching something fascinating/horrifying, or are going about it in some super-interesting way.
3. Most research is done on your butt. I know, because I do a lot of it. Now, if your character does research by torturing people, or breaking into their offices, or sending out armies of lawn gnomes to abduct their knickers, well, I'm not sure what kind of research would involve people's knickers, but it's probably a lot more interesting than watching me read a book about the Russian Revolution.
4. We generally don't care about the information in the montage, anyway. I mean, look, would you describe Harry Potter by telling us that Harry goes to a magic school where he has to write essays about the history of magic, make potions, and chart horoscopes? Or would you tell us that it's about a Dark Wizard who's trying to take over the world, and the boy who has the power to stop him? We don't read Harry Potter to learn how to care for blast-ended skrewts, but for the epic story of good verses evil and the bit about ordinary kids going to a really cool magic school.
5. Most research montages can be summarized in a single line or left out entirely. "Character learns X," and then move on to the exciting bits.

Happy querying!

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