Friday, November 15, 2013

Query Peeve #8: Protagonist Does Diddly Squat

You might think this one was obvious, but the main character in a query needs to actually do things. (And please oh please, the character also has to do things in the novel.) And yet, one of the most common mistake I see query-writers make is to focus on everyone and everything but the MC. In an extreme but not to rare case, the MC was the subject of exactly one sentence in the entire query. In another, the query contained no named characters.

Even when the focus is on the MC, they can still be passive. Beware of verbs like "learns," "decides," "thinks," and of course, "researches" (see Peeve #6: The Research Montage). Be also wary of "must." It may sound strong, but it actually tells me that your MC is a puppet.

None of these is terrible, and I certainly wouldn't command you to banish them from your query forever, but I do recommend caution. Your MC may be the subject of these sentences, but they still aren't being active--all of these verbs can be accomplished while sitting on the sofa in your underwear. What we want to see in a query is what your MC does to accomplish their goal, and that means action.

And if the MC doesn't have a goal to accomplish, you've got a problem.

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