Monday, January 25, 2016

Not The Way Vague Is

According to Joseph Campbell and myth criticism, the same stories are being told over and over again. To a point, that’s true. Tropes are repeated all the time.

Person meets person. (Boy/girl girl/girl boy/boy or any combination you so choose, it’s still the same basic trope of that first meeting.)
Coming of age.
The one.
Second chances
Person on a journey
Rags to riches
And the list goes on.

If I say there’s an awesome story about this guy who was prophesized to kill his father, would you know what story I’m talking about, or would several come to mind? Maybe I’m talking Oedipus Rex. Maybe I’m talking Star Wars. Who knows? It’s too vague to be certain. Oedipus Rex and Star Wars are two completely different stories, but without the details, both can be described by that first vague line.

This is the same thing I see in queries all the time. People are vague. That vagueness describes two hundred other stories written with the same basic trope. You think you’re talking about your story, but really you’re talking about many, because I have no idea the details of yours and what makes it different.

Oedipus had no idea it was his father he killed at the time. Had no idea he married his mother. Luke knew Vader was his father, but had no idea that Leah was his sister when she kissed him. Similarities, but differences enough to make it known that it’s not the same read at all.

Without the details, your book is lumped into a trope. Be specific.

How do you know if you’re being too vague? There are some pretty good key words.

Things like that. Also no asking questions. This is your story. You tell me. Questions are vague and honestly, in my opinion, a little annoying. As far as I can tell most agents don’t like them much either.

Will she have the strength to face her inner demons and let herself love?

I dunno, but this doesn’t tell me anything about what makes your story different.

What must she do to face her inner demons? Tell me. Tell me what will happen if she fails. What’s the consequence of it all?

The details give the little nuances that are different from the basic trope. Sure, it’s a story about a son having to kill his father for some reason, but Luke is definitely not Oedipus.

Agents don’t want to rep the same story they just came across last week or last year. They want something new. The more details you give, the more they can see just how unique your story is, and it ups your chances of getting a request. If the son is destined to kill the father, that’s great, but tell me what makes yours different than the 8,000 other novels with the same trope.

What is going to make me LOVE your novel? 

The query is the agent’s first impression of your novel. Give it enough detail to make a good impression.

 As Query You Write, Force Be With You It Will

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