More on queries

Ok, so my query bombed.  Maahh-Mahaaaa!!  Thankfully, a writer on Mike’s Writing Workshop Yahoo group tore my query apart and showed me the query was very vague, so no wonder the agent rejected it.  Then when I tried to tell the others the plot, I kept running from one plot branch into another.  The story clearly is character-driven, which means the character keeps changing the plot as she/he makes decisions to reach her goal based on circumstances.  So the plot changes and rolls like a river.  It’s not a staight line, go to point A to B.  No, instead it’s go to point A, B, C, D, E, . . . .Z, AA, BB, ect.  You get the idea.  To try to tell the plot is like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube.  ARG!!!!

So I went on a search: How to write a character driven query.  I found thousands of other writers who had the same problem that I did; a plot that twisted and turned, yet seemed boring without the character and her internal struggles.  Then on a board, I encountered a person who examined his own problem and said, maybe instead of telling the plot, he should explain the character’s GOAL!! GOAL!!! AHHHH!!! And the angels sing as light explodes on my laptop. 

 The character driven story isn’t about choices, but one GOAL!!  She makes a million choices that lead to one Goal!!  So I went back to my formula:  Goal + Angagonist= query letter.  I refered to my notes from Patricia Hickman’s class and on page one, she said:  What is the character’s driving force? What does the character long for, a desire that may or may not be realized or confessed? In other words, what is her goal?  What does she want from life, a goal, desire, not what are her choices in life.  Big difference. 

So what’s the difference between character driven and plot driven? This might help:  http://www.localschooldirectory.com/lesson-plans/id/24

Character-driven – The story focuses on the characters. The main character experiences a certain trial and deals with that trial throughout the story. The main character changes by the end of the story.

(Think of Oprah novels. The character runs into one trouble after another until she realizes, hey I can change this!!   The character has unrealized desire: THE BOOK OF RUTH, by JANE HAMILTON.  “Author Jane Hamilton leads us through the arid life of Ruth Grey, who extracts what small pleasures and graces she can from a tiny Illinois town and the broken people who inhabit it. Ruth’s prime tormentor is her mother May, whose husband died in World War II and took her future with him. More poor familial luck has given Ruth a brother who is a math prodigy; Matt sucks up any stray attention like a black hole. Ruth is left to survive on her own resources, which are meager. She struggles along, subsisting on crumbs of affection meted out by her Aunt Sid and, later, her screwed-up husband Ruby. Hamilton has perfect pitch. So perfect that you wince with pain for confused but fundamentally good Ruth as she walks a dead-end path. The book ends with the prospect of redemption, thank goodness–but the tale is nevertheless much more bitter than sweet.” http://www.amazon.com/Book-Ruth-Oprahs-Club/dp/0385265700)
Plot-driven – The story focuses on the plot. The plot is what moves the story. The characters don’t change in plot-driven stories. 

(Think of Tom Clancy’s novels or spy novels.  No one gets a revelation on how to change his life, he just saves the day.  here’s a blurb for the book HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER: Somewhere under the Atlantic, a Soviet sub commander has just made a fateful decision: the Red October is heading west. The Americans want her. The Russians want her back. And the most incredible chase in history is on….  http://www.veryfinebooks.com/Tom_Clancy_Hunt_for_Red_October_First_Edition_p/fe150.htm

Big difference, huh?  One is based on Ruth’s goals, to be loved; the other a captain wants freedom. It seems like both have a goal:  to be loved; to be free.  But Ruth doesn’t have a choice.  If she’s not loved, she’ll die.   The other guy wants freedom.  He has a choice to make, go left or right.

So back to the query letter:  What is the protagonist’s goal, desire for her life?  Fulfillment? Love? Acceptance? Self-respect? What is her desire?  Who is trying to stop her from that desire?  Who is the antagonist?  Why is the antagonist trying to stop her from reaching that goal? How does the antagonist try to stop her?  What will happen to Prog’s  goal if the antagonist wins?  

These are questions I asked myself.  Here’s my query letter.  A writer over at Mikes Writing Workshop helped me make it pretty:

Seventeen-year-old Prince Conell de Caprise of Ezasu carries the weight of his parents’ death on his shoulders. Because of a childish mistake, the king and queen died when the enemy raided the castle.  Now he and his two friends sit in a prison cell, betrayed by Jezebel his once guardian who stole his throne and accused him of murder.  His goal is to escape and take his companions to the Southern lands, away from harms way, a kind of redemption.  On the day they are to escape, Imogene Katherine Beazley, a frightened sixteen year old girl from a strange alternate dimension called Peoria , Illinois is tossed into his cell.  She speaks of doctors, community service and has never heard of Queen Jezebel.  Conell believes she’s crazy but takes her with them, if only to keep her from alerting the guards.  But he soon discovers that Argus, a self-proclaimed ‘angel’ is hunting for the girl.  His instincts tell him something is wrong with this so called angel.

 Imogene finds a strange medallion and once she grabs it, it pulls her into Ezasu where she lands in a prison cell with Prince Conell and his two friends, then convinces them to take her along.   She discovers the Gods of the land have called her to be their seer, but she wants to go home.  Argus, the handsome ‘angel’, insists he can help her return to Illinois, but his cold eyes make her skin crawl.

 Argus is no angel, but the devil once imprisoned by the Gods of the land. He discovers that by enslaving Imogene and through her wielding the medallion, he could destroy the the Gods and rule Ezasu forever.

 The PRINCE’S SECRET is a character driven YA fantasy and is completed at 59,000 words.  Thank you for your consideration. 

  On the other hand, I could be completely wrong and I’ll end up deleting this post and eating a gallon of ice cream.  We’ll see if another rejection comes my way.

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