Monday, October 3, 2011

Concise, Character-Driven Stories

I know, I know, you think I'm a slacker because I haven't posted anything. And in a way I guess that's true. Work leaves me stressed and tired, and keeping up with everything I enjoy is very difficult. I think I have too many hobbies.

But writing takes up most of my time. Most of the hours I spend on the internet are for precious networking and research. This weekend alone I spent over twelve hours researching queries, synopses, outlines, agencies, and agents. And how many agents did I end up with? Eight. Sure, it's easy to look up agencies. The Writer's Market helps with the basics, but even using that, finding someone who would enjoy my particular style took a lot of time.

I'll make this clear now: I love fantasy--but while I love exploring worlds, that is not the only purpose of a book. To me, a good story must first and foremost be about people. Elves, Drow, Na'vi, whatever you call them, a story needs interesting characters. My favorite book right now, Inkdeath, is centered around diverse but realistic people; Dustfinger in particular is so interesting to follow as he struggles against the roles assigned to them. My favorite video game, Majora's Mask, forces Link to relive the same 3 days over and over again, living in a beautiful but sad place where all the citizens are trying to cope with the prospect of imminent death. Their dreams and nightmares, successes and failures, become his purpose.

Hand in hand with my love of people is my love of concise language. Fantasy is often full of florid descriptions, which sometimes bores me to a stupor. The best way I can think to present my idea is through comparing it to poetry. Using vivid, tight language will get your point across in a much better way. While you could string any words together to make a poem:

I like to read a lot; reading is awesome and fun.
I curl up in a corner, getting ready,
then soak up every little part because my mind is like a sponge for words.
I feel a sort of aching in my chest because I love it so much.
I go to a different place in the story; I am no longer me, but the people of the book.

(Bored? I was... I couldn't continue to write this.)
Carefully choosing your words will strengthen every aspect of your writing.

Out of curiosity I grasp the giant book.
My fingers start to trace
The letters black and smudged. As I begin to look,
I’m in another place.

The words flow with such eloquence, the paragraphs with grace,
And I, in reverence rare,
Wander to a corner, finding my own space,
For this I cannot share.

I have never been so ready, never so engaged.
My body starts to chill.
My mind enraptured, focused, devours every page.
My eyes cannot stay still.

Until into reality I step, I’ll stay right here.
A world of fantasy
Awaits my anxious heart. The story whispering near
Is beckoning to me.

I included these two points in each query letter. I'll be sending those off tomorrow or the next day after I get some feedback on my synopsis. Hopefully there won't be too many major problems with it... I'm off to edit it now. Wish me luck!


PS. The poem at the end is titled "Reading" and was first published by me in 2008. It can also be found here.


  1. I found your blog through inkPageant, and wanted to say good luck with your querying! I don't know if you've heard of, but it's a great sight to help track your queries and even find additional agents you could query.

    Good luck!

  2. Best of luck! You're going about this the right way, I think.

  3. @Shallee: Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely check out that site. :)