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jcmoto
01-10-2012, 08:12 PM
Hi all,

Question about verb tense in a query. My novel starts with a phone call, goes back in time, then meets back just after the phone call.

My query does exactly the same thing. I know queries are generally written in present tense. This in mind, my first para is in present, the second in past, and the third in present.

My concern is that an agent might think the second paragraph is backstory when it's not, it's part of the novel. But it definitely doesn't look right in present tense.

I really like my query. The function of starting with the phone call is to introduce conflict from the get-go. If done chronologically, it seems a bit boring, which is why I changed the novel in the first place.

I hope this isn't confusing. I know agents don't like backstory in queries but I'm not sure how else to do it.

Thanks!

quicklime
01-10-2012, 08:20 PM
put it up in QLH, when you hit 50 posts.

Here's my pre-view disclaimer: I don't care in the slightest if your book changes tense, or if it is written in first-person, or has flashbacks. Not for a query. I want to meet your character ten seconds before they realize their shit is fanbound, get a feel for who they are and what they need to do, and what happens if they succeed or fail. By that framework at least, jumping tenses is likely to read, to me, like a gimmick and a fail on the ever-popular "3-questions" sticky in QLH (even if you can't post, you CAN view there; password is "vista"). Worse, it probably isn't going to set this conflict up very well, because you have 200 words or less to do so and it sounds like you're devoting a lot of it to back-story

just my 2 cents,
Quick



Hi all,

Question about verb tense in a query. My novel starts with a phone call, goes back in time, then meets back just after the phone call.

My query does exactly the same thing. I know queries are generally written in present tense. This in mind, my first para is in present, the second in past, and the third in present. I edited and ent back to re-paste your post in my reply because I get to here and the obvious question is "so why do it?" Not saying you cannot, but you also haven't given us a reason for doing it. If going nonstandard is a great asset, by all means do so, but if it isn't, and I'm utterly unconvinced it isn't at this point, then you have to ask yourself what you gain by just doing it anyway. If there's no gain, what about the agent deciding you don't know how to pitch? or you know how, but decided you're above rules? would either be considered an asset if you were the agent?

My concern is that an agent might think the second paragraph is backstory when it's not, it's part of the novel. if it looks like backstory, that only makes me wonder about the question above even more.....you know it "shouldn't" be there and you know it doesn't sell well....so why are you wanting it in there? But it definitely doesn't look right in present tense.

I really like my query. I really like my sense of humor. But if I'm hoping to seduce my wife or make my kids feel better, all that matters at that time is if THEY like my sense of humor. So, you liking your query is immaterial--what matters is if you can make agents like it.The function of starting with the phone call is to introduce conflict from the get-go. If done chronologically, it seems a bit boring, which is why I changed the novel in the first place. this may be, but that makes it sound, to me, like your query starts at the call and moves forward, not back.

I hope this isn't confusing. I know agents don't like backstory in queries but I'm not sure how else to do it. by skipping the backstory......again, I haven't seen it and i would encourage you go get your posts and put it in QLH, but right now the format sounds more like a darling than an attribute, or even a necessity

Thanks!

quicklime
01-10-2012, 08:36 PM
as one more thought, are you sure this is a query and not a synopsis?

for example, depending how my day is written and if I like foreshadowing, scene setting, etc., my day may begin with me getting up to piss, and it taking forever to start and me having to run the water....then i eat my wheaties, drive to work, pee three times before noon in thready trickles, etc.....my QUERY begins at three thirty, when, during a routine physical, the doctor tells me he discovered I have an enlarged prostate, and I am at high familial risk for prostate cancer. the rest may well be part of the story, but my query starts with the cancer, and me having some decisions to make....and m query does not go backward from there to the timid tinkling

Drachen Jager
01-10-2012, 09:35 PM
Present tense period, full stop.

jcmoto
01-10-2012, 09:36 PM
Thanks for the response. I probably put too much info in the original question. Mostly I want to know how to incorporate 'going back in time' in a query. About half of my novel occurs in the present and half in the past.

For example:

A phone call wakes her in the middle of the night. It's her ex...

She met him on the beach...

With the knowledge that he's sick, she goes to him...

Obviously this is way simplified. But does it make more sense? I can't say she gets his phone call, then she meets him. But I want to start with the call to show the conflict and provide a 'hook'. I just don't want the past tense to look like backstory when it's actually the meat of the novel.

Could be I'm way overthinking this. Probably the case.

quicklime
01-10-2012, 09:41 PM
it does make more sense, but then, like my prostate cancer analogy, your story begins with her reluctantly agreeing to visit an ex that hurt her, or whatever......FOR THE QUERY, we don't need to know they met in cabo and screwed like muskrats, or that his pecs were dreamy, or that they had their first real date at a Red Sox game or whatever else......that's all backstory. It may have a place in the novel, but it is a ginormous albatross around your query's neck, pulling it down

jcmoto
01-10-2012, 09:53 PM
Okay, yep, wrapping my head around that now. It makes perfect sense. It's always the most obvious answer that seems to completely evade me. Back to the drawing board.