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thedark
01-01-2014, 07:04 PM
Hiya!

So, I know the query letter rules. I know the bio section is meant for publishing credits, of which I have none. But I've also seen conflicted information on the addition of a personalized snippet that is relevant to the topic, and interesting to the agent.

My novel is about a captive vigilante and Stockholm Syndrome (and not a romance). This is what I would like to say in my bio paragraph, right before the thank you for your time and consideration line.

THE DARK is a 90,000 word Psychological Thriller. My personal experience in captivity enhances the sincerity of Kay’s dilemma.

What are your thoughts on including or not including the second sentence? I feel strongly that my personal experience adds value to the work itself, and provides insight into my background (I did not experience loyalty to my captors - quite the fiery opposite). But not too much, since that isn't the point here. But if I'm off-base with this, or it's best to just stick with facts and leave it be, please tell me. Honesty is always preferred.

Thank you.

Debbie V
01-01-2014, 08:03 PM
Your personal experience with the topic of the story is completely relevant. Many people write psychological thrillers based on genre expectations and imagination. You are adding a compelling real life element to the work you've produced. It might even be prudent for you to spell out a little of the differences between your experience and Kay's so the agent will understand the relationship between fact and fiction.

If you ever speak publicly about your experiences, include that as well. It would be a marketing platform.

slhuang
01-01-2014, 08:35 PM
I am not an agent and have no direct knowledge, so take with lots of salt, but just from what I've seen around Query Letter Hell . . .

Your experience sounds directly relevant. However, I wouldn't write, "enhances the sincerity of Kay’s dilemma" -- then you're telling people what to think of the story, which tends not to come off well in QLs. Instead, I'd recommend phrasing it as a simple statement about your experience, and being as specific as you feel comfortable with (obviously this might be something very personal you don't want to share a lot about, but if you're okay with it). Something like:

"In 2003 I spent twenty-six hours being held at gunpoint by Somali pirates after the cruise ship I was on was attacked. Kay's story draws directly from those experiences."

Once you have 50 posts, I suggest running your QL through Query Letter Hell. The squirrels there will tell you how your bio paragraph is coming off in relation to the rest of the query. :) I've seen bio paragraphs so excellent and relevant (and not necessarily about publishing credits) that some critters were suggesting the writer lead with them.

And :welcome: to AW!

thedark
01-01-2014, 08:48 PM
Your personal experience with the topic of the story is completely relevant. Many people write psychological thrillers based on genre expectations and imagination. You are adding a compelling real life element to the work you've produced. It might even be prudent for you to spell out a little of the differences between your experience and Kay's so the agent will understand the relationship between fact and fiction.

If you ever speak publicly about your experiences, include that as well. It would be a marketing platform.

Hi Debbie - thank you. I'll spend some time pondering how it might be possible to illustrate my experiences in relation to Kay's. She experienced an entirely different scenario.. But it's the little things that I incorporated from my own experiences.. The lack of sunlight.. The safety of being on their good side.. It's hard to delve into, even in my mind. I think that's why writing a fictional tale was so easy and so compelling.

I haven't spoken publicly about my personal experience. Very few know the extent of what happened. But those that do always suggest I should. I speak publicly on other matters on occasion. But there are other girls in situations similar to what I experienced that could be hurt if I spoke out.. I've always wrestled with what the right thing to do about that is. The older I get and the more distance there is, the more I'm starting to want to speak out. For those girls - so they know there's hope. That's why I started writing this story, I think.

Sorry, this was a bit divergent. But very helpful.

Thank you again.

Barbara R.
01-01-2014, 08:57 PM
You know, you can't just post a teaser than that for a bunch of writers and then not elaborate. Well, you can, of course; it's your story. But geez...

Absolutely you should include this information in a query letter. Agents are human, too, and therefore capable of curiosity. I'd actually suggest that instead of "My personal experience in captivity enhances the sincerity of Kay’s dilemma," you say a bit more about what happened to you and how the experience fed the fiction.

Curiosity aside, one thing agents look for is something to distinguish the writer from the crowd, and a compelling personal story is just such a hook. But you have to be willing to talk about it, and that's your call.

thedark
01-01-2014, 08:59 PM
I am not an agent and have no direct knowledge, so take with lots of salt, but just from what I've seen around Query Letter Hell . . .

Your experience sounds directly relevant. However, I wouldn't write, "enhances the sincerity of Kay’s dilemma" -- then you're telling people what to think of the story, which tends not to come off well in QLs. Instead, I'd recommend phrasing it as a simple statement about your experience, and being as specific as you feel comfortable with (obviously this might be something very personal you don't want to share a lot about, but if you're okay with it). Something like:

"In 2003 I spent twenty-six hours being held at gunpoint by Somali pirates after the cruise ship I was on was attacked. Kay's story draws directly from those experiences."

Once you have 50 posts, I suggest running your QL through Query Letter Hell. The squirrels there will tell you how your bio paragraph is coming off in relation to the rest of the query. :) I've seen bio paragraphs so excellent and relevant (and not necessarily about publishing credits) that some critters were suggesting the writer lead with them.

And :welcome: to AW!

Thank you so much! This is excellent feedback.

I'm going to have to ponder awhile how to make a simple statement like that. The Somali pirates sound very interesting, teehee. I see the effect the sentence has, and hope I can do the same.

Dare I say that I'm looking forward to query letter hell? I've done my research, made it through letter draft six, and axed that one too. If it doesn't pass my muster, it won't pass the squirrels'. It's much better than draft one though - progress is being made!

Actually, the QL writing process helped me pinpoint some things in the novel itself that need addressing, so I'm taking a step back to do some rewriting before I approach QLs again. It's hard, but rewarding, to try and describe your novel in a few small compelling paragraphs.

This particular line about my person experience was bugging me though, and I am very grateful for your feedback.

Thank you both.

slhuang
01-01-2014, 09:18 PM
Dare I say that I'm looking forward to query letter hell?

Yuss, definitely look forward to it! We're very nice. *sharpens teeth* :evil



Actually, the QL writing process helped me pinpoint some things in the novel itself that need addressing, so I'm taking a step back to do some rewriting before I approach QLs again. It's hard, but rewarding, to try and describe your novel in a few small compelling paragraphs.Ha, we talk about that in QLH all the time! Sometimes seasoned squirrels come in to vet a query before even writing the book. You'll fit right in, thedark. :D If you like, come on over and start critting queries to get up to your fifty posts -- it's fun and it's also one of the best ways to hone in on things that will further improve your own query.



Thank you both.You're quite welcome! And I'm really looking forward to eating seeing your QL! :D

thedark
01-01-2014, 09:37 PM
You know, you can't just post a teaser than that for a bunch of writers and then not elaborate. Well, you can, of course; it's your story. But geez...

Absolutely you should include this information in a query letter. Agents are human, too, and therefore capable of curiosity. I'd actually suggest that instead of "My personal experience in captivity enhances the sincerity of Kay’s dilemma," you say a bit more about what happened to you and how the experience fed the fiction.

Curiosity aside, one thing agents look for is something to distinguish the writer from the crowd, and a compelling personal story is just such a hook. But you have to be willing to talk about it, and that's your call.

Hi Barbara,

You know... It wasn't until I started writing the query letter in December and wondered if I should put that first line in that I really realized that what happened in my teen years was captivity. I thought long and hard about what that word means and whether it describes my situation or not.. For Kay, my character, it is clearly a case of being captured by the bad guys. For me.. Well, it took me a little bit to realize that absolutely yes, that was captivity in its truest sense, and made even the worse so that over ten years later, I still wasn't sure if I could call it that. That confusion and that messing with your mind are what I illustrate in The Dark, and this thread today is reminding me in an ironic (but not bad) way that I'm still experiencing the same thing. Weird. But perhaps exactly what I'll try to get across in a query letter.

I realize I still haven't said anything specific, and with a grin, I promise that my novel's query letter is much more specific than I've yet been on my personal experience. It's just been awhile since I've tried to describe it, and I've never tried to pen it down in this new frame of mind - that it was indeed captivity. Let me try here.

For four years I was trapped inside a house. Contact with the outside was forbidden, and I wasn't allowed past the threshold of the door without a male escort. There was no TV. Books were banned. I had a secret radio, and when I was caught listening to it at midnight, trying to drown out the screams coming from another bedroom, I paid a heavy price. I spent the next two weeks sleeping on the floor by the watchful eyes of one of them, all privileges revoked, including communication - no one spoke to me, nor I to them, and when you only know four other people in the world, it was a silent time indeed.

I was traded away at 14, in an "arranged marriage" to a man ten years my senior. I consented, for it couldn't be worse than my current life. I was wrong - it was worse. I fought to be returned, and I was. And the price of being sent back... Let's just say I stepped up my escape plans.

I got away at 16, and started college 3 days later. It was a challenging adjustment - jumping straight into "normal" life with no support network or experience, but damn if it didn't give me insurmountable confidence in myself. I escaped on my own, and they never broke me or my need for freedom.

There are many little stories over that 4 year period, of course, and I've spent years wondering if I could indeed ever write it out. I wrote The Dark first, and now I know I can write, and that it comes easily.

Except query letters, which are like brushing out the matted hair of an uncooperative woods child.

The difference between my story and Kay's, besides the more obvious nature of bad guys vs good guys, is that her story isn't about defiance. It's about submission for your own safety, for the lives of others, and what happens to a girl when a sadastic interrogator tries to stamp out her fire, spark by spark. And what happens when she finds her flame again. (Yes, I have a much better real synopsis!)

Thanks - and I'll work on how to correlate my experience with Kay's.

thedark
01-01-2014, 09:50 PM
Yuss, definitely look forward to it! We're very nice. *sharpens teeth* :evil

Ha, we talk about that in QLH all the time! Sometimes seasoned squirrels come in to vet a query before even writing the book. You'll fit right in, thedark. :D If you like, come on over and start critting queries to get up to your fifty posts -- it's fun and it's also one of the best ways to hone in on things that will further improve your own query.

You're quite welcome! And I'm really looking forward to eating seeing your QL! :D

I love squirrels. Though the ones here often remind me of bunnies. You know, like the one from Xena or Monty Python...

I've been reading QLH for a month, plus all the QueryShark archives.. Plus Miss Snark... That's why I'm looking forward to QLH. I'm hitting the point where I can't see the flaws in my own - else they don't make it past my review first. But first, novel edits - to better answer the question What makes my novel different than others of its kind. Others are either romance or erotica. This is about Stockholm Syndrome, without being a romance or erotica. I'm not sure that's clear enough, early enough. It wasn't to me in the first draft.

And yes.. It's very easy to nibble away on other's queries, but not so easy to write one that'll pass muster with others. :)

Barbara R.
01-01-2014, 10:23 PM
Wow. Someday you'll have to write your own story. For now it sounds like it will feed some terrific fiction.

thedark
01-02-2014, 04:20 AM
This will be part of QLH soon enough, but I just wanted to share where I've gone with that paragraph as the result of your feedback today.

THE DARK is a 90,000 word Psychological Thriller. As a teenager, I was imprisoned for four years in an abandoned rural restaurant. At midnight, as the screams from the next room grew, I listened to a hidden radio and created Kay’s story and those of her vigilante sisters. My guards never broke me, and I escaped into daylight at sixteen. THE DARK draws from my experience.

Tromboli
01-04-2014, 04:01 AM
I'd buy it just based on that paragraph. Honestly.

Speaking of which, if you're looking for a Beta reader I'd love to read it. I wrote something similar-ish but a bit lighter in tone. (16 year old prostitute who gets out of the city and is sent back home to be "normal" again. She was never really captive but abused though she wouldnt call it that herself. ) Anyway, just an offer. Either way this sounds fantastic, good luck with it!

thedark
01-04-2014, 08:40 AM
Tromboli, thank you. A tickle of happiness courses through me when a reader finds something compelling in my writing - especially in query letter text, which which I struggle.

I would dearly appreciate and value you as a beta reader. I'm mid-draft edit right now, but in about a week I'll have a more polished copy to share. I'll send you a PM with my email address.

Thank you again.

alexaherself
01-04-2014, 04:21 PM
My guess, reading this thread, is that many of us are (a) rooting for you, and (b) looking forward to reading it. :)


THE DARK is a 90,000 word Psychological Thriller. My personal experience in captivity enhances the sincerity of Kay’s dilemma.

What are your thoughts on including or not including the second sentence?

Personally, I'd include (and perhaps expand) it. I'm not convinced that "sincerity" is exactly the right word, though. (Maybe "reality"?).

I also think Query Letter Hell's a very good idea.

Barbara R.
01-04-2014, 04:31 PM
You certainly have a compelling story, and I think your query letter will garner you some serious reads. Good luck!

Debbie V
01-06-2014, 07:52 PM
This will be part of QLH soon enough, but I just wanted to share where I've gone with that paragraph as the result of your feedback today.

THE DARK is a 90,000 word Psychological Thriller. As a teenager, I was imprisoned for four years in an abandoned rural restaurant. At midnight, as the screams from the next room grew, I listened to a hidden radio and created Kay’s story and those of her vigilante sisters. My Muslim guard never broke me, and I escaped into daylight at sixteen. THE DARK draws from my experience.

I actually think this paragraph confounds your reality and your fiction. The first sentence doesn't fit in the paragraph with the rest. It has a different main idea. The rest is a succinct take on the longer version you gave in another post.

Others have spoken about similar topics to your real experiences - trafficking in girls, arranged marriages. I've seen a few from Amnesty International. You may be able to find a support system for speaking out now if you decide you are ready to do so.

Good luck with your revisions and query.