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Verlin
05-16-2014, 08:42 AM
So for a quirky thriller, which is likelier to keep an agent reading past the first sentence: a content-oriented hook or a fun description using the voice and tone of the first person narrator?
I'm not big on sharing specifics (which is what you probably need to respond in a helpful way) since my peace of mind is important to me and (no matter how baseless it actually is) I worry about people I don't know borrowing my ideas.
Thanks .

Chris P
05-16-2014, 09:18 AM
You can always find an example that worked, no matter what you do, but in general terms it's tricky to do something quirky well. Ever sent what you thought was a fun email only to have the person take it wrong? Yeah, that happens with query letters too. Just read some agent blogs.

The general consensus is that queries should never be in first person (unless it's a memoir) because you, the author and not the character, is proposing a business relationship with the agent. That said, the voice and tone of the book should show through in the query (and that's the tough part).

waylander
05-16-2014, 01:18 PM
Go read Queryshark

alexaherself
05-16-2014, 04:15 PM
a fun description using the voice and tone of the first person narrator?

This is on many agents' lists of pet hates.

For myself, I wouldn't dream of it.

There's always the very rare exception, which catches the right agent on the right day in the right mood and "just works", but overall, I think it's stacking the deck massively against yourself.

As Waylander mentions, you may find this site (http://queryshark.blogspot.com/) very helpful.

GinJones
05-16-2014, 04:43 PM
Quirky can work (although probably not first person; I'm assuming you mean the voice -- word choice, attitude, etc. -- of the narrator, but without using first person), but it's tricky. Humor is incredibly subjective, even more so than everything else in storytelling/reading. It's a huge challenge to be quirky without coming across as trying to hard or just not hitting the mark, and queries are hard enough without the extra challenge. But when it works, it's brilliant.

Ideally, you want a bit of both -- the professional with the quirk. Unless you're an absolute genius, be careful of risking it all on the quirk.

Verlin
05-16-2014, 05:11 PM
Thanks, all. Yes, I wasn't clear; I didn't mean first person voice. But it does seem like a foolish, attention-seeking risk to start with over-the-top humor, now that I read y'all's feedback.

kenpochick
05-16-2014, 05:51 PM
I think it is important to get the voice present in the Query letter though. If your ms has a quirky voice then display that in the query. If it doesn't, then don't. Definitely read everything over at Query Shark. She's fantastic!

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Fizgig
05-16-2014, 06:00 PM
I actually think this might be the most difficult aspect of query writing -- capturing the voice of the book while also being professional and clear. Just to third or fourth what everyone has said, gimmicks are on almost every agents absolute no no list.

Peruse agent's blogs, read queryshark, etc, and you'll see that, 99.9% of the time, gimmicks fail spectacularly. Good luck!

Toothpaste
05-16-2014, 06:33 PM
If voice is a big part of your book, you need to make sure it comes across. Especially because you don't want to confuse an agent who asks for a full on what she thinks is a dark thriller and it turns out to be wacky and irreverent. You want to sell everything about your book, including the more amorphous tone of it. I think you should write the query in the voice of the book (just not necessarily first person).

This is the descriptive paragraph part of my query I used for my whimsical middle grade novel. You'll note, for example, the tons of questions at the end which so many say is a no for queries. But I broke the rule with the idea to do a kind of "Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel" kind of effect, I knew I was being silly. I also wanted to get as many character names across in the query because the character names spoke directly to the tone of the book and my particular wit. But notice too it isn't over the top, I'm still getting facts across and not trying too hard:


"Grounded in a world not too unlike our own, this novel takes place is a universe where pirates rule the high seas, Extremely Ginormus Octopi quote Shakespeare, and art-deco party trains hold deep dark secrets. This is a world in which Alex Morningside, our heroine and also a very nice kid of ten and a half, finds herself on a quest, not only to find the Infamous Wigpowder’s treasure, but her kidnapped year six teacher Mr. Underwood. On the way she will face tasks she never thought she was strong enough to endure and overcome them with grace and ingenuity. But she must use her judgment carefully. Can she, for example, trust Lord Poppinjay or Coriander the Conjuror? Will Captain Magnanimous live up to his name or is it a clever misnomer? Will she ever elude the Daughters of the Founding Fathers’ Preservation Society? And what, oh what will she do when she finally comes face to face with Pirate Captain Steele the Inevitable, captain of the most deadly pirate ship this side of the equator (whatever side this is) – The Ironic Gentleman?"

Chris P
05-16-2014, 06:38 PM
Thanks, all. Yes, I wasn't clear; I didn't mean first person voice. But it does seem like a foolish, attention-seeking risk to start with over-the-top humor, now that I read y'all's feedback.

When you get 50 posts, put in up in Query Letter Hell (QLH). Be warned, though, that we're a tough lot. Real tough. :)

Verlin
05-16-2014, 08:07 PM
It's the original poster again. The reason I ask about this is that I've been using a fairly straight query that describes the quirkiness without demonstrating it. My percentage of hits seems a lot lower than what other queriers are reporting. On the other hand, I sent out so many that I still have a bunch of agents reading. While I'm waiting, this is the sort of thing I ponder.

msza45
05-16-2014, 08:54 PM
It's definitely worth putting it up on QLH. Without feedback, you can't even be sure that the problem you're thinking of is the actual reason you aren't getting agent responses.

I understand your hesitation to post details about your intellectual property, but consider that even if someone were to try to steal your idea (which seems unlikely...this crowd isn't short on ideas), they'd still be no further along in the query process than you are (I highly, highly doubt established authors are fishing around here for fresh ideas). And wouldn't you bet on yourself to make your own idea work the best?

Jamesaritchie
05-16-2014, 10:17 PM
Done well, using the voice of the first person narrator as the first sentence works extremely well. There is no such thing a sa pet peeve list for things that are done well. It's like "Never start a novel with dialogue, or with the weather, etc."

Writers are warned against this because most do it poorly. But a writer who does either of these things well enough is going to impress the hell out of an agent or editor.

Probably the best query I've ever seen, one that was originally posted on AW by an agent, if I remember correctly, started like this: It was another perfect day, Another goddamned perfect day.

That one sentence hooked the agent.

Now, the problem with looking for something that worked and doing the same is that by the time you find that query so have a million other writers, and whatever worked in it is now old hat, and boring as dishwater. You have to put your own touch on it.

I believe a great query does two things. 1. It shows originality. It's not like all the other queries that pour in day after day after day. When every query is basically like every other query, they all blur together, so how do you choose one over the other? 2. It doesn't tell and agent or editor how well you write, or how good your novel is, it shows them how well you can write, and shows them how good your novel is. It does this by containing great, original writing.

My trouble with query forums is that they tend to go by a set formula of what worked at some point, and they make every query sound like every other query. I firmly believe this is why writers have to query a hundred or more agents or editors, and often never get a bite.

So open with a first person voice? Absolutely, if the sentence is really good, truly original, and makes an agent or editor want to read more. But this is always the trick. It isn't what you do, it's how well you do it. It's easy to tell and agent or editor that you're a great writer, but actually showing them is what separates the acceptances from the rejections. Being good is tough, and being original is tougher still.

Of course, if you can't show them how good and how original you are, maybe you still have work to do.

tomz563
05-17-2014, 05:45 PM
I've seen a few comments suggesting against using first person narration in a query. I realize this is regarding a thriller, but for memoir am I correct in thinking that it is important to right in first person?

quicklime
05-19-2014, 05:17 PM
It's the original poster again. The reason I ask about this is that I've been using a fairly straight query that describes the quirkiness without demonstrating it. My percentage of hits seems a lot lower than what other queriers are reporting. On the other hand, I sent out so many that I still have a bunch of agents reading. While I'm waiting, this is the sort of thing I ponder.


a couple thoughts:

1. the part in old is weak. And common as a sort of rookie mistake. "Hard-nosed Cynthia Stubbs won't let nefarious Will Davis get in her way".....well, it's weak. We don't know what hard-nosed means in here, and it is a trite phrase. Nefarious is worse still. Voice shows character; "Cynthia has had men think they were a step ahead of her before, but most of them are in jail now, and a few are boxed and buried." is far from great, but shows us what hard-nosed is in her case, or at least more than the generic placeholder "hard-nosed." Same with Quirky. Ally McBeal had a whole cast of quirky characters. So does Modern Family, so do lots of movies and series.....but most of them are quirky in their own unique ways: na´ve causehound, sexual compulsive, self-doubting nerd, etc.....

2. If you're querying now, every query you send is an agent potentially lost. I'd stop sending until you can really work on this instead of just bleeding your pile of agents dry.

3. You will have to get over your idea fear (which is really, really a nonissue) to do it, but I'd submit in QLH. And then critique and participate in your thread AND OTHERS. A lot of people came out of there with agents. but you'll have to cozy up to telling us what the story is about.

MandyHubbard
05-19-2014, 11:26 PM
I'll be honest--the queries that try hard to be clever often just come across as a turn off.

You can ABSOLUTELY capture some voice and personality. For instance, I'm pitching a women's fic right now and one line in the query was, "but [x crappy job] just isn't bringing home the turkey bacon." That one little detail (turkey) emphasized what I was learning about the character.

Just don't go over the top.

Verlin
05-20-2014, 01:41 AM
Hi all. First poster here. I tried my goofier query out on 8 or ten low odds types -- just to see what would happen. One of them -- who heads up a large agency -- passed it on to a colleague who wants to see a full ms. If I remember correctly (I don't have my notes with me at work), this guy passed on my original query.
Thanks for the help here around this, and on the website in general. Both versions of my letter were informed by what I read on various threads.
If you're curious (without braving query hell, for which I don't have enough posts anyway), here's the first paragraph of the new one:

Nominally a psycho-spiritual thriller, Recruiting Buddha 2.0 could've been written by Christopher Moore, Jonathan Carroll, and Donald Westlake if they were squished together in a car crusher and then reassembled into a
single, gooey entity with miraculously intact fingers that could still type. Oh, and maybe they'd need to be on acid, too. I'm not sure.

MandyHubbard
05-20-2014, 02:00 AM
Hi all. First poster here. I tried my goofier query out on 8 or ten low odds types -- just to see what would happen. One of them -- who heads up a large agency -- passed it on to a colleague who wants to see a full ms. If I remember correctly (I don't have my notes with me at work), this guy passed on my original query.
Thanks for the help here around this, and on the website in general. Both versions of my letter were informed by what I read on various threads.
If you're curious (without braving query hell, for which I don't have enough posts anyway), here's the first paragraph of the new one:

Nominally a psycho-spiritual thriller, Recruiting Buddha 2.0 could've been written by Christopher Moore, Jonathan Carroll, and Donald Westlake if they were squished together in a car crusher and then reassembled into a
single, gooey entity with miraculously intact fingers that could still type. Oh, and maybe they'd need to be on acid, too. I'm not sure.

I actually find that to be a fantastic opening. It's got a lot of voice but it also tells us what kind of book this is. I wouldn't hesitate to run with it.

When you said "quirky" I think of folks trying to completely revinvent the query. or people starting, "You. Yea you--the literary agent sitting at her desk, zoning out as she flips through horrible query after horribley query. This one is the one you want." etc, etc.

like-- just trying too hard.

Verlin
05-20-2014, 02:02 AM
Thanks, Mandy.