Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Q & A 151

Do I have to tell the truth in my query? I mean about the plot.

Yes, but you don't have to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If one sentence of truth is going to necessitate three paragraphs of explanation, better to tell a half-truth. For instance, say your hook is:

Ellen's ex-con boyfriend has tried to kill her six times in the past two weeks, but now she's considering accepting his marriage proposal.

You might want to avoid explaining all the extenuating circumstances that make this a reasonable decision by softening the hook to:

Her hunky guy isn't exactly a model citizen, but Ellen's always been attracted to the roguish type. Can she finally tame this bad boy?

If your query states that the hero and heroine of your romance novel live happily ever after, and the editor reads your manuscript only to discover that the hero ditches the heroine on the eve of their wedding and marries her despicable rival, you won't be getting any future manuscript requests.

If your thirty-year-old main character does something so stupid that even a five-year-old would know better, you have two choices in your query:

1. Don't mention it at all.

2. Declare that your main character is four years old.

I recommend #1. A lie of omission is better than a bare-faced lie that will be exposed on page 1.


writtenwyrdd said...

I can understand that people might not get this point, but still it seems pretty obvious that you fudge a bit to make it sound interesting. Or am I that inherently dishonest? ;)

Julie Weathers said...

I've had several people make suggestions on my query letter that was misleading as to the story. It sounded better, but it isn't what happens.

I think the answer is to either change the story if you can't write an interesting query on it or work on the query. Misleading someone seems like a really bad idea.

fairyhedgehog said...

I didn't know you fudged. I'm still hung up on not making it into a synopsis.

Whirlochre said...

Any query is a precis of a fiction, so plainly it's not truth.

The stickler is getting it to ring like the truth, to be believable.

That's what I'm here for, at least.

Kiersten said...

Are there other things we can/should lie about? I'd like to be taller; can I list myself as 5'9" in the bio?

Anonymous said...

I think EE's example is good. If your query lives up or exceeds the lie of convenience, no problem.

On the other hand, don't lie to your diary. That can get you impeached.

Bill H.

talpianna said...

"This book, if accepted, will be the first published under my own name. I have also written as Dan Brown, Agatha Christie, Danielle Steel, and Ethel M. Dell."

talpianna said...

Incidentally, your Justice has a bare boob showing. I'm reporting you to the Attorney General.

Robin S. said...

I was wondering if anyone was gonna notice that statue-fied boob and say something about it.

What a hoot.

writtenwyrdd said...

Well, I look at writing my query like writing ad copy. It's all in the spin, which isn't the truth. It's like, um, truth on acid with a chaser of scotch. Or something like.

Anonymous said...

Ick. That should have been: If your *story* lives up to or exceeds the lie of convenience, no problem.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and that Justice? She's just getting stuff off her chest... You people, don't you know nuthin?