A lighter, later Considerate Craft for you this Monday, thanks to no internet at work for uploading. Apologies!
Recently I started doing a weekly query hashtag on Twitter during my lunch hour, called #querylunch. I go through my queries while I eat and tweet my responses, hopefully letting everyone get a glimpse into how my agenty mind works.
Part of this is that I represent mostly science fiction and fantasy, so there’s more world-building to do and more room for falling short. Part of this is query advice tends to focus on plot and characters. Which makes sense, because that’s the heart of the story and should be the focus. But the world is the background, and it’s crucial for the bigger picture of the novel.
The key to world-building in the short format of the query is to work it in with your characters and plot, to show how integral it is to your story. Most of the queries I see at least attempt this. The two most common ways they fall short are (1) being too familiar and (2) being incomprehensible.
Here are a couple made up examples:
1) Brandt, a school janitor, is shocked when he finds out his best friend is a werewolf on the run from deadly vampires who seek to harvest his powerful blood on the new moon.
Lost me at werewolves vs. vampires. The rest of the query would really have to show how this story is different to make me want to read more pages.
2) Brandt, a school janitor, is shocked when he finds out his best friend is a Maywaffle on the run from deadly Blardihorns who seek to harvest his powerful blood on the Toofaroon cycle.
Instead, the sentence could read something like this:
Brandt, a school janitor, is shocked when he finds out his best friend is part-mayfly, part waffle and on the run from a deadly species of brunch-goers who seek to harvest his syrupy blood when the three moons of their world align.
Obviously the premise is absurd, but at least we all know what it is.
So when you consider your query world-building, remember:
1) Highlight what makes your world unique.
2) Make sure you describe your world using words familiar in this world.
Now get out there, write hard, build your worlds, and kick some query butt!
And I’m curious, fellow sci-fi/fantasy readers, have you ever started a book and put it down because it kept using weird words for things without explaining them? Any of you stick through it and like it?