STATUS: Super busy. It’s 8 p.m. and I’m thinking I can’t skip blogging today. I’ve never missed!
What song is playing on the iPod right now? HERE COMES MY GIRL by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Back by popular demand (or I didn’t title my blog posts well and previous rants are difficult to find).
I mentioned yesterday that I gave a presentation on the top ten things I’d rather not see in the opening chapters of your SF, Fantasy, and paranormal romance (because that sort of fits and I needed 10 things to make a nice round number).
Notice I gave this rant a handy title.
Here’s my ten list and they aren’t any particular order. Most of these will be quite familiar to my regular blog readers.
1. Characters inexplicably getting sucked into a portal for no apparent reason
This is mostly a YA fantasy device and yes, I realize there is long tradition of portals into other worlds in young adult fiction (Chronicles of Narnia and all that).
All I’m saying is that portal needs to be really necessary and not just an excuse to transport characters into another world so you can now finally tell your story
2. A person gathering herbs in the forest
Honestly, it can’t happen as frequent as I seem to see it in opening chapters.
3. A battle scene.
Goodness, let me get attached to some characters before you start whacking them. Seriously, there’s no connection to the world, characters, etc. Without it, it’s impossible for me to know who to care about.
4. A prologue.
I’ve been doing this for four years (granted—not a long time) but I have yet to see a well-done prologue in sample pages I’ve received. Even if you have one, for goodness sake, don’t send it as part of your sample. If I offer representation because I love your work, then you can spring it on me.
5. A distant third person narrative to start (ie. The boy, the old man, the healer)
Once again, hard to feel connection to a story that’s about to unfold when this is used.
6. Clumsy incorporating of back story in your dialogue (see handy example)
Character 1: I must find the elusive stone of magic (of death, of life, insert appropriate fantasy element here).
Character 2: Yes, my Queen, it is imperative we find it but you also need to remember to collect the six other crystals/stones/talismans for without it, you will not have the power of the XYZ and will be unable to rule your domain.
Ah, if she’s the Queen, wouldn’t she know all this? This dialogue is obviously for the reader’s benefit and not because it’s necessary to the story unfolding.
7. Launching your narrative via a dream sequence
I see this a lot in paranormal romance (but it can still apply to SF & F). It’s a cheap trick. Reader gets invested and then the character “wakes up.” Ugh. It’s such a let down.
8. Heroine waking up alone with a man in her room
This seems to be another popular theme in paranormal romance. This is not sexy. Any woman with a lick of sense would be terrified if this really happened. Hard to move the story forward from there.
9. Tired SF or Fantasy staples: i.e.: quest for a magical artifact, typical characters (dwarf, elf, the warrioress who doesn’t know she has magical powers), a modern woman who is really the savior on an alternate world.
10. Starting your cover letter for your sample pages with: this is a 250,000 word manuscript…
Guaranteed to send me running while screaming.
Now remember, this is just one agent’s opinion.