In fourth and fifth grade, when we want to add on to something someone else has already said, we begin with sentence starters like, “I’d like to piggyback off what so-and-so said,” or “I concur with so-and-so because…” In the same spirit of properly acknowledging other people’s thoughts, today I would like to piggyback off what Descent Into Slushland shared recently about the importance of knowing your characters when writing your query.
Basically, he suggests that writing a good query hinges on knowing your characters instead of attempting to outline the plot. He has some great points and examples, so instead of trying to recapture his ideas, I recommend clicking the link above and reading his post yourself. Interestingly, his points inspired me to make a list of the characteristics of my two main characters, Kristen and Jake. We all think we know our characters, but sometimes we need check-ins to keep ourselves honest, or at least I do.
What I discovered was actually amazing. I found a small hole in my book that I was able to fill with an additional short chapter, adding another 1,000 words to my word count in the process and helping to create a fuller understanding of my characters and their relationship with each other. Sure, I outlined my characters before I began my book, but they changed through my writing, creating slightly different people than the ones I started with. Instead of tweaking those original descriptions, I just kept my evolving ideas of who they were in my head, which ended up leaving a gap between who I thought they were and who I wrote they were.
I can tell my query is going to be a lot stronger as a result of this reflection too, although I still refuse to give it my full energy until I finish my final read of my book, (here is my pitch as it stands now). I guess what Descent into Slushland helped me realize is that written check-ins with your characters throughout your writing are important, not just in the beginning or middle. Of all the advice I have read on query writing, this has been most useful for the way my own brain works. Thanks Descent!