06 August 2008

Tells the Story -- What or Who?

Have you ever been told your characters read like cardboard figures? Agents complain about not being able to get close enough to the main character? That they couldn't stay interested? It happens to all writers, whether action-driven or character-driven.

Writer's Test:

You're in an elevator with the exact right agent for your book. You have three floors to attract the agent's interest, get her to ask, "what happens next?" and, at the third floor, give you her card to send the first 50 pages.

Do you:

1. Start by saying something about the character: It's a story about a beautiful Swedish girl who comes to America looking for love. She gets a job in the kitchen of a society family in New York City. The family's silver and gold go missing. The man who interrogates her is tall and handsome. She has to defend herself with only the English she learned in school.

2) Start by giving an overview of the dramatic action: "It's a story about a land deal in New York City between the Elks Club and the mob. Money and silver go missing from the Elk leader's home. The next day he is found dead.

3) Start with a brief idea of the theme: It's a story about corruption and greed, the wealthy and poor, loyalty and love.

I have ideas about each of these, but lately am fascinated by #2. I'll post some tips and tricks in the coming weeks. Be patient.