Fiona McClean is invisible—literally—which makes her the perfect thief in her father’s crime syndicate. She and her mother have tried to escape, but that’s no easy feat when her father can charm any woman into doing what he wants. Still, they try again, because all clues point to Fiona being groomed for a new role in the syndicate: Assassin. (This is the inciting incident, the trigger for yet another escape attempt.)
This time, Fiona is determined to earn her freedom at any cost. (Character arc inciting incident: Change from just wanting freedom to being desperate for it.) But that means trusting Graham, her oldest brother and her father’s flying lap dog. (Rising action: Complication.) He says fetch, and Graham shoots off to catch. How is she supposed to believe he’s on their side this time? There’s a catch. Fiona knows it, and she won’t let Graham destroy the normal life she’s building for herself. (Rising action: Obstacle.) She finally has friends, plus there’s a boy that could be even more. And without her dad’s brainwashing, she realizes her invisibility doesn’t define her like she thought, and she must find out what’s underneath. (Character arc rising action: Growth from not only wanting freedom, but to find out who she is.)
Since Graham’s acting far too suspicious, Fiona enlists her other brother, Miles, to help figure out what he’s up to. (Rising action: Trying to solve problem.) But with their father zoning in on her location (Climax), it’s looking like Fiona will have to stop hiding in more ways than one. If she wants the right to choose her life, she’ll have to fight for it. (Character arc climax: Growth from finding out who she is to wanting to fight for it.)
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Plot Arcs & The Query
NOTE: This is going to be a progressive exercise. The query below is NOT in anyway perfect, nor do I claim it to be. Its purpose today is to demonstrate where plot elements can come in. Tomorrow we'll look at then adding Character Stakes, and the day after that Voice.
Hi! I'm kind of nervous to talk about this today! I mean, it's not like I'm some pro here. Please, oh please, take this all with a grain of salt. If you disagree, you are totally allowed. There is more than one way to write a book, and there's more than one way to write a query.
I'm talking plots today. Now, there are a ton of ways to write a story, but every story needs to have at least a few things: an inciting incident, rising action, a climax, and a denouement. Yes, hi, we're back in high school. But it's true! Every story has these elements. Some are more subtle than other stories, but they have them. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, quick, lame summaries ahead:
Inciting Incident: What triggers the story.
Rising Action: Increasing tension, try/fail cycle, complications, leading to the climax.
Climax: The peak moment in your story, with the most action and emotional impact.
Denouement: Decreasing action, leading to end of story.
No matter how you plot, these elements will appear in your story. They are fundamentals. As such, at least three of these should make an appearance in your query—you don't necessarily need the full denouement. When agents say, "I want to know what your story is about." This is what they mean. The plot.
But that's not the only plot arc in your book. You probably have several character arcs as well. Ideally, your characters should be reacting and changing along with the events in your novel, and if you can slip in that emotional arc into your query as well, even better.
So how does this translate to the query? Well, I'm gonna use one I wrote up for Transparent yesterday as an example. Note: It's not perfect, but we'll pick it apart so you can see how I incorporated plot anyway.
So there you go. The elements of plot are there. I'm certainly not saying this query is perfect, but it's important to have those key moments in your story. This is what gives an agent an idea of what happens in your book. Not the themes (though you can gather an impression of those). Not what books it resembles (though you could make a good guess based on this). This is your story, and when you are able to clearly point out its structure, an agent is more likely to take interest if it's something they're looking for.
If I haven't made this clear enough—which I admit is entirely possible—please feel free to ask questions in comments. I will answer as quickly as I can.