Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why Miss Snark Loves Satan OR
What Makes A Villain Interesting

The post by Miss Snark is from last month. Why do I offer it now? I happened upon a couple of different online remarks about villains in fiction, and then I read Miss Snark's latest entry with a link to it. Serendipity. So, I offer this link to one brief blog entry that might help you out in creating your villain. From an agent's mouth to your (and my) ear:

Why Miss Snark Loves Satan

Oh, and the Crapometer "Hook" contest is closed for entries.

If you entered, do comment and let me know when Miss Snark gets to yours and what entry number it is and what day she posts it. I'd love to read it. You brave souls.

I did notice there were like three or four hooks with someone being Satan's son or daughter. Just goes to show...nothing new under the sun.


Josh said...

I was reading another agent's blog earlier this week...forget whether it was Agent 007 or someone thereof, and they compiled themes from the various queries and submissions they got each day, each week, and built on it. It was laughable to see how many identical ideas people were pitching. Some days even had themes. One day, almost every story had a "mask" in the plot. Another day was "children find a portal to another world" theme. Yea, there may be nothing new under the sun...except for what we write. The ideas all will have common elements, but the writing is uniquely yours, mind, ours...that is what makes the difference.

Oh, and I live Miss Snark's postings. Always good for a howl.

Anonymous said...

Agree w/ Josh here. A 250 word synopsis is unlikely to fairly represent or convey the ideas of a 100,000 word novel. But it might show if you can write, and how you think a little.

I subbed at about 8:30 EST and got this back the next day: 130.

That's it. No idea how or where to follow up. A fun curiosity though Mir. Thanks for the tip.

Mirtika said...

That means you're hook number 130. So, when she does you , you'll be labeled 130. :)


Anonymous said...

I found the other some previous craps w/ her comments and realize mine's more of a jacket blurb than an agent's synopsis. I'm sure she'll let me know and righfully make fun of it some. I know I would.

Also, she seems to've knocked the word cound down over the years. I still maintain that it's impossible to summarize a good novel in 250 words, really in any less words than it took to write it in the first place. Less is always less, and the lesser the lesser, if it's good.

Josh said...

Heh. If you go to conferences and do those agent/editor pitch sessions, you're going to start hearing that you should be able to tell the core of your novel in 25 words or less. They often give 5-10 minutes for those sessions, and it is incredibly effective and powerful if you can slam them with a great single-sentence

"A guilt-ridden soldier must hide his magical abilities under pain of death, while hunting his own people toward extinction."- 19 words

Do you leave out a lot of detail this way? Well, of course. But consider that an agent or editor will often spend less than a minute considering a query (if that). The purpose is to snag their attention and make them want to ask for more material. I'm not making this up. I'm giving it straight from all the editors and agents I've talked to/went to panels/submitted to, etc.

Mirtika said...

I think one good thing about that sort of exercise is that it makes you zero in on the central conflict and main trait(s) of the protagonist.

If a novel is all over the place, seemingly just vomited out by the writer without much thought to structure, it shows when it can't be somehow encapsulated.

A skimming of Miss Snark's entries shows how many just seem to have no focus at all, just a lot of blather put on paper. Disjointed.

If a novelist doesn't have a handle on their story, then it may be a sign that the novel is not in a cohesive and complete form.


Anonymous said...

Interesting Josh. And that's probably why I haven't been able to fininsh a single new popular fiction novel now in about 2 years. Well... maybe a couple. But to describe a realy interesting and great novel in 25 words is like humming a few bars from a Beethoven symphony. Most of what occurs in good writing occurs at a deeper level. A great novel is like an iceberg. A lot lies below the surface and it'll different to everyone. Anyone who thinks they can capture the essence of their 300 pg novel in 25 words has written a novel I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy. I'd be satisified just reading the 25 words and waiting for the movie.

But, and here I will agree w/ both of you I think, your synopsis attempt can be an indication of how well you can write, and also maybe how easy it'll be to mass market your work.

Mirtika said...

The 25 words are the bare bones, not the meat, snarky-babe. It's just to let the reader know 1. genre 2. fresh angle and 3. that there is in fact a conflict that can carry a novel-length story.

It's not about the novel being THAT simplistic, but about a person getting down to the core of what the novel's central issue is and what the protagonist is facing/up against/battling.

A diminutive hero journeys through multitudes of perils to destroy a ring of evil power before darkness consumes his world.

That's LOTR in 20 words. It's off the top of my head, so hardly a literary feat of "pitch", but it has the central, driving issue--Frodo, the ring, perils, and a whole world in danger.

What a man can do with those bare bones is a whole nother matter.

In Randy Ingermanson's snowflake method, you start with a brief pitch to focus on the main issue, then you begin expanding until you have pages and pages and pages of characterization and plot and all the goodies that go into a structured novel. But you start with a core idea that someone can latch onto and say, "Okay. That might be fun. Tell me more."

Most good pitches will be 40 words at least. 20 is more an exercise in training oneself to focus on main conflict and main character. 40 words allows more detail (even a bit of secondary characters).


Anonymous said...

Funny, I liked your pitch of LOTR a lot more than the book. so I guess it cuts two ways. A boring book can have an interesting pitch.

Now do "Infinite Jest."

I'm almost thinking we've come to the point where we need sub-agents, as in people who know agents and how to write (or select from a database of) catchy pitches.

Mirtika said...

I'd have to read it first. Don't hold your breath. 98% of the time, I run away from huge books that are supposed to be terribly clever.

Most novels fit the easily-pitched format. Novels that deal quite a bit in style or are experimental require, I think, a pitch that is stylish and experimental, since what is being sold is prose skill and voice, even moreso than a cohesive tale.


Chris said...

Infinite Jest is not "clever", it's brilliant. Very idea-dense and diverse, like a masterful collection of integrated shorts. Breaks all the molds and genre. In a way it could be considered Christian Sci-fi too.


An old AAer trying to explain his concept of god tells this joke:

So this old fish swims up to these young ones and asks, "How's the water?" To which they reply, "What's water?"

This "joke" is integrated into a masterful scene, and I have in no way done it justice here.