Sorry I’m a day late posting. Many times I’ve written my posts ahead of time, but this week was not one of those times. And so when I sat down yesterday morning to write, my thoughts were consumed with my query letter. (As they are sometimes.) I had this nagging suspicion that my query wasn’t getting to the heart of my story. And even though I’ve revised it like a million times and had my CPs give me their thoughts on it, somehow it felt flat to me. I just couldn’t figure out why.
I re-read it again, with one question in mind: Would a person read it and say, “Oh My Gosh, I need to read this story!?”
So here’s the thing. I think my story has a cool concept—like really cool. But my query letter was focusing too much on this really cool concept/ situation/ world, and not enough on the emotion behind the characters who will live there. Sure I talk about what my MC wants and what she needs to overcome to get it, but not enough about WHY getting it is so very important to her. Yes, my stakes are clear. Yes, the obstacles are clear. But is that really enough to root for her page after page?
Think about this. How many of you are sports fans? Well, even if you aren’t, I’m sure you’ve still heard about the Super Bowl. When two professional sports teams play in the covented game, both teams want to win. But how do we choose who to cheer for? If you’re a football fan, you may have a favorite team playing or a favorite player playing. That’ll make the choice easy. But for those of us unfamiliar with the teams, just getting into the action on SuperBowl Sunday, we need more information in order to choose. We need to hear some personal stories. We need to connect emotionally on some level to one of the players, the coaches or the teams. So we tune in for the interviews and the stories. Once we do that, we will cheer for them until the last touchtown, even if we don’t care one bit about the game of football.
Fiction is the same way. We don’t need to care all that much about whether your MC wants to win the world knitting championship. But if we know that said MC learned to knit while being teased during recess, and winning will make her finally feel good about herself, then we will cheer for her on her quest. We sympathize with her because maybe we were teased on the playground. Whatever the reason, we want to see the MC succeed.
And that’s what I think has been missing from my query letter. Sure, the reader will know what my MC wants to achieve, the obstacles in her way, and what will happen to her if she doesn’t succeed. But what’s important to know and to include is WHY this is so important to her.
And so yesterday, (instead of writing my planned blog post) I dug deep to think about what my MC really wants—not the external (physical) goal, but her emotional goal. And these are two very different things for her. The reason she wants what she wants (physical goal) is emotional in nature. This is basically the heart of my story. My MC really just wants to fit in someplace. She fears that if she doesn’t reach her physical goal, then she will never fit into the actual place where she will end up. And that to her, is a very scary, lonely place.
That’s the part that’s been missing in my query letter and even in my opening pages .
I think it’s important to completely understand what your character wants (really wants) when writing your story—or your query letter. Because what your character thinks she wants may only be a means to getting what she really wants deep down on an emotional level. This is the part that will hook your reader and make them want to read on. A solid emotional connection will make them follow your MC to knitting class or to an underwater fantasy land. It doesn’t matter that much if they don’t care why they’re going there. It helps if it’s a cool place, but it matters more if there’s a solid reason why.
I hope this helps you get to the heart of your story and ultimately to the heart of your opening pages and query letter. This realization today definitly helped me. 🙂
Have a great week, my friends! I hope it’s fantastic and fun… xoxo
2 thoughts on “What Your MC Really (Really) Wants”
Wow. That was really well said. I just stumbled upon your post via Twitter while reading @R_EliseWrites tweets, and it’s as if you wrote the post just for me. Great food for thought… And for revising my query! Thank you.
Aww. Thank you so much! I’m glad it helped. Query letters are so hard, aren’t they?? Good luck with yours and thanks for checking out the site. 🙂