By Jennie Goloboy
For Red Sofa Literary’s NANO Break, I’ll be talking about kinds of queries I see far too frequently, and why these queries are problematic. I’ll end the month with some suggestions on books I’d like to see more often– hopefully some NANO participants are writing them right now!
1. Magic necklaces
For some reason, I’ve received many queries that start with a girl who receiving a magic necklace. The first problem here that it’s always a necklace– never a brooch or belt buckle or handbag. The second problem is that the necklace is typically a gift to a perfectly average kid, not a reflection of something inherent in the character of the person receiving it.
Michael Chabon once explained an essential aspect of creating superheroes– that the important part was not what kind of superhero, but why the person was a superhero. For those who watched the Avengers (movie), it’s evident the energy of the story came from the personal conflict between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, which had nothing to do with who was more physically powerful. Rogers thought Stark was a superhero because Stark was vain; Stark thought Rogers was morally smug but useless.
In short, if your character Jane Average gets a necklace that makes her able to fly, why should we care?
2. Girls who can suddenly read minds
Nothing is wrong with telepathy as a plot point. (“What’s a stevedore?”) The problem is that authors too often use telepathy as a metaphor for that horrible self-consciousness that descends on every teenager. The girl with telepathy tries to carry on as usual, but learns something terrible about herself or the people around her.
Instead, I wish someone would send me a book where the heroine becomes telepathic and decides to run off to Las Vegas to make her fortune. And, much like being a vampire, no one ever seems to enjoy being telepathic. Would it be possible to write a book where the heroine is a telepath and likes the sense of connection it gives her? Or the sense of power over other people?”
Have you used magic necklaces or telepathy in your book(s). If so, what effective ways have you used them?