Video Blogpost: 10 Tips for Better Query Letters

Didn’t get around to reading last week’s blogpost?

Would rather watch it videos on Youtube?

Here’s my FIRST foray into video blogging! Check out last week’s blogpost, in video format!


Like it? Let me know and I might do more of them!

Top 10 Tricks For Writing A Better Query Letter

Query letters are hard.

They’re a job application to sell a project that you’ve poured your heart, soul, and more-than-just-all-of-your-free-time into for months, years, or even decades.

But, if you could have told your story in 250 words or less, you wouldn’t have needed to write the whole novel!

The problem is, there are thousands of other writers who (mostly wrongly or naively) think their novel deserves to be published more than yours does. You’re reaching out to jaded agents who’ve seen almost everything and you need to convince them that your novel is different! (Or at least written well enough that readers don’t mind)

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to get it right. I don’t know the secret formula either, and I suspect it’s different for every agent, and dependent upon how recently that agent had lunch.

But all is not lost!

I CAN tell you what mistakes you should do your best to avoid!

These 10 tips will put you miles ahead of far more aspiring authors than they have any right to.

1. Strictly Business

Your query is a business letter, don’t get overly familiar with the agent.

The subject should follow the guidelines as listed on the agent’s website. In lieu of any specific directions, the email subject should stick to the point:

“QUERY: [Genre] [Title]

Once you get into the body, start off with a formal address. If you go with:

“Dear [First] [Lastname],”

you won’t mis-gender anyone, plus, it’s professional without excessive titles.

Similarly, many agents have expressed a dislike for the almost standard closing line before your sign-off,

Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

[Writer]
as [Pen Name]

email
phone-number
website/blog
twitter/whatever”

Some see the “look forward to hearing from you” as presumptuous, and the “soon” and as preemptive nagging for agents who chronically have massive email backlogs.

Now, many see it as a generic courtesy, but personally, I suggest (as does the QueryShark) leaving it simply at “Thank you for your time and consideration.

It’s a query letter, you know and they know what you want from this.

(If desired and applicable, you can add a final sentence, “As per your guidelines, the first chapter/10 pages/a synopsis have been included below.“)

2. Show Your Research

Your query should show you’ve done your research. If you can, mention why you picked the agent. It proves you did your research and that you’re not simply mass-querying every agent in your genre (or worse). Don’t overdo it, but mention a preference of theirs or a book they’ve recommended.

(This goes in either the opening paragraph, or in the closing paragraph, depending where you’ve placed your [Title], [Wordcount], and [Genre].)

You can mention an item on their #MSWL (manuscript wish list), a conference you saw/met them at, a book they’ve represented, or a TV they’ve tweeted about. But don’t go too far…

3. Don’t Stalk Agents

Don’t message them about a journal they kept when they were 12, or those anniversary pictures you saw on Instagram. Anything that is public on social media, under the name they agent under, is relatively fair game. Everything else is creepy.

Do not get rejected because you made the agent feel uncomfortable… because you crossed the line and invaded their personal lives.

4. Straight For The Pitch

Your query has 3 seconds to hook the agent/intern before they decide your story’s not unique enough to bother with. Get them hooked by the first line.

You can either launch straight into the story part of your pitch, or you can kick off with the traditional,

I am currently seeking representation for [Title], a [pick one genre only] in the vein of [Recent Comparison Novel] and [Another Comparison Title].

If you can, pick comparisons (comps) that don’t quite mesh, to draw in interest.

My current comps don’t have a sharp difference but, I’m pitching my novel as “a matriarchal mash-up between The Golden Compass and the movie Frozen.The Golden Compass, while not very recent, is well known without (hopefully) sounding too vain. Frozen, while not a novel, is mostly recent. Together, they help convey a touch of setting, themes, and characters.

Don’t spend half (or more) of your precious 250 words on your biography (bio). The agents are not evaluating you, they’re evaluating your story. The bio typically goes in the closing paragraph, but keep it short and sweet, especially if you don’t actually have any credits. Embellishments aren’t necessary and waste space.

Don’t spend your query letter talking about the theme of the story, your motive for writing it, or what your story is trying to accomplish (teaching kids how to handle bullies?). People read books for the characters, the plots, and the worlds.

5. ALWAYS Make the Stakes Clear

Stakes are what matter most.

They matter to the character and they matter to the plot. Sometimes? They matter to your world.

The reader doesn’t care when fate or the author’s plotting shoves a complacent character along.

The reader needs to have a reason to care, and that reason is the stakes. Often, the main character has conflicting stakes.

Stakes aren’t goals, but they can relate to them. Stakes are what the character risks, to reach their goals.

In my story, Lilyen could stay home at her internship and risk her secret coming out – one that is a death sentence for her and a life sentence for her family. Or she could leave home and her dream internship, heading out alone with winter coming in fast, and hope to keep dodging the Righteous Brigade’s patrols, while they hunt for exiles just like her. If she can’t find the rumored home of the exiles, she’ll soon be either caught or frozen–but at least her family should be safe.

6. Play Favorites

In your query, you’re going to have to play favorites. If you have multiple main characters, you’re going to have to pick 1, maaaaybe 2 to focus on, then use the last paragraph to tie the plot together. You only have 250 words to get the story across, so pick the characters with either the most screen time, or whose stories tie in best with the overarching plot.

I know, all of your main characters are important and have critical roles to play. But remember, it took you probably over 80,000 words to get your story out. You don’t have that kind of space here, you have to cut to the core of the story, (and maybe even further), to write a query.

7. One At A Time

I write fantasy, so trust me, I know this is hard. But for each query you send out, you can only sell ONE novel at a time.

“Of course Morgan, I knew that!” you’re thinking.

Have you mentioned in your query that your book is one of a trilogy (or planned series)? If so, you’re selling more than one book.

ESPECIALLY if you’re unpublished, or have low publish numbers, agents are typically not going to be eager to commit to a series. They want to see if you can get a following, they want to see how book 1 sells. Even IF they love everything about it, they still typically answer to marketing.

Of course you can mention it ‘has series potential’ and that can be a good thing.

But be sure your novel can stand alone. Carefully calibrate your character arcs, your pacing, and your plot. No matter if it’s the 1st book or the 5th book in a series, a well-crafted novel should stand on its own.

8. You Can Mention Diversity

These days, many agents are asking for diversity (#ownvoices, etc). These days, many writers out there want to make sure our world’s aren’t strictly upper-class, whitewashed, and same-old same-old.

But, how do you mention it in the query without sounding awkward? Without overemphasizing it? Your diversity should be part of the world, it should inform the characters, but your novel doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) exist simply to preach a theme.

To show off diversity in your query letter: mention it, then move on to the stakes and the plot.

“[My Novel] features a [black/lesbian/disabled] character, [Matilda], who [wants this and does that!]”

or

[Title] features [Matilda], a [black/disabled/blind] [woman/man/dragon/alien] who [wants this and does that!]”

9. Never Pay

I mean, don’t prevent your agent from getting paid, but their money should come from the publisher, not your pockets. Especially for traditional publishing, one should NEVER pay for an agent. Money should always flow TOWARDS the author (even if everyone else gets their cut first).

(With some smaller agencies, or for indie publishing, you may need to pay for an editor, but that’s a separate thing.)

10. Sites to check out

  1. querytracker.net – Some agencies you can only query once, some you can’t query more than one agent there at a time, keep track of it all here.
  2. The Query Shark – The Query Shark is snarky, blunt, clever, and has a huge archive of revised queries that make for great examples. Read them twice.
  3. How To Write A 1-Page Synopsis – Some submissions require a synopsis with them, sometimes it’s easier to use this as a stepping stone to get to your 250 word query.
    Although, here are some other techniques “Writing a Winning Synopsis“. (Personally, I’m a fan of: summarize every chapter. Then trim. Count pages. Then trim again. And again. It gets me my long summary, my 3 page, my 1 page, and my query pitch.)

These tips come predominately from the “Refining Your Pitch: Queries, Synopsis, and Agents”, a FAR too short workshop, run by K.M. Szpara. #Balticon51


Did I miss any of your favorite tips? Did I get any wrong? Let me know!

3 Things That Make a Great 1st Line

The title of this sounds pretty lofty, doesn’t it? For those of you who don’t have a finished manuscript, though, this might not be so useful. Write your novel, edit it, then see if you can cut the first chapter. Don’t count the writing as a waste, YOU needed to know what was going on so you could write the rest of the book. Then, it’s time to tweak that 1st line.

The first line of a novel has a lot of work to do.

At Balticon51, I attended one workshop on opening sentences with Steve Lubs and another on opening pages with Meg Eden. This is a lot of what they said, combined with knowledge from other places. (I tried not to copy their hand-outs directly.)

1. It Must Make You Want To Read The 2nd Line

First off and primary above all other jobs, the first line has to make us want to know more. It should lead us directly into the second line, and the next paragraph, and each line needs to pull us forward, further into the book.

2. It Must Establish The Tone of The Novel

The first line needs to give us a feel for the rhythm, the tone of the book. It needs to give us a feel for the main character’s voice and the world in which they live.

Finally…

3. It Must (at least) Hint At A Problem

Novels have to have a plot, a problem to solve.

The problem can be internal–coming to terms with themselves or grief or a midlife crisis–or it can be external–a prince needs rescuing–but a story can’t exist without a problem.

You don’t HAVE to start ‘in medias res’, with someone shooting at our, so far, unknown protagonist. But, you need to hint at the issues to come.


So how do you make one little sentence do that?

Let’s take a look at famous first lines and see how many of those things they manage to do. And see if we can figure out how they did it.

1. Say something unexpected.

“I’m pretty much fucked.” — The Martian by Andy Weir

  • No feel for setting, yet.
  • The short simple sentence gives us a feel for the voice of the narration–we’re not going to have a lot of flowery prose with this one. We know the story’s told (at least partially) in first person and they’re not afraid to curse.
  • We know there’s a major problem affecting primarily the main character. They don’t talk of “we” or “he”, they talk about themselves.
  • Why is the narrator fucked? I’ll have to read the next line to find out more.

“The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” — Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

  • We’re in a burning building, or right outside one. That gives us partial setting.
  • The 1st person voice is clear, has personality, and is ready to make excuses.
  • The building being on fire and people thinking it might be the protagonists fault all sound like pretty big problems.
  • Why is the building on fire and why might the narrator be blamed? I’ll have to read the next line to find out more!

“Some years ago there was in the city of York a society of magicians.” Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

  • The setting is York, and the tone indicates the 1800s.
  • The 3rd person narration gives a clear tone and rhythm. The unexpected is “magicians”. That tells us we’re dealing with a fantasy, most likely a historical fantasy, but possibly an alternate history fantasy.
  • We don’t know what the problem is, yet. But we’re pretty sure it has something to do with magicians.
  • How did the magicians fit in this world? Are they known or secret? I’ll have to read more to find out.

2. Describe the setting

Yes, it’s cliche, but if you have enough voice, you can pull it off. You have to make it unique though. Don’t just give us the adventures at a bar, tell us what’s DIFFERENT about this bar.

“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfathomable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” — The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

  • The setting is clear. We’re on Earth, about our current technological levels, give or take a few decades.
  • The narrator is dryly-witty, using tons of adjectives, and a tone of superiority. This gives us a good preview into the narrative style of the rest of the novel.
  • The problem isn’t quite mentioned… yet. But it’s slightly hinted at.
  • Who is charting the Galaxy, because it’s clearly not people from Earth? What are the other types of creatures, if they don’t descend from apes. And how are we going to show them that Earth is NOT insignificant? I’ll have to read the next line to find out more.

3. Introduce yourself or the situation

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

  • No real setting, but the words suggest this story is about a family–not a journey, not a coming of age story
  • The narrator begins by pontificating. The sentence is long and conjoined by a semi-colon. This sets a narrative rhythm. We don’t know if this is 1st person or 3rd, yet.
  • The problem is introduced. There are going to be issues within the main character(s) families.
  • How is the family the narrator is going to tell us about unhappy? I’ll have to read the next line to find out more.

Call me Ishmael.Moby Dick by Herman Melville

  • No setting, but the name hints at a culture or religion (it’s biblical in origin).
  • The narrator has a clear voice. (He immediately gets very adjective heavy and confession-ally long sentences.
  • No problem, yet.
  • Is his name really Ishmael, or is there a reason he’s called that? I have to read more to find out.
  • Honestly? This 1st line works better because of the way it contrasts with the next paragraph. The 1st line doesn’t have to hold up the entire novel, but the first page needs to start out the way you intend to finish.

Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes.” — The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

  • We’ve got a feel for setting. With horses and swords, we’re likely in a fantasy or historical novel.
  • Taran is our narrator – in 3rd person, with a feel of a student-age and a hint of dry-humor.
  • We already know that the call of the sword is likely not something that’s going to go away and Coll doesn’t approve. That’s some conflict right there.
  • Is Taran any good at making horseshoes? Who charged Coll with Taran’s education? His family? To find out, I’ll have to read more.

 

As you see, even the greats don’t always cover all the things above when they write there first lines, but they do their best to do at least 2 out of the 3.

Some people prefer the slow build, which is a legitimate tone choice, but you still need to at least hint at the problem by the end of the first page–even if the reader couldn’t possibly know that’s where the issue is.


Do you have any favorites I missed?

Do you have a first line that you don’t think is doing the heavy lifting? Post it up and we’ll see if I or my (carefully cultivated) commenters can help!

How To Write Better Villains – a #Balticon panel

The panelists were Stephanie Wideman, Christiana Ellis, Ian Randall Strock, Joy Ward, and the panel was moderated by Dave Robison.

As an excellent henchman, I attended this panel to learn what sort of villain to look for.

What Is a Villain

  • Your villain doesn’t have to actively be antagonistic to the protagonist, but the villain has to be working against what the reader (and the Main Character) want.- Christiana Ellis
  • Your villain needs to have a personality. – Christiana Ellis
  • No one is a villain in their own mind. – Ian Strock
  • Well- some are, but they still think they’re JUSTIFIED. – audience
  • Your villain has to be than JUST the antagonistic force. In order to be a true villain, they have to be more than simply ‘the mean girl’, they need to be ‘the girl trying to blow up the building.’  – Stephanie Wideman
  • The villain believes “I’m a good person”. – Joy Ward

Biggest Challenge of Writing “Good” Villains

  • The reader needs to identify with the villain. You have to make the reader understand the villain’s motivation. – Joy Ward
  • The villain’s power level. It has to be equal to- or slightly greater than the hero’s. Otherwise, the reader doesn’t believe the struggle or the challenge. – Stephanie Wideman
  • If you make death impossible. – Ian Strock
  • In short fiction – you cannot have a very offstage villain. There’s not enough space for the setup. – Ian Strock

Are There Differences In Villains Based on the Genre?

  • Possibly. There are trends in each genre for the villain’s motivation. – Stephanie Wideman
  • The villain has to be related to the genre. – Christiana Ellis
  • It depends. If the villain is a spirit/ghost/malevolent force, it needs less motivation than an actual character. – Ian Strock
  • Avoid emotionally flat villains. Sometimes  fantasy has villains where the motivation doesn’t ring emotionally true– it needs to. – Joy Ward

Hero versus Villain – Which Comes First?

  • For Joy Ward, they come hand-in-glove. She creates the hero first and then determines the villain. She likes to create a villain that is the mirror image or the thematic/emotional “brother” of the villain.
  • For Stephanie Wideman, her hero comes first. The villain is created as having an opposing goal.
  • For Ian Strock, his villain (or villainous force) usually comes first. Then reasons out what makes sense as the opposed hero/villain.
  • For Christiana Ellis, her hero comes first. Her heros are usually proactive and seeking something. So, her ‘villain’ is more ‘the world’ than a specific character.

Do the Hero and Villain Help Create Each Other?

  • Yes. – Christiana Ellis
  • That’s a little cliche. The hero needs more purpose post-villain. (Or vice versa) – Ian Strock
  • To flip the trope, the hero can learn the villains true aim, be convinced of the “villain’s” motivations, and then the hero can change their goals. – Joy Ward.
  • Wait, is that actually a villain, then? – Christiana Ellis

Who’s Your Favorite Villain?*

  • Prince Umbra from Spirit of Chaos – Stephanie Wideman
  • The Mule from The Foundation and The Authority from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Ian Strock
  • Zorg from 5th Element and The Operative from Firefly. – Christiana Ellis
  • Loki. He feels cheated, unloved, justified, wants love, but can’t resist that last response that ruins it.

Which Villains Lost Their Magic, Being Converted To A New Media Form?

  • Willy Wonka – The newest remake is a completely different movie. – Ian Strock
  • Any portrayal of Hades as a Villain. – Stephanie Ellis

Tips To Create A Memorable Villain

  • Make them sympathetic. – Joy Ward
  • Have the villain have other goals. Make thwarting the hero a sidenote, not their life’s work. – Ian Strock
  • Leave the reader wondering, “what IF the villain had won?” – Christiana Ellis
  • Make the hero/villain balanced. – Ian Strock
  • Make the reader identify with the villain. – Joy Ward

Remember, Drax started as a antagonist, then decided–if you can’t beat them, join them.


For me, The first villain that comes to mind that I love is Count Rugen from The Princess Bride. The death of Inigo’s father was barely a footnote–until his son shows up for revenge.

What villains do you love?

What tips do you have?

Writing Diversity

I’m combining notes from “Diversity, What Is It Good For” with panelists Devin Jackson Randall, Ken Schrader, Michelle D. Sonnier, Scott Roche, and Jennifer Povey
and
“Avoiding the ‘Representing the Entire [X] Trap” with panelists Day Al-Mohamed, K. M. Szpara, Stephanie “Flash” Burke, Ken Schrader, and Christie Meierz

Diversity is a big thing in writing these days, especially in the Young Adult section of genre fiction that I typically hang out in. There are long, on-going conversations that I’ve tried to provide context for in my notes.

Remember, even if you disagree with some of the thoughts below, these people came together to have a conversation in good-faith. They love what they do and are working hard at trying to do BETTER. No one is perfect, we’re all people. If you have criticisms, try to make them constructive.

Why Do We Write Diversity (besides representation)

[Context for people who aren’t familiar with the conversation. The biggest reason people suggest writing diversity is to be representational: to allow people to see themselves in unique characters.]

  •  The world is naturally diverse, this way our worlds reflect creativity. – Scott Roche
  • So we don’t limit ourselves. It’s like using 8 crayons instead of all 64. – Michelle Sonnier
  • Not doing so is doing yourself a disservice. If you aren’t diverse? Do your research and fix your world. – Ken Schrader
  • To learn about other types of peoples through writing and research. – Devin Jackson Randall
  • Some people ask “why include this” and call it pandering. Because we exist! Even the uncomfortable bits! – Stephanie “Flash” Burke

Tips on Doing Diversity Right

  • Remember, it’s a character… who is ALSO a [minority], that’s not their defining feature. – K. M. Szpara
  • One person can’t (and shouldn’t) represent a whole group. – Christie Meierz
  • Acknowledge the differences, and then move on! – Stephanie “Flash” Burke
  • Ignoring it limits your writing. – K. M. Szpara
  • Paying attention to it makes them real people. – Christie Meierz
  • Don’t skip marginalized characters in short stories because of ‘space’ – Day Al-Mohamed
  • Don’t just point out skin/orientation when it’s different than expectations. If you’re going to do it for some characters, do it for all. – K. M. Szpara
  • Don’t slap the audience with the difference in every sentence. – Stephanie “Flash” Burke
    • “Almond eyes, pale skin/chocolate skin… now I’m hungry”
  • Don’t describe other races with food terms. That’s overdone, a definite trope, and turns that character into a fetish.
  • Don’t hand me a book and say ‘you should read this, it’s about queer people.” If the answer is ‘yes’ when I ask, “Oh, do they die?” Kill the straight people instead! – K. M. Szpara

Intersectionality

[Context for people who aren’t familiar with this term:

Google defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”

In other words, a queer, white, woman with disabilities will have a different experience than a heterosexual, white, woman without any disabilities. And as you layer in other levels of social categorizations, the experiences will continue to diverge.]

  • It’s currently a buzzword, but it’s recognition of pieces we’re mislaying. Paying attention to it makes characters less 2-dimensional. As M. Evan Matyas says, “We want to walk all the way around the character.” Day Al-Mohamed came from a place where everyone looked like her. When she moved to America, she met whites and blacks and learned that blacks have their own culture and they don’t all have the same one. – Day Al-Mohamed
  • Look at it as subtracting monotony from world. – K. M. Szpara

What Are Your Pet Peeves About “Accuracy” Limiting Diversity?

  • There were blacks in medieval Europe. – Jennifer Povey
  • Fantasy as a genre. Your fantasy has no minorities to be realistic, but DRAGONS? – Michelle Sonnier
  • Westerns should have Asians, blacks, and natives. They’re typically FAR too white washed. The man who inspired the Texas Ranger? WAS black – Scott Roche
  • People using a single minority character – Ken Schrader
    • Either their only reason to be in the story is to make it ‘diverse’. They’re not given their own personality, wants, or needs.
    • Or the writer doesn’t do enough research so the character is 2 dimensional
  • Continually stereotyping a minority character – Devin Jackson Randall
    • Thai has a 3rd gender, but in media, the standard is to make the character’s gender the butt of the joke
  • All [minority] have the same political views. (Blacks? Dwarves? People with disabilities?)  They need reasons for their views!

How to Handle It When The Diversity Matters

  • Remember that who you are effects how you approach things. And things effect you differently based on who you are.
  • Point of View is shaped by the character’s history.

Examples of Diversity Done Right and Wrong

  • A fantasy movie about the Great Wall of China was marketed to have white main characters. In reality? The main characters were Chinese.  Pacific Rim, Luke Cage – both good representations of the world they’re supposed to represent. – Scott Roche
  • Star Wars and Star Trek – in every iteration strive to be more inclusive and diverse. – Michelle Sonnier
  • Often done wrong – Only villains (and often) are disfigured and/or injured. Heros are typically neither. – Ken Schrader.
  • (Except Fury Road, she was missing an arm from here *gestures to elbow* down. Well, here up would be hard.) – Scott Roche
  • Firefly was getting it right-er – Ken Schrader
  • ‘Ten Count’ (yaoi), ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ – both try, but often stop at 2-dimensions and don’t make excuses for themselves. ‘Sensai’ is good, but has issues.  – Devin Jackson Randall
  • Lois Bujold, especially her VorKosigan series handles disabilities well. – audience

Diversity used to be dubbed as ‘not marketable’, but that’s changing. – audience

Social media is helping [or hurting, when it doesn’t do its research]  – Devin Jackson Randall

Tricky Things – How To Make A Marginalized Antagonist

[Context for those who aren’t familiar with this trope: Very often, marginalized is used as shorthand for bad-guy. We don’t want to do that! For starters, it’s lazy. Secondly, it’s over done. You can’t say “there’s plenty of Russians in genre fiction” when they’re all drunken, bad-guy soviets.]

  • Backstory. Villains can be teachers. – Stephanie ‘Flash” Burke
  • No one (well, very few people) are villains in their own minds. They usually have very well-loved (if not good) reasons for doing what they do. – Christie Meierz
  • Ask if [marginalized] antagonist needs that [marginalization]. If not, you might be doing the wrong thing, for the right reasons. (ie – adding diversity, but accidentally falling into the stereotyping tropes). – Ken Schrader
  • It’s overdone. In James Bond, nearly all villains are disabled. It’s too cliche. – Day Al-Mohamed

Closing Thoughts

  • Don’t make sacred things casual. – Audience
  • Don’t forget mental illnesses. – Scott Roche
  • Don’t have people just brush off trauma. – Michelle Sonnier
  • Do your due-diligence, but don’t shy away from diversity. – Ken Schrader
  • Support good diversity, so we’ll get more.  – Devin Jackson Randall
  • Do your research. – Jennifer Povey
  • Don’t just observe other types of people, talk to them, if they’re open to it. – audience
    • You can usually ask friends for recommendations or
    • There are online groups for writers with people who volunteer
  • Checkout disabilityinkidlit.com – Day Al-Mohamed
  • If other characters don’t harp on differences, it won’t be a big deal. – Stephanie “Flash” Burke
  • There’s a difference between diversity being a coat of paint on a character, and it being a PART of a character, rather than their defining trait. – Audience
  • I don’t think the future is white. – Christie Meirz

These are just some people’s opinions!

What do you agree with? What do you disagree with?

Any other things writers should keep in mind when creating diverse worlds?

Building a World – #Balticon Panels

The panelists for this were Joy Ward, Michael Underwood, Don Sakers, T Campbell, and JL Gribble

What Do You Find Most Writers Forget?

  • Geography (T Campbell)
  • Planets are big and not all just one climate (Don Sakers)
  • What’s outside the focus of the setting  (Michael Underwood)
  • Doing their research (Joy Ward)

What Cultural Blind Spots Have You Noticed?

  • What do you eat on an alien planet?
  • Klingon meter maid – who does everything else if it’s a warrior race?
  • Making unique people WITHIN a species/race, rather than the exception to the species/race
  • Do more than ‘warrior race’, ‘science race’, ‘ice planet’, ‘jungle planet’. Species and Planets are huge!
  • Economics!
  • Try to make sure you know how they handle Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs (which Maslov hated and came up with just before a lecture)
  • Interpret things based on your culture’s society, NOT the writer’s personal culture. Study History to see how cultures other than yours did things.

Suggested Fiction

  • “To Hell And Back” – About an autistic hero and flips a lot of related tropes.*

Craziest Experience : Done for Research or That Got Worked Into Your Writing

  • JL visited the Parisian Catacombs.
  • Michael spent a semester at sea- hitting 10 countries, including the Viet Cong tunnels. “The world can be your library.”
  • T Campbell was walking home at 3am, from college in Savannah and someone ran at him. He ran the 2 miles home and heard someone shout, “Hey!” Looking about for the accomplice, he spies a neighbor, sitting on their porch, just hanging out. “You’re dumb for being out at this hour!” They shouted, tossing something at him. T caught it without thinking and looked down. It was a can of mace.
  • Joy Ward met an animal translator and her skepticism got talked away. Now, she’s (with the help of the translator) interviewed almost everything from elephants to hissing cockroaches. (Everything but seals.)
  • Don learned NOT to ask a hospital records staff how to illegally access 20 year-old records. (After asking at four different facilities…)

Other posts I’ve done on World Building Panels:

*Not sure who the author is. Looks like might have been refering to: The Damned Busters: To Hell and Back by Matthew Hughes

How To Write Snappy Dialogue – A #Balticon Panel

The panelists were: Larry Hodges, Dr. Claire McCague, James Noll, Mark Van Name, and PC Haring

Top 5 Tips For Snappy Dialogue:

  1. Skip the ‘ums’ and ‘wells’, write the idealized version of what someone would say, if they could edit their words later (Mark Van Name)
  2. End in the middle of things (Mark Van Name)
  3. People don’t speak in paragraphs or semicolons, there must be give and take (James Noll)
  4. Only snappy characters have snappy dialogue (Larry Hodges)
  5. Have people cut each other off (PC Haring)

Dialogue is an action…it’s just more socially acceptable than walking across the room and slapping someone. – (Mark Van Name)

Examples in Media Of Snappy Dialogue

  • “12 Angry Men”
  • Shakespeare
  • “The Princess Bride”
  • Gilmore Girls
  • “A Good Man is Hard To Find”
  • “The Lottery”
  • “Where Are You Going, Where Are You From”
  • Gregory McDonnell’s “Fletch” – A mystery told in 90% dialogue.
  • Dashiell Hammett – “Thin Man”, “Harvest”