Last week I went to the movies for the first time since the pandemic started, and I encountered a curiosity I’d largely forgotten existed: movie trailers.
And while I was coaching a writer on how to improve their query letter, I had an epiphany: lots of authors are writing their query letters like the “voice of god” who narrates action movie trailers.
You know what I’m talking about. That gravelly deep voice who says things like, “In a world where nothing is as it seems…three friends…must go on a journey…to save the world…”
Now, this works when it’s accompanied by exciting visuals of the friends, the action, passionate kisses, people reaching plaintively for each other as they’re separated by evil security forces, and all the other images that populate movie trailers.
It doesn’t work in a query letter. Why? Because you’re not giving anyone the visuals. Take away the montage, and the summary “In a world where nothing is as it sees three friends must go on a journey to save the world” could apply to dozens of movies. It doesn’t tell us anything at all.
It’s the same with the novel itself. Lots of writers fill their scenes with pages and pages of Quentin Tarantino-esque banter while ignoring that the “Royale With Cheese” conversation in Pulp Fiction wouldn’t work without the physical presence of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.
It’s fine to draw upon movies for inspiration, but novelists aren’t mere screenwriters, they’re also directors, cinematographers, and sound engineers. So when you’re pitching your novel, ditch the “voice of god” and think about how you can give a sharp and clear glimpse of the world of your novel.
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Art: King David and the 24 Elders adoring God the Father by Johann Jakob Zeiller