HomeWritersLiterary AgentsEditorsPublishersResourcesDiscussion
Forum Login | Join the discussion
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest

    Cool A Query Tip From Dwight Swain

    Recently I've been plodding through Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer and there was one thing I came upon that I think can be helpful when you're writing a query letter. It's a formula he uses for summarizing a story. It might be helpful when you set out, but really I think it would be helpful when you're doing a query letter.

    The formula is like this: Situation + Character + Objective + Opponent + Obstacle

    Here's his example:

    Situation: When humans suddenly begin to grow to 12 foot height
    Character: John Storm (not the Human Torch)
    Objective: tries to find out why.
    Obstacle: But can he defeat the traitors in high places who want to kill him in order to make the change appear to be the result of an extraterrestrial plot? (Um, yes?)


    (He actually refers to Obstacle as Disaster but that just sounds stupid to me. "Disaster" brings to mind earthquakes or Godzilla.)


    For the hell of it let's try it on a story we mostly know: The Wizard of Oz:


    When she's stranded in the magical land of Oz (situation), Dorothy (Character) has to find the mysterious Wizard to return home. (Objective) But can she defeat the Wicked Witch of the West trying to stop her from reaching the Wizard? (Obstacle)


    Now when you phrase it like that you basically have your first paragraph for a query letter.


    Let me try it with a new story:

    When his settlement is overrun by zombies, Hunter Hawking has to track down who unleashed the zombies and stop them from doing it again. But can one ace pilot hope to defeat an army of zealots and their horde of undead minions?

    That would be for Sky Ghost: Army of the Damned. I've been working up the gumption to write a query letter and honestly summarizing it like that does seem to help. So often when I want to write a query there's just so much stuff that I want to cram in that it's hard to focus on basics.

    That rk guy who kept posting lengthy queries might have wanted to try something like that to help focus on just what's important. Anyway, maybe give it a try sometime.



  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    394
    It's a decent formula - but I disagree with him about the protagonist. A character's name tells me nothing about them while describing your MC with a distinctive adjective and noun - a drug-addled cop, a rebellious teen, a vengeful divorcee, etc. gives me a sense of who the character is.

  3. #3
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Says View Post
    It's a decent formula - but I disagree with him about the protagonist. A character's name tells me nothing about them while describing your MC with a distinctive adjective and noun - a drug-addled cop, a rebellious teen, a vengeful divorcee, etc. gives me a sense of who the character is.
    Well obviously Swain wasn't intending it for queries. Spicing it up with an adjective or too seems like a good idea.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    394
    Happy Holidays, Mutt

  5. #5
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Says View Post
    Happy Holidays, Mutt
    Back at ya.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts