Monday, November 30, 2009

There is a fire in it.

"That girl is dangerous," one of my characters says, about another. "There is a fire in her."

This is what I must remember; what I do remember: there is a fire at the heart of my story. It can be disguised by the slow death of editing; it can be hidden behind word choice and frustrations over tempo and pace ... but there is a still a fire in it.

Now, then. The job of a query is to burn with that fire. To singe, to smolder, to crackle and glow. To carry some of the story's fire in just a few short sentences that nonetheless sear the reader like a hot sidewalk.

Interesting how I'll choose to write about the query instead of writing the query itself. Enough avoidance. Here goes:

There is a character. He is, like all of us, both a product of his environment and defined by -- imprisoned by? -- his expectations about right and wrong and how the world works.

One day all of that changes, suddenly and horribly. He fights back but learns, for the first time in his life, that he is too weak. That bad things happen no matter how fierce you are.

But still, against all reason and evidence: he believes. He hopes. He, as a very wise man once wrote, carries the fire.

He fails, over and over again. And each time his belief that the world can be understood crumbles a little. In its place is a cynical hope that despite the vagaries of the world, despite the invisible dice-throwing hand of God, despite everything, he can persevere.

Instead of believing in the world, he believes in himself.

Cheesy? No doubt. Like all themes, in the abstract it's little more than a Hallmark card. But when I think of him, my character, Riga, standing in the snow high on the burning white slopes of a mountain, hacking and gasping in the thin air, he wants to stop. The sky is so blue-black it almost vibrates, and he has been coughing up blood for four days.

Behind him is the way back down, to warmth and the soft green lowland valleys. Ahead is a wall of rock and ice.

But ahead is also hope. He takes a step. And another step.

And he keeps going.

Does he believe in himself? Hell and death, he believes in himself because everything else has failed him. Or because he has no choice. Or because he can't stop and die.

Somewhere in there is the kernel of my query.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Cheesy??? Absolutely not. And it couldn't be further from any Hallmark card I've ever seen. YOu're on the right track and very close to getting your message out there. How are certain people able to persevere against all odds? What drives that character? You've got it!