The Continuing Journey into Genericville

August 12th, 2010 • Kate

genericcostumeThere were some fabulous comments on Tuesday’s post about the road to Genericville, and if you haven’t gone through them, I highly recommend you take a look. But I wanted to touch on something that may have gotten lost in the discussion.

Namely, that Genericville isn’t just a trap that can befall fantasy characters, despite my D&D references. Your YA novel is just as easily prone to be over-generalized in your query (and perhaps in the writing of the book itself, but let’s stick with the query here) as is any fantasy — same goes for middle grade, witty women’s fiction, or anything else!

The lonely outsider girl who doesn’t feel a part of her high school crowd, who doesn’t think she’s special until one certain boy comes along and tells her she is… that’s the road to Genericville. In this, as in the other day’s discussion, the key to hooking an agent with your query while avoiding the bar codes of complacency is to use specifics. Why is this girl an outsider? What’s different about this boy? Or maybe you can be more specific about the high school crowd — what makes them different from any other high school you might read about?

A quick tour through a few About My Query posts will find me saying the same thing over and over again — I want to know MORE about your characters, not less. You’re not trying to make your book sound like everyone else’s, you’re hoping it’s going to stand out from the crowd. And in a world of generic bar code t-shirts, that one girl in a floral dress and killer shoes is going to stand out like gangbusters. Good luck!

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4 Responses to “The Continuing Journey into Genericville”

  1. Olivia Says:

    I had the problem of over generalizing when we had to write premise sentences in Creative Writing last year. Instead of making a good hook, I summarized the book in a sentence, which was the most General thing I've ever written.

  2. Jill Elizabeth Says:

    Speaking of killer shoes, I miss the pics 🙂

  3. Elena Says:

    I found that focusing my query on the main character rather than the story really helped to focus it. Knowing what the main character cares about most of us all makes us care too. Regardless of whether your main character is a faerie princess or a half-werewolf-half-vampire-half-leprechaun, he or she has still gotta have wants and needs and loves. That's what drives them through the story, and that's what the query should focus on. Genericville ends up with a mouth full of dust.

  4. Suzanne Casamento Says:

    LOL! Of course the lonely girl has killer shoes!