“I’ll read your manuscript,” she said, “but I should tell you, I’m not a fan of angel stories.”
Not exactly the words I wanted to hear from a prospective agent, especially on the eve of a call with my dream publisher, but I understood her point of view.
Here’s the thing, Holly didn’t pull me from the slush pile. Another agent did that, God bless him. And then he left the agency and all of a sudden the editorial team at Thomas Nelson wanted to talk to me about my manuscript. They wanted to talk to me about Angel Eyes and I hadn’t yet been assigned another agent.
So, Holly! Yes, Holly. She agreed to read my manuscript that night and sit on the call with me the next day, with the above caveat. She did not like angel stories.
“That’s okay,” I said, “I’m not a fan of angel stories either.”
|Angel Eyes (book 1)|
I won’t say that I convinced Holly to like angel stories, because I think she’ll tell you that’s not the case. But the thing is, Angel Eyes isn’t really about angels. And therein you’ll find my advice.
If you’re going to write about creatures that readers already have preconceived notions of, the story has to be bigger than the creature and his plight. It has to say something about the reader. About humanity.
“But I’m writing about vampires (or wolves, or fairies, or purple-bearded zombies),” one might argue.
But you’re not. You’re really not. The good stories, the memorable ones, talk to the reader about themselves. Their feelings. Their emotions. Their world. Truth has to resonate from your pages. The creatures you spotlight are weapons in your arsenal. You must use them wisely.
But how? How does one do that? Here are four things to keep in mind as you write.
1. Be unique. Your vampires don’t have to be just like everyone else’s vampires. Sure, readers expect to see a thread of similarity, but feel free to make adjustments based on your story needs or your own creativity. Now, don’t throw rocks at me, but think about Twilight for a sec. Stephenie Meyer took the idea that vampires suffer in the sunlight and turned it on its head. The sunlight remained a nemesis to Edward and company, but in an entirely different (albeit fancy) way. Meyer rewrote vampires. You have to do that. You have to make your creatures unique. Which leads me to my next point.
|Broken Wings (Book 2)|
3. You need a hook. You just do. Imagine how many angel stories an agent (or a publisher) sees on any given day. You must hook them. In my books, the halo provided that. The halo allows Brielle to see the invisible. That’s unique. That’s different. It opens the door to so many possibilities. In Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Elisa had the Godstone. The Lord of the Rings trilogy had the One Ring. But, it’s not always about enhanced objects. In Jill Williamson’s By Darkness Hid, she actually masters this by including more than one hook. The concept of characters bloodvoicing is introduced as well as a land separated by light and darkness. Both of these, when put to an industry professional or a reader, are intriguing. The trick is to take something unique to the world and the creatures you’ve sculpted and fashion it into a hook. Grab me. Make me want to understand it.
4. Consider the takeaway. Now, you can do this to a lesser extent while you’re drafting, but this is best done, I think, when you’re in the editing phase. When you’re drafting, just get your thoughts on the page. But when you’ve moved onto editing, force yourself to put down the pen, shove away from the computer, take a walk, and ask yourself this question: What do I want readers to take away from my story? Really think about it. If you don’t know, let it percolate for a while, but once you’ve answered that, ask your brilliant self this one: Are the attributes I’ve given my creatures helping or hurting in that regard? Be honest, and then ask yourself one more: What can I adjust, in my creatures’ nature or actions, to bolster the takeaway? And then sit back down and edit with those adjustments in mind.
For the record, Holly decided to take me on as a client. She read Angel Eyes that night, sat on the Thomas Nelson call with me the next day, and when I asked her what she thought of my manuscript, here’s what she said.
“It’s not really about angels, is it? It’s about the supernatural.”
I think you want readers saying the same thing about your books. It’s not really about the creatures. It’s about something else. And that something else will be the very thing that shapes your fantastic creatures and sets them apart from all the rest.
|Dark Halo (Book 3)|
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