Don’t Fear the Banana

I just read about a fantastic query contest focusing on fear.

Wait, let’s push pause for a minute while I give a brief explanation of query.

A query is simply a letter written by an author to prospective agents.  The query gives information about the author’s work including genre, word count, comparable titles, and of course, what the book is about.  It sounds simple, but trust me, it isn’t. Authors spend weeks and months, and sometimes years perfecting the roughly (for my genre) 80,000 – 100,000 words and getting them just right.  A lot of authors, me included, find it very difficult to narrow that down into one page of text.  But it’s important to get it right so that the agents (or we hope multiple agents) will want to know more and request pages from your manuscript, which they will love so much they promptly call and offer you representation.  So queries have a lot riding on their electronic shoulders.

Pushing play.

The particular query contest, focusing on fear, isn’t limited to stories in the horror genre. It’s open to all genres. Why? Because all stories contain an element of fear. Good ones do, anyway.  Every protagonist or main character (MC for the purposes of this blog) is afraid of something. Fear trips you up, it stalls you, it causes you to do things you don’t want to do.  When our MCs get tripped or stalled, or do things they don’t want to, it makes our stories interesting and real.  We want to see how the characters react when put face-to-face with the thing that scares them the most.

That’s a whole heck of a lot easier than facing what we fear the most, isn’t it?

I’m going to work on this contest using my current work in progress.  Not only do I think my current story lends itself to the “Halloweeny” feel of this contest, but I think it will help me dig deeper into my MC and learn more about what makes her tick. Learning more will help me create a multi-layered character, which should be more exciting for my readers.

I think I’m going to adopt this as a writing exercise for other characters in my book and future books.  It’s easy to write a fear for your MC. But what about her love interest or best interest? Knowing what they’re afraid of, even if you don’t include it in your work, can help you write them more fully.  This should be particularly interesting to do for the antagonist.  What is the enemy afraid of? How can the MC use that? Or more interesting still, can you use that to make the reader sympathize with him/her?

Since I’m not ready to reveal any of my WIP yet, I’ve decided to practice for this contest by writing the required 100ish word paragraph about one of my fears.

It’s the smell that gets me most. Sickly sweet and musty, it hangs in the back of my throat and penetrates my nose hairs. Sometimes the odor stays with me for hours. When it wafts around me, waves nausea rock my stomach, like tidal reminders of times I spent sitting in the bathroom.  My mom told me the medicine would calm my stomach back when I was a child.  I can’t say if it did or didn’t.  What I can say is that there is nothing I’m more frightened by than accidentally eating something made of banana.

(Yes, it’s true. I really am afraid of bananas.  But spiders don’t bother me at all.)

For writers interested in the contest go to michelle4laughs(dot)blogspot(dot)com (Which is not me, nor am I affiliated with the other Michelle)


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