Thursday, May 31, 2012

What I Look For In A Story - The Premise and the Plot

I will admit that I am an agent that does read the synopsis. I know there are a lot of agents that say they don't look at it, but I do. For me, the synopsis says a lot. This is the chance for me to see the entire storyline and the over-all premise of the project. As I said, yesterday, character is a crucial element I look at when I decided on reading more of a project, but so is the plot and the premise.

A lot of people are amazed at how fast I can read through a submission. Why is it that I can make a decision simply based on the first three pages of a book and a synopsis? Most of this comes down to the plot and the premise of the story. The common thread you will see this week, when it comes to what I look for in a story, revolves around the believability and the reality of what I read.

I honestly think that too many authors out there try too hard to create something so different, or to bring together characters that are so extremely opposite, that they sacrifice the quality of the storyline. In the end, they have something unique and different, but far from real. That lack of reality plays a huge role in the connection you can make with your reader.
Regardless of the species of your characters, what they do in the story has to be something real people would do in the real world. In other words, the same laws of physics still apply.

Let me give you two examples from my own authors.

Stephanie Stiles in her book, TAKE IT LIKE A MOM explores the role of a mother who finds out she is pregnant with her second kid. Everything she does during her 9 months of pregnancy are things that we all laugh about later on AFTER the kids is born. This is strange behavior, but very real.

Harmony Evans in her first Kimani release LESSON IN ROMANCE takes the time to explore the issues of adult illiteracy. I have to say, when I first read this project (yes this was her first submission for me) I was sceptical. My first thought was that she would be making the characters completely unreal. I fully expected that her character would be reading full Tom Clancy novels and writing his own book by the end of the story. Nope. Her hero was able to read a small children's picture book. But it was a start. In other words, she didn't take on the entire world but took it piece by piece.

You can have your characters be funny and extreme, but in the end, if the over-all storyline is not something your everyday reader can connect with, you will lose them. I do believe, in many ways, this is the reason the Harlequin lines have done so well for so long. These are real people in real situations. Yes, there may be some "cheesy" moments. but in the end, the premise is still pretty darn real.

Tomorrow. The writing style.