Slushproofing your Query pt. 2: Getting all the Blocks

Let me engineer a made-up query that has an element I saw in several entries.

Emily was worried. She knew that meeting Nick’s parents would be a minefield. She couldn’t ski, she couldn’t ice skate. She was going to be completely out of place– from the sounds of it, Christmas with the Millers was nothing but a sequence of winter sports. But she really started to lose it when she discovered that Nick’s mom was in the Daughters of the Confederacy.

I ran into a query like this (that was actually probably more subtle) and I read it three times before I got the subtext. Which is here is: Nick is white, Emily is black. The book is an interracial romance.

The author doesn’t state that, though. They imply it. They artfully suggest it. But they don’t state it out right.  Instead, it’s hinted at it in a single, important line.

This is a great technique in fiction. Show don’t tell. We writers practically have the advice tatooed on our foreheads. But for the query– you know, just tell a little. I’m not saying you have to type HURR DURR INTERRACIAL ROMANCE in all-caps, but don’t make the reader clue together the basic building blocks of your story.

Because we might miss a block, and fail to grasp what your story is about. Your slush reader, your editorial assistant, even your agent, is not always coming at your query with fresh eyes.  You want the reader, even the fatigued reader, to instantly get everything they need to know.

So:  Tell in the query.  Imply in the 250.


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  1. It might be because ‘Daughters of the Confederacy’ is an American thing (? I’m presuming), but I didn’t pick up on the interracial aspect at all from that, especially since all the Emilys I know are white, so I automatically think of them when I hear the name…


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