Love the image of that pesky agent slamming his/her head on his desk? Want to make an agent run from the room screaming, "Oh, the horror!"? Or perhaps you'd just like to see as many of them as possible retire due to the overwhelming stress and frustration of the job! Well read on then... And btw...this is only a partial list, as agents are prone to bizarre fits and imcomprehensible spells regarding just about everything writer's do! And just when you've memorized the list, and erased any sign of this behavior from your own writing, someone will come along, break every rule, get published, and make a bajillion bucks for it, causing you to slam your head on the desk and run out of the room screaming!
1. Starting your query out with the words, 'I write just like Stevie King'! (Thereby causing said agent to burst into uncontrollable laughter, leading to loss of one or more fingers as he/she feeds your query into the shredder. They hate when that happens.)
2. Opening with a rhetorical question. (And I learned the hard way that the answer to the question, 'Did you ever wonder...?' is an unqualified, "No, asshole, I never did wonder that and I'm not wondering it now either. Form rejection.)
3. Not following the rules for submissions. Be prepared to spend every waking moment researching individual agent's websites searching for obscure lines of instructions, which vary wildly from agent to narcissistic agent! Remember--it IS all about them!
5. ...TO BE CONT'D.
1. The first line regards the setting. (No one cares.)
2. The fatal first line...(image didn't work, hook not tied to plot, taking too long to get to the plot or action, nothing happens on page one, causing agent to hurl ms across the room before reaching page two, The moral? Jump right in! Do start in an action sequence.
3. The opening contains any of the following phrases:
"my name is..." and/or "My age is..."
"This can't be happening!"
"And then I woke up!"
4. Physical characteristics of protagonist in opening. And I know that you all have spent countless hours dreaming up the perfect physical form for your hero. But apparently, unless he or she is from the planet Zoron and has one large eyeball in the middle of her head, it just doesn't freakin' matter! And for God's sake, don't make the mistake of having her look in the mirror and notice her own long blonde hair and the tired circles under her eyes! Use of mirror=immediate form rejection and black-balling from industry! Author sinks into obscurity and is never seen nor heard from again...
5. The cliche...mirrors, dreams, dim-witted cops, idioms and phrases....there are at least a million of them. Just. don't. do it.
6. Unnamed characters and mystery objects: Any unnamed persons skulking around your opening will result in random lightening strikes, thereby removing them and making room for characters who are important enough to have mothers who actually named them, Same thing with unnamed or undescribed objects, IE...something dead in the bathtub, something horrible in the closet, something seen or envisioned in a secretive manner. These are seen as a cheap trick with which to create false suspense and merely frustrates touchy agents.
7. Characters doing things that people don't do in real life: IE...shaking their heads to clear the cobwebs...(this is something I have caught myself actually doing, btw, whether random, narcissistic agent wants to believe it or not. Just sayin'...)
8. TO BE CONT'D....
THINGS THAT GET AN AGENT EXCITED!
1. Stellar lead character in a surprising situation. IE...Joe Blow, the local undertaker, suddenly finds himself being fired on by FBI agents. WTF?, he thinks, Does this have something to do with how I prepared Marilyn for the grave?
2. Action, action, action...
3. Brevity: make the point and move on, and if it doesn't further the plot, nix it.
4. Good opening line
5. Strong voice
6. Emotionally engaging...
7. TO BE CONT'D