do and don't · how to get a request for pages · query problems · writing problems

Big plot, small pitch

A macro-level plot, with global or galactic crises, tempts authors to write a macro-level query.

Science fiction and fantasy often fall prey to the macro-level query. The author tells me why and how the war started, but not why I should care.

We read books for the characters. I want to know how the war impacts your protagonist and how your protagonist fights back. A query is about plot, but plot revolves around characters’ personal problems.

When the government decides to register and control superpowers, some supers revolt, fighting for their freedom against the world they sought to protect.

That was a macro-level pitch for Captain America: Civil War. Boring, right? There’s no mention of Steve or Tony or Bucky. There’s nobody for me to relate to. People are the doorways to seeing ourselves in the story.

Steve Rogers discovered his best friend Bucky is alive but tortured into amnesia. Steve goes in search of him, hoping to help Bucky recover his memory and return to the person Steve knew.

That’s better. Losing your best friend, rebuilding an old relationship, misunderstandings, the effects of trauma. Those are personal stakes I can relate to.

All the macro-level stuff is gone. This pitch works, but an ideal pitch would combine the micro and macro levels.

When Steve Rogers discovers his best friend Bucky is alive, he goes searching for him, believing Bucky isn’t the villain he seems.

But finding Bucky leads to conflict with the American government, who are wary of Bucky and anyone else with superpowers. Steve, Bucky, and the new Avengers must fight against friends and former teammates, or else lose everything to government control.

The first sentence is human and relatable. The following sentences connect Steve’s personal plot to the bigger conflict.

Notice that Bucky (the center of Steve’s plotline) is in every sentence. Your readers should feel everything at gut level, even while you talk about global problems.

Thus “the world they sought to protect” became “friends and former teammates.” The world betraying you sucks, but former teammates’ betrayal sucks even worse. Why? It’s personal.

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