Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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I picked a good time to drop in on Janet Reid’s blog

Because I met a very familiar Good Dog there.

I sent that photo to Janet when her blog was on hiatus earlier this year. She wasn’t on hiatus long enough to use the photo at the time, but here it is now: one of the very, very best photos I have ever taken of one of my dogs.

The one with the literary name, too, as it happens: his registered name is Anara Call Me Ishmael RN RA RE.

That was very eye-catching, but Janet also has a recent post about backstory that I noticed because of the recent Archon panel about that, followed by my post here.

Your recent critique on Query Shark mentioned cutting set up and backstory to keep a query lean and effective. My question is … when does set up / backstory become necessary to avoid confusion (the great query sin)? ….


I guess my real question is this. If we do attempt to include set up / backstory, is it better to just be blunt with it and get it out of the way (avoid confusion) or try to “say as much as you can without saying it” (avoid it looking like set up / backstory)???

You say surprise like it’s a bad thing.

I love twists and turns. I LOVE it when writing surprises me…in a good way.

But my guess is you mean that the agent won’t understand the story without some set up.

And that’s the answer to your question. You need set up if the reader won’t understand the plot without the key element.

But often times writer fail to understand that your reader isn’t looking for problems. We’re looking for a great story. And we’ll buy in to what you tell us if we can.

And then Janet goes on, with examples. As always, it’s a great look at a concise explanation of when and how much to explain backstory.

And it’s quite true about buying in, if you can. Janet adds, “Overexplaining is one of the biggest problems I see in queries.” I can believe it! I think this is exactly like saying, “Prologues that read like history textbooks are THE WORST!”

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2 Comments I picked a good time to drop in on Janet Reid’s blog

  1. Rachel

    Thanks, Hanneke! That boy cannot take a bad picture, but the ones I took that day were all fabulous.

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