Tuesday, March 20, 2012

March Madness: Are you a victim of the Duh Factor?

The Duh Factor is something that, when read, can be answered by a rolling of the eyes and the teenage favorite "duh." Generally speaking, you do not want the Duh Factor in your query, ms, or pitch. Duh Factors can also be spotted if, when someone reads them, they can make a snarky comment that completely nullifies everything you were building up. For example, if your hook begins, "If a genie offers you three wishes, would you use them?" I can answer "No," and that's it. Your entire premise is bunk.

Examples of the Duh Factor:
  • Rhetorical questions:
    • What would you do if the fate of the world rested on your shoulders?
    • If you were given a time travel machine, would you use it?
    • If you had a choice between what you wanted and sacrificing everything you've ever known, would you do it?
  • Inane statements:
    • Stephanie never asked to be given super powers
    • Lucas never wanted to be King but fate intervened
    • Things never went Susan's way
  • Vague statements or questions:
    • Imagine what would happen if a young boy is suddenly transported to a world unlike he's ever known.
    • Rocko's life is about to change in a really big way, and he won't see it coming.
  • Obvious dialogue:
    • Brian walked into the room. Sue was surprised to see him. "Brian," Sue said. "I'm surprised to see you."
    • "I see you are drinking coffee with sugar. I know you always need your coffee in the morning before work."
    • "Darcy, meet my friend Liza. We've known each other since second grade. She really likes cheese. You will like her."
  • Redundancy:
    • Dark Moon is a YA fantasy that will appeal to adolescent readers who like being transported to new worlds
    • Red Desert is a NA mystery that will appeal to older teens 18-24 who enjoy mysteries
    • Teddy Bear Gruff is an easy reader targeted towards kids 3-6 just learning how to read
  • Normal (not "normal") characters:
    • Becky is a sarcastic, bitter 17 year old girl
    • Edgar is a quiet but sensitive bad boy who isn't interested in any of the shallow girls at school, until Amy, the pretty new girl, shows up
    • Paul will do anything to save his family from the corrupt government, even if it means sacrificing himself
Even as I was writing these, I was making snarky comments, snorting through my nose, and prepared to smash my own screen in frustration.

I know I'm missing some. So, please, share your own!

Happy writing!


    Anonymous said...

    Anything that references the legendary "fiction novel." I've heard some agents will auto-reject on that phrase alone.

    Richard said...

    While I'm pretty sure I've avoided these, it is nice to have some hilarious concrete examples to work with.

    Thanks for the tip.

    Harriet Parke said...

    Good tips. Thanks. I'm looking at mine with wide awake eyes now.

    Delia said...

    "She really likes cheese." *snort*

    Janet Johnson said...

    LOL *wipes tears from eyes*. Now my stomach hurts. I'm feeling better about my query. :)

    Vivi B. said...

    LIVING IN A TERRIBLE FUTURE is a dystopian novel about living in a terrible future.
    And LOL - i love the Pizza Hut sign! Good to know they don't just serve salad.

    Jaye Robin Brown said...

    ...and they had many adventures.

    ....and stuff happened.

    Jennifer Pickrell said...

    I'm guilty of a variation of the "obvious." I'll put in every little detail of the dumbest thing (re: filler)

    So instead of writing, "she grabbed a soda from the fridge,"

    I'll have, "she walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. She picked up a can of soda from the shelf. She closed the refrigerator door."


    I always find it in my first drafts, so irritating.

    Amber said...

    I loved to hate your dialogue :)- the cheese bit was my favorite.

    Let's see....oh, I've got one. I ALMOST put this in my query (in the final sentence) --

    Unpredictable friendships will be built and dependable ones will be broken.

    I'm reading this and rolling my eyes this instance! I'm so glad I saw the error of my ways before I clicked send :)

    Katy Upperman said...

    "If you had a choice between what you wanted and sacrificing everything you've ever known, would you do it?" Um... is there a third option? :)

    Thanks for this, Vickie! Gave me a good laugh, plus, it's incredibly helpful. Sometimes you don't realize you're doing these things until they're blatantly pointed out. You rock!

    Carrie Butler said...

    I'm waiting for someone to say, "My book will appeal to people who enjoy reading."

    *Grins* Thanks for sharing, Vickie!

    Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

    I literally laughed out loud at some of those, but some, I had to squirm a little in my seat. :)

    Mart Ramirez said...

    LOL! I agree with Amber. The cheesy line was my fave too!

    And Carrie has a good one to add to the list. I'm running a blank here but I know there are tons more.

    Great post! Thanks for making me smile.

    lexcade said...

    I don't know about you guys, but I base my friendships entirely on whether or not a person likes cheese.

    Great examples, Vickie.

    Rowenna said...

    To be fair, discussions about cheese are never inane :)

    But great points--the ones that really make me cringe are when something happens and the author feels the need to immediately give a summary of it or explain it. "Bob stubbed his toe and sprawled on the pavement. He had tripped." Yes. Duh. He tripped. Even worse in a query when every word counts so much!

    Jonathan Dalar said...

    Thanks for the laugh! Thing is, a lot of times people don't realize how dumb sounding, or redundant, or vague something sounds until it's pointed out by someone else. Inane and vague statements (and I'm probably guilty of a few over the year and queries) are the worst.

    Charlie N. Holmberg said...

    Great post! The Pizza Hut picture made me laugh ;) Thanks!

    The Busy Author said...

    I have a list of "duh" words at my blog. Tumultuous, for example. A tumultuous story. I sure hope so, because dull, plodding stories about nothing are out of style.

    Anonymous said...

    "Hilarity ensues." (I just love that phrase).

    A lot of these come down to telling instead of showing, I think.

    Maree Caseri said...

    These were great and made me consider going over my writing.

    I'd like to see examples of some of these statements revised.

    J.P. Sloan said...

    "Her world was turned upside down."

    Could be an intense sci-fi premise, or just inane synopsizing.