Why Perfect Characters Shouldn’t Exist In Literature

There are thousands of character types to write. From the average every man, to the rebellious princess, to the rouge intergalactic smuggler, you have your pick of characters to play with. But one day, whether you’ve picked it up in your own story or maybe you’ve seen it in a book or a movie that you like, you will come across the character who is too pure and too good for this sinful earth.

This is the character that the main cast loves and adores, they are the person who is kind and wise and will drop a motivation speech at the slightest inconvenience to our heroes. This character encompasses everything that is good and right with the world and holds the ideals that we should all strive for. They never make mistakes, they always have the right call, and are as perfect as perfect can be. They are incorruptible pure pureness and they are also boring as fuck.

Don’t get me wrong, I like having characters who have high morals and standards but speaking strictly from a reading and writing perspective, nothing could be worse than to have to watch the acts of a character who has zero faults. They’re boring, they’re a pain, and they’ve got no soul to them whatsoever. Obviously, this kind of character type happens to women more than men, that isn’t to say that men can’t be turned into soulless, lifeless, and purity sues, but it happens to women more often. So, why, as some of you maybe asking, is this character a bad thing?

Well, for starters, no one person, man, female, in between, is perfect. Perfection is an unobtainable state of being. Secondly, by having this so called perfect around hang around, you have to essentially erase any semblance of humanity. Humanity is flawed. Humanity makes mistakes. Humanity is able to grow as a person. Perfection never had to grow in the first place, it simply exists. This brings to mind a line from Mark Twain’s “The Mysterious Stranger”, ” I can do no wrong, for I do not know what it is.

The entire point of a plot is for some conflict to be had and resolved. If you have a cast of perfect characters who can do no wrong, then what is the point of it all? People can dream about being perfect but they can’t relate to the nonexistent struggles of a character who has never had a bad day. A character who has flaws but works to become a better person is more enjoyable and on a whole has a better character arc whereas a perfect character, again, simply exists. What possible story line could a perfect character have that can be engaging to an audience or to a writer? Perfection is the antithesis of plot.

Top 10 World Building Tips!

World building is either one of the greatest things to write in a story or it’s the worst. To help you stay on track and knock out any issues, check out this Top 10 World Building Tips!

  1. Location, Location, Location – The world is a beautiful wide place but we’ll never know what your world looks like if you don’t tell us where your protagonist lives. Are they by the sea? Do they dwell in the desert? Are the woodlands the place that they call home? Every location has it’s pros and cons. When shaping your world, try to visualize where the protagonist is established. You don’t have to wax poetic about every flower on every tree but nail down the big stuff. If they live in the plains, are thunderstorms and powerful winds a concern? If they are by sea then do they participate do they play on the dunes? If they are by a large forest, have they been told all their lives to be afraid of the beasts that dwell there? Your protagonists home base is important beyond words. It is the baseline in which they will judge everything else.
  2. Money? What is Money? – Love is all you need but money pays the bills. How does your world’s economy work? Do they use paper bills and coins? Is it credits? Is it trade only? How are people paid and what are the general costs of things? You don’t have to create an entire economy on the spot but it is something to keep in mind once you have characters in need of supplies.
  3. People and Conflicts – If history has taught me anything, it’s that people can start a fight over anything. If there are people fighting, the most important question to ask is why? And never forget that the conflict, no matter how big or small, there will always be a group trying to bridge the gap. Are those people still welcomed into their community? Does it cause further conflict? Are they making any headway at all? Everyone wants peace but it’s usually on their terms, think about how your conflict will or could end. Is it an equal on both sides or does one come out on top?
  4. Courting and Sweet Romance – Every part of the world has a different idea on what constitutes as a good mate and proper dating etiquette. How do your young lovers meet each other? Are there balls to be introduced into the dating pool? Is it you catch someone’s eye and then you hang out? Do you have to wrestle a legendary monster to be able to date? How do they know that they are now a serious couple? Is a marriage proposal done by the gifting of a beautiful ring or is by tackling a task together as a couple?
  5. Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder – The human standards of beauty have shifted over the years and everyone has their own definition of beautiful. What is gorgeous to an Elf might be hideous to a Dwarf. The same goes for any person or creature or race. Beauty is highly subjective. Thin isn’t always in, muscles aren’t always attractive, intelligence could mean nothing if they don’t know how to defend themselves, and no one could want a witch or a wizard who doesn’t know how to fly a broom. What are the standards in your world?
  6. Weapons – The basic form of weapons doesn’t really change. A sword is still a point sharp thing that can stab people, a hammer is still a hammer, and a mace is will still leave all those sharp painful holes in your head at the end of the day. What doesn’t really change is how people use these weapons, how they decorate them, the preservation of them, and how they are treated when they are broken in battle. Does a broken blade still get fixed but treated as a token of a mistake? After the battle is won, does the hammer find it’s home over the mantle? Is the mace passed down through the generations? Are specific animals reserved for certain weapons? A hawk can only be put upon a bow just like a bear is only put on the handle of a hammer?
  7. Family and Friends – If there is one trope that I love, it is the Found Family Trope. Nothing makes me smile like seeing a total group of strangers come together and essentially adopt each other. What kind of emphasis is put on families and what does the normal family look like? Is it mom, dad, brother, sister, and then you? Or is it mom, mom, brother, and you? Dad and Dad? Only Mom? Only Dad? The best Aunt ever? Are the kids raised by the grandparents while the parents are out fighting evil? Or is it more of a communal where everyone raises everyone?
  8. Death and Mourning – Life happens and so does death. People die from a wide variety and people and cultures react in different ways. Is a suicide condemned or is it treated as a warrior losing a battle? Do people sequestered the sick and elderly away to avoid seeing the inevitable future or is it embraced along with their eventual deaths? When a person dies are they cremated or buried? Is there a designated mourning period or when a person dies is it forbidden to speak about them?
  9. There Are No Therapists – If you’ve noticed anything in the fantasy world, it looks like there are no social services. Kids are left to their own devices to fight off the worst evil in the land, people are regularly traumatized but never get any help. PTSD is common for soldiers and civilians alike. You would think with so many social problems and mental health crises that some form of mental health resources would be made available but nope. Nada. Not even an option. The characters have to deal with their own issues by themselves without any help. Not to say that it can’t be done but when there’s a demand, a supply will be made available. How is mental health handled in your world?
  10. Democracy, Theocracy, and all the Acys -Whether your world is run by an equal vote for everyone, by their religion, or the aristocracy, the world has to be run by something or someone. Like everything else in life, each government system has it’s ups and downs and there is always some group that gets the short stick of everything. Does your character belong to the upper class and is free from the strive that the lower class experiences on a daily basis? Is it possible for a member of the lower class to rise up? Or is there a system in place to keep them in their place?

Love, Loving, and Gone

Since I’ve started dating again, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into love, romance, and everything else that makes that 11 ounce organ in your chest beat like Keith Moon.

Sorry to be stating the obvious but people love love. There’s a reason why it’s got it’s own genre in the writing world. Writers write about it, poets wax poetic about it, and there’s more literature about it, condemning it, celebrating it, agonizing it, and analyzing it than any other subject in human history. Love is a many splendor thing and it is complicated as hell when it comes to writing it.

When I write romance or have my characters fall in love, I often struggle with how to let the reader know that these two characters are in fact totally in love. Does the audience know that they’re in love because they spend so much time together? Because they’re affectionate? Because they have a lot of sex? I freely admit that I’m a cynic and an asexual to boot. Me writing sex and overly romantic behavior is a struggle. I mock romance novels for fun and as for sex itself well, that part is self-explanatory. Still, it does raise a good question as to when we, the audience, identify when two people are in love. For most novels, it’s when they’re having sex. They feel comfortable enough to be completely naked and incredibly intimate with their SO. Again, as a cynic and an ace, sex isn’t the greatest indicator for me that two people are in love. If anything, it just shows that they find each other attractive enough to fuck. Love is more than physical attraction, I think we can all agree on. Love is patience and kindness, support, and pushing you to become a better person. But what is the threshold that all of us can point at and say, “Yes, they are in love!”

With shipping all it takes is one prolonged look and some soft music playing in the background before everyone puts on their shipping goggles and then fics and fan art pop up. Sometimes, they don’t even have to have any interaction, they could just be the only other two single people left in the series and people put them together because, hey, pair the spares. People ship characters because of one off sentences, a headcannon, a piece of fan art, or whatever. It doesn’t take a lot for people to just accept that those characters are in love. But is there a better way?

I’m not complaining that people write over the top romances that are sheer wish fulfillment. Those writers are providing a much needed service and everyone needs some wish fulfillment sooner or later. Rather, I want to know from you, the audience at which point you identify that a set of characters are in love. For me, personally, it’s when they are so enmeshed together that all it takes is one look and they have an entire plan figured out. Communication skills are essential, people. I love a couple that knows each other so well that they’re on the same wave-length.

“The Adventurous Princess” Review – A Failure of Fairytales

Once upon a time, a publisher reached out to a blogger and asked her to review a short collection of fairytales. She agreed but unlike the fairytales, the review did not end in Happily Ever After.

Originally, I had planned to divide the stories up and given them their own separate review. However, due to time constraints, I’ll just get right to it. The “Adventurous Princess and other Feminist Fairytales” is an example of what not to do with a fairytale retelling.

The stories we all know by heart. Cinderella is abused and wants to go to the ball, the Beast is cursed, Snow White’s jealous Stepmother tries to kill her, and the Little Mermaid falls in love with a person whom she can’t be with. These stories have survived throughout the years and through the years have been retold, redone, and re-imagined by creators both great and small. Barrow is no exception when it comes to fairytale remakes but what she does is remarkable. She misses the point completely about the soul of the story and instead of going with the actual moral, puts her own “feminist” spin on it. Her reasoning behind doing this? She “believed that the traditional fairytales I grew up with…don’t truly represent the society we live in” and “The heroes of these stories are usually either expressly or implicitly straight, white, young, able-bodied and conventionally beautiful.”

I do agree with her that the traditional fairytales don’t fully represent the society that we live in but when one remembers that they were created over a hundred years ago, it makes sense that somethings no longer hold up. Time change, social views get updated, and life goes on. You can’t be upset that a piece didn’t age well. What’s more is that her other complaints about the heroes are straight, white, young, able-bodied, and conventionally beautiful do have some weight but I should mention that most of the heroes don’t have a lot of detail to go with them. In “Cinderella”, we are told that the stepsisters are ‘beautiful and fair of face but vile and black of heart’. As for Cindy herself, we are told that she is ‘dusty and dirty’. We are not told what she looks like except that she is beautiful and as everyone knows beauty is in the eye of the beholder. She could have lovely blonde hair or kinky curls. Her eyes may be blue or a stunning green. There is no description to Cinderella. She is meant to fulfill what the reader thinks beauty is. The same thing can be said for her age. We don’t know how old she is. We don’t get much in the way of physical description in the traditional fairytales unless it’s important like the story of “The Girl Without Hands” or “One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes” or the “Constant Tin Soldier”.

And as for not having able-bodied characters in fairytales, I’ve got some news for you. The “Girl Without Hands” doesn’t have any hands and the “Constant Tin Solider” is missing a leg! And they are the main characters of their stories and they are badass. The Girl Without Hands is too good for the devil to take and the Constant Tin Soldier goes through a harrowing journey to return to his love. True, there isn’t enough representation for disabled characters but to say that isn’t any is wiping away the characters that do bring representation.

The idea behind it, giving fairytales a modern update and fleshing out the characters, is noble but poorly executed. Barrows has attempted to merge the old school style of story telling with contemporary ideals and morals only to fail in both regards. The writing is dull and patronizing and neither Barrow nor her publisher know the intended audience.

As for the remake of the stories themselves, they are but a shadow of what they once were and this is largely due to Barrow’s attempt to bring in a
“feminist” and “modern” morals. The Princess and the Pea
was meant to poke fun at the ridiculous standards that the upper class held
upon themselves to prove their worth. Instead, we get an idiot prince who lacks a spine, a brain, or any sense of what he wants to do. Barrow’s Cinderella is weak and rather stupid in her tale rather than the woman who took risks and left her abusive family once she had her freedom. The Little Mermaid who’s entire story and moral is about unrequited love never tries to go after her love and learns that important lesson. The Sea Witch scares her off with some rather ham-fisted dialogue about loving who you are that mocks the reader’s intelligence. 

Beauty and the Beast is par for the course but in this case, Beauty has a
cane. I’m torn on this because I don’t know whether not mentioning Beauty’s
cane is meant to show that being disabled is no big deal but she did dedicate a
line to show that Cinderella is old and suffers from ageism so why not explain
how Beauty got her cane? If you didn’t have Barrow’s illustrations, you would
have never known that Beauty was disabled or that Cinderella was black, or
about half the reasons she wanted to make fairytales more inclusive.

At the end of the day, Barrow’s characters are as lifeless as the paper they
lie on. Her writing does not know whether it wants to pander to young children or appeal to teen or young adults so, it alienates all three. The dialogue is too modern to fit in with her attempt to mimic Anderson or the Brothers Grimm’s iconic style. I wouldn’t call this work empowering to women or feminist. Rather, I would say an attempt was made in good faith but if you need to stick on the cover of your book that it is “feminist” then you have failed. It is pandering to a new generation of women, LGBT+, and minorities who are once again fighting to save and expand their rights. They along with everyone else deserves a fairytale that they can see themselves in but they will not find it in Barrow’s novel. 

“The Adventurous Princess” Review – A Failure of Fairytales

Once upon a time, a publisher reached out to a blogger and asked her to review a short collection of fairytales. She agreed but unlike the fairytales, the review did not end in Happily Ever After.

If there’s one thing that you must know about me, it’s the fact that I love fairytales. The adventure, the romance, the struggle between good and evil! I love it all. They are a fascinating part of our culture and a reflection of our morals. Which is why I was pretty psyched to have a chance to review “The Adventurous Princess and Other Feminist Fairytales”. The idea of some of the most beloved fairytales of all time getting a 21st century spin immediately appealed to me.

Some background information before we begin, the stories in this book are plucked from Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, Charles Perrault, and a legend that’s been passed for centuries and doesn’t have a true author to claim to. Many of these stories were put to paper roughly two hundred years ago but they were kept alive by oral tradition for centuries.

Since it’s oral tradition, the stories have shifted and changed to reflect the culture, ideas, and qualities of the time. Things have been cut out or removed depending on the speaker but one thing always stayed the same: the moral. The purpose of a fairytale was to give a moral in a way that was easy for people to remember.

Author Erin-Claire Barrows, an Australian writer and illustrator, has decided to put her spin on these well-loved stories in her book, “The Adventurous Princess and Other Feminist FairyTales”.  The stories she has chosen are as follows: The Princess and the Pea, Cinderella, The Swan Maiden, Beauty and the Beast, The Frog Prince, Snow White, Allerleirauh, the Goose Girl, The Little Mermaid.

Because each story has been revised to fit with modern times, I will be doing a mini review for each one and then an overall review of the collection.

Without further delay, let’s begin!

The Princess and the Pea

We start off the story with an upset King and Queen who are worried about their son, the Prince. They are given no names. The King and Queen want their son to focus on warfare, the state of affairs within the kingdom, and taxes. They are fine with adventure but as long as it’s for a goal. The Prince doesn’t really care about any of that and prefers to “play his lute while imagining the lands beyond the sea and the strange creatures that might live there” or “write a story about it”.

Honestly, I can’t say that I blame the King or Queen for being upset with their son. A ruler should know about what wars are being waged, the state the kingdom is in, and taxes. The Prince is totally checked out and I can’t root for him as a protagonist when he’s neglecting his duties.

Eventually, the titular princess shows up. She’s soaking wet from the storm and needs a place to stay. The King and Queen let her stay, have dinner with them, and show her to her bedroom. The Prince explains to the unnamed princess about the pea under the mattress scheme. The princess finds it ridiculous and instead of sleeping, she stays up with the Prince all night telling him her adventures. The Princess encourages the Prince to go and have his own adventures but instead he laments, “Oh no, I couldn’t. I have to stay here and practice all manner of dull and princely things.”

Ah, yes, the dull and princely things that go into running a country. How tragic for our hero. I don’t like the Prince. Not everyone wants to be royalty but his parents are cool with him going on adventures and in a land wherein dragons do exist and there are people in danger, I don’t see why he hasn’t tried to go out and do it or why he’s so reluctant to know how to keep his kingdom running smoothly.

When morning comes, the Princess fakes her bad night’s sleep and the Queen and King are overjoyed at it. They deem her worthy to wed the Prince and welcome her into the family! But there’s a twist. The Princess explains that her family has their own standard when it comes to princes and the Prince has not gone on enough adventures to qualify for her hand in marriage. The King and Queen do acknowledge that the Prince hasn’t done anything adventurous.

She refuses marriage to the Prince and rides off while the Prince decides to finally go on an adventure to parts unknown without a goal in mind.

My Thoughts

I don’t have the slightest clue as to why I’m supposed to root for the Prince or sympathize with him. He doesn’t care about his duties as a ruler and finds the whole idea of running his own kingdom to be dull. The Prince himself is equally dull having about as much of a personality as a single cell organism. The only things I do know about him is that he likes to imagine and play the lute which does not a personality make. Other than that, he makes no effort to take control of his own destiny or to change his life even though the means to do so are right in front of him.

His parents attempts to engage with him and show him the adventures of others is pitiable. They’re making an effort to try to get him to see that there is a very exciting world out there but alas, our flat Prince doesn’t really care about anything. Their push to have him marry a real princess feels less like trying to force him into marriage and more like a desperate attempt to make sure that the kingdom falls into safe hands since the Prince has no interest in it.

This tale isn’t modern, diverse, or feminist in any way with the sole exception of a black princess who shows up, tells a couple of stories, and then immediately moves on. The characters are boring, the plot is nonexistent, and for a fairytale, it’s got the basic tell tale marks but doesn’t do anything with it.

The original Princess and the Pea was about a prince who wanted to marry a true princess but didn’t know how to tell which one was a “true” princess. That’s when the pea comes into play because surely, going by all princess standards, a real princess would be able to feel it. The Prince gets an unexpected guest and although she doesn’t look like one, the woman proclaims herself to be a princess. He puts her to the test and to his surprise, she passes it! They marry and live happily ever after.

The moral of the story has been taken into different directions but I believe that the overall moral of the Princess and the Pea is actually a subtle jab at the lengths that royal families and other noble branches go to in order to prove that they are the real thing. Considering Anderson’s stance on the upper class and his own upbringing plagued by poverty, I would say that this is a fair assessment.

Comparing the two stories, the original and Barrow’s take on it, I would say the original is more modern than the remake. Making fun of the upper class has never gone out of style. There are still plenty of people who will whip out their ancestry charts and bloodlines to show who they are related to and how that makes them important.

The single upside to the story are the illustrations. They are beautiful but they aren’t enough to save the story. What’s more, if it weren’t for the illustrations, you wouldn’t have even known that the titular princess is black. She could have been Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, or Polka Dot.

I understand the need and want to make a more diverse story to appeal to a wider audience, but the Princess and the Pea falls flat. There’s not enough character development for anyone, there’s not a single piece of dialogue or humor that’s great, and I still find myself questioning why I should care about the Prince, the protagonist of the story, at all. Overall, if there was a story here, I didn’t feel it.

Giving Yourself Permission to Fail

I will say this until I am blue in the face but writing is hard. It’s a hard way to go as a career or a hobby. There are people who have been at it for years and have had very little success or recognition. There are newbies who submitted to their first five publishers and have gotten offers right off the bat. Trends change, publishing houses and pop in and out of existence in the blink of an eye.

The writing world is large and intimidating and just when you think you’ve got everything down and have nothing left to learn…BAM! There’s something else you need to know. It’s frustrating and it feels like the rules are changing all the time. What can be done for a new writer when these feelings drag them down?

The answer is actually simple: Fail.

I know, it sounds crazy but what do you learn from success? Admittedly, not much. What you did to reach success that time for that specific goal might not work out the next goal you have in mind. To put it plainly, with success you get praise and a pat on the back. With failure, you get feedback. I don’t know about the rest of you guys but I have other ways to keep my ego and feelings afloat. I know what genres and types of scenes that I kick-ass at. I would prefer to know what my flaws are and how to improve them then to be showered by praise and never know what more I could do. Of course, this isn’t to say that by reaching your lofty goals that you never receive any valuable. Agents and editors provide invaluable advice and guidance. Their words should never be discarded. But if you’re stubborn, or new, or you don’t know what you’re doing, failing is the best experience.

However, we live in a society that is deathly afraid of failure. To not be an instant success in any area of life is looked down upon when everyone knows that’s not how life work. Everyone wants to be a prodigy but not everyone is. Generally, people have to work hard and hone their skills to get where they are or desire to be. Everyone wants instant success but it is the failures and the losses that make success so sweet.

Give yourself permission to fail so that you may succeed.

Again, no one wants to fail or to have repeat failures. It’s demoralizing. But learning to accept failure as a part of life and how to incorporate what you can get out it, will help you in the long run. In writing, it’s fair to say that you will experience more rejections than acceptances. Hell, getting rejected has turned into a badge of honor in some parts of the writing community as a way to say, “I did it! I failed! I’m officially a writer now!” So, here is your official permission to fail. You are free from harsh judgement, you are allowed to cry, but as long as you take away something from your endeavor, you will be fine.

The Perks of Research

No one like wasting their time. I don’t know a single person who starts their day hoping to waste their time. That being said, I don’t know why writers who after pouring their heart and soul into a novel, that may have taken years to complete, would fire off the first query letter that they’ve written to the first agent that they’ve found.

Research is important. Polishing rough drafts is important. Editing query letters and synopsis is important.

There is not one stage of the writing process whether it is plotting or sending off queries that is more important than another. But where most writers can get through the plotting, the writing, and the querying stage fine by themselves or with groups, there feels like a severe lack of emphasis on finding that perfect agent. For some, there is this idea that if they polish their manuscript and nail the query letter, that they can get any agent they want.

This could not be farther from the truth.

Not every agent is going to want your manuscript. I say this not to be mean or rude but to speak the truth. There are agents who will not want your manuscript because it may not be something that they actively or are currently looking to represent. Agents who work in New Adult or Adult don’t want Children centered books. Why waste their time and yours by querying to someone that will give you an automatic rejection letter? Newsflash! No one likes sending out a rejection letter! Not a single agent does. They don’t like handing out rejection, they want to send out those beautiful “Yes, I would love to represent you” emails that every writer dreams about.

This is why research is important. There feels like there is this huge misconception about agents and how they pick which projects they want to pursue – that agents live in this ivory tower where occasionally they grace writers with their heavenly presence. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Agents know what they want, what they can sell, and what the market is demanding. Look at it this way: Would you rather have an agent that can sell your book or not?

When an agent says that they handle certain genres and not others, it’s because they’ve got the experience and connections to make your book soar. They are passionate at what they do and they don’t want to waste their time or yours struggling to sell a book that they either don’t know the market for or have the knowledge to make it stand out in the market.

To help yourself make your book sell to an agent, and this is the only time I will ever say this, in this highly specific context, but stalk the agent. Go through their Twitter feed, find their page on Publisher’s Marketplace, see if they’ve got a #MSWL, and if they’re on the Association of Author Representatives. It’s not like a writer has to guess what an agent is interested in. They will quite plainly tell anyone who will listen what they want to see in a book or what they aren’t interested in.

A Middle Grade agent wants Middle Grade Books. A Murder-Mystery agent wants murder mystery. A Romance agent wants romance.

It’s not hard to figure out. Granted, there are agents who are looking for quirky and off-beat books and that’s harder to define and give examples of but generally speaking, if you look on the agent’s page, you will find what they’re looking for and what they can sell and have previously sold in the past. Being a writer is hard and there’s already a heavy workload attached to the title but not researching agents can be the death knell of your book. While wasting time with agents who are simply not interested, you could have been querying the right ones who would leap at the chance to represent you.

Treat yourself to an hour’s worth of research. An hour of your irreplaceable time to find an agent who will want to spend their irreplaceable time with your manuscript and you.

The Future of Querying

PitMad is a mad rush of excitement, panic, and hopes and dreams literally pinned on the idea of an agent seeing your query in the mass of hundreds of thousands of other queries. There was some discussion in the ranks of hopeful writers that perhaps PitMad wasn’t as effective as it once was and that overall, PitMad was little more than a popularity contest that counted retweets more than the overall quality of the pitch.

On the surface, this felt and seemed like a viable complaint but I was curious and decided to dig deeper into the lack of response or engagement from agents. But first, I think it’s important to give some background information on #PitMad.

PitMad was first established back in 2012 by founder and author Brenda Drake who after running a few contests and watching one fateful episode of “Cupcake Wars” was given the inspiration to create a writing based even centered around the idea of pairing writers with an assistant of sorts.

Over time, this idea evolved into Pitch Wars where industry professionals could be paired up with writers whose manuscripts fit their genres, style, or what they were looking for in a book. It was a huge success and gave way to PitMad. Held quarterly, PitMad is a different way to pitch to agents. It consists of going on Twitter, having several pitches to release over the course of the day, and using the appropriate tags while keeping within Twitter’s character limit. Writers were able to connect with agents, other writers, and get priceless advice to help polish their manuscript. Since then, PitMad has exploded in popularity and is one of the highlights of the writing community.

But after what feels like a lackluster response all around, questions started to pop up on whether PitMad was as effective as it once was. The idea that it’s a popularity contest and because your pitch didn’t get as many retweets sounds like it could be the cause. If you don’t have a large following and don’t have the people behind you to push your tweet to the top, would an agent even see it? I debated this for some time and have come to the conclusion that popularity is a make it or break it factor is a no. While retweets never hurt, they don’t actually play a significant part. As we all know, agents have their genres in which they specialized in. You wouldn’t send a strictly Middle Grade Fiction agent a lengthy novel on the life and death of Josephine Bonaparte, just as you wouldn’t send a murder-mystery agent a child’s book on the importance of friendship.

Those sub-category tags are there for a reason. No agent is going to go wading through the hundreds of thousands of tweet in the PitMad feed while another hundred are created with each passing minute. It’s not a good way to go about business or a good use of their time. Instead, agents will stick with what they do and look at the tweets within their categories.

Whether PitMad is still effective or whether the landscape of querying is changing, I went to Gina Panettieri, President of Talcott Notch Literary, to see if this was the case.

In your tenure as an agent, what do you believe to be the best querying method?

  • I’ve found that a really well-written emailed query, showing your writing potential, your background and understanding of your market and your comps, really gives me enough to engage with the writer. I feel like I know them a bit now, and it can set me up to want to jump on their work quickly.

Are events such as PitMad worth a writer’s time or is best to stick to traditional methods?

  • I don’t see anything wrong with it but two huge things have happened with the huge Twitter pitches in the last year. Agents are seeing many of the same projects pitched that they’ve already seen in the Pits before, and when something sounds intriguing, dozens of agents ‘like’ it. Agents are fine with multiple submissions and competing for a book with more than one offer, but this just feels a bit like overkill. We don’t feel there is adequate return on our time investment. So more and more agents are becoming tepid about the entire process.

As social media plays a large part in connecting with writers and agents, do you believe that there will be a greater integration of it in the querying process?

  • I hope not! There needs to be some boundaries, and agents are already unable to disconnect because of email forwarded to our phones, so finding their social media also a point of contact would cause burnout. It’s important for any professional to be able to have some down time for mental health, so constantly being ‘on duty’ on every front would be exhausting.

As time goes on, what do you predict will be the future of querying? And what processes do you think will become obsolete?

  • I don’t see the formal query process ever becoming obsolete, but I see an increasing number of agents closing to queries. The nature of email querying, where one can email their query to dozens of agents simultaneously, means our inboxes are overwhelmed. I see more than 7500 queries a year, and I know some see more. We ask that each one include a 10-page sample, so consider the time it takes to process those if the author wants any degree of feedback whatsoever. That’s a minimum of 82,500 including a cover page to try and read with care and attention. then there are the actual requested manuscripts. And, of course, our primary role is working with our existing clients, so the reading is on top of our main duties. I’m seeing more and more services to ‘make an agent’s job easier’, like submission services, but those really seem to be devoted to creating forms, ‘click to reject’ pathways and ways to spend less time considering each work. Is that what we want? I’m seeing a lot of success with authors finding agents and selling books through the intensive one-on-one workshops (like NY Pitch, though there are opportunities online and through many conferences. I’m not talking Pitch Slams, which can be chaotic and intimidating to many but actual one-on-one workshops), and I think that’s because it returns the time and relationship element to pitching. Agents have become engaged with the author and the work, see what the author is like to work with on revisions and feedback, and can determine if they feel this is a person they want to invest time in.

During the past PitMad, there were some fantastic pitches but gained very little attention. As some have speculated, event like PitMad are more successful during certain time periods like spring or winter? Do you believe this holds any validity or is it more of a case of bad timing in general for writers?

  • Agents and editors may see something different in the pitch than participating writers do. Would it be a difficult project to sell for some reason? Is it a crowded shelf or are there elements that haven’t sold well lately? However, as you suggested, holiday times and summer shutdowns probably don’t bode well for strong participation. Many agents and editors may have travel plans, are already committed to quite a few summer conferences, or simply want to close queries for the summer and aren’t looking to increase their work load. It’s always best to offer virtual events during quiet periods.

For writers who are constantly trying to write the Next Big Thing, what do you believe the market and readers are looking for? Are there certain trends that you have noticed that writers haven’t that they should be aware of?

  • It’s never good to write on trend, since by the time your book would be completed, sold and published, that trend would be exhausted. That said, be intuitive to societal shifts. What’s going on around you? Get in on the ground floor of change. Read newspapers and journals and note when there seems to be a plethora of articles about a topic that hasn’t been newsworthy before. For instance, many outlets have noted the rise of ‘non-religion religions’ among young people, like astrology, numerology, witchcraft, spiritualism, etc. Books are growing more realistic, harsher, sadder, darker as readers and viewers feel overwhelmed with negative news. Find trends and take them to their natural conclusion.

If you could give any piece of advice to querying for writers, what would it be?

Know your market – both the market for your books (your readers, your comps) and the agencies who work well with your material. When we get a query where it’s clear the author isn’t well-read in their own genre, it’s an immediate no. Read widely. Become active in that community, online and in person.

If someone was to query your agency and a member of your team, what is a premise that you would love to see and represent?

  • Each member of our agency has their own specializations and very particular personal preferences, so it’s best to follow their blogs, Twitter or #MSWL feeds to see what they’re looking for. I’m a generalist, so I’m the hardest to pin down, but the flip side to that is I’m interested in the widest range of material.

Special thanks to Gina Panettieri.

Is PitMad Dead?

During this last #PitMad event, over 100 thousand tweets flooded Twitter with pitches, discussions, and vows to help out new and experienced writers find their perfect pitch and get noticed by agents.

There were successes and failures and whether you got noticed or not, one thing is for certain, you left with a better understanding of PitMad than you did coming in. I want to say that it’s completely okay to feel disheartened by any lack of success. PitMad is a mixture of timing, retweets, and luck that the right agent sees your pitch.

While there have been great pitches this time, I couldn’t help but notice that the overwhelming likes in the most popular tweets came from not agents or editors but from people who, as far as I could tell, didn’t have a stake in writing or had a firm grasp on what PitMad was. For a new writer, it can be crushing to see the likes of a tweet soar in the five hundred range while they get a few from less than reputable publishing houses or none at all!

Any writer who Googles PitMad can find the rules and that’s to say nothing of the dozens of writers on twitter who repeated them en masse, there is a rampant disregard for the process of PitMad and what it is meant to accomplish. As PitMad comes around, it will be trending and this will lead to people, either curious or wanting to participate, who will like or heart tweets that they find interesting and give false hope to writers who are working hard to get their work out there.

For example, one of the most popular tweets that came out this round was by @AuthorKAnthony who pitched, “After a serial killer rescues a small child who’s been lost in the woods for days, he marries her mother and puts his murderous ways on hold to raise a family. The only problem is the little girl saw the bones of his victims out there, and she’s growing up. #PitMad #A #LF“. His tweet gained 429 retweets and 221 likes. Only 4 of those likes came from an agent or a publishing house. The rest, as I could find, were either other writers or accounts that had nothing to do with writing.

Writer @ajvanbelle, pitched, “#PitMad #A #SF 150 yrs from now, a little girl notices a boy living on the streets. She feeds him, teaches him, and eventually loves him. 35 yrs later, the girl is a criminal wanted by the interstellar military, and the boy is the veteran soldier sent to terminate her.” She was able to get a solid 229 retweets and 100 likes. Again, only 2 likes came from a publishing house or editor.

Fellow PitMad participant , @Ctanz731, was on fire with her pitch of, “It’s been 11 years since their last kiss. His wheelchair—new. His smirk—the same. Her heart—still melts for those kind eyes. As they uncover the truth about the night he was paralyzed by his father’s hands, a dark secret threatens to douse their rekindled flame. #PitMad #CR #A” but astoundingly out of the 552 retweets and 209 likes, only 1 like came from an agent.

With the lack of genuine responses from agents and an influx of likes from non-agents, it might feel like #PitMad is maybe #DeadInTheWater. But I don’t think that this is the case. Where there are failures to abide by the rules, as usual there are those proud few who can say with their heads held high, “I GOT AN AGENT!”

In the cut throat world of publishing, agents have to be selective of what projects take on. This means rejection for many of us until we, with the right query and timing, find the agent that is meant for us. I do contend that there has to be a better, more efficient, way to see the actual results of PitMad without crawling through the likes of non-agents.

#PitMad and How to Perfect It

Agents are always on the prowl for the next story and that means leaving their emails behind for four days of the year and flocking to Twitter where writers of every genre come together for one great event: #PitMad. An all out battle to get an agent by having the best pitch on Twitter.

Is #PitMad Right For Me?

While selling your book on Twitter is a fairly major departure from the usual stance of emailing or mailing your query, #PitMad is a faster way to gain attention (and sometimes rejection). It’s helpful if you want to see what’s popular right now and what your dream agent is looking for. #PitMad is a community event and while you may not get the response you wanted, it’s a great way to get your name out in the community and network with other writers in your genre.

How Do I Join #PitMad?

Any unagented person with a ready to go manuscript can participate providing that they have a Twitter account. On the day in question, #PitMad starts promptly at 8 A.M. and ends at 8 P.M. Eastern Time.

What Are The Rules?

The rules for #PitMad are simple. While staying within Twitter’s word limit, writers put out their queries and use the appropriate tags to get attention from agents and editors alike. Fellow writers may retweet posts but not like them. Liking a tweet is reserved for agents only. Everyone is encouraged to retweet posts to help out their fellow writers and comment on posts with advice on how to really make that PitMad submission shine.

How Do I Create a Pitch?

The hardest part of PitMad isn’t timing your tweets or figuring out the best tags to use to garner the most attention but trying to sum up your work in less than 140 characters this includes the necessary #PitMad tag. There are two ways to form a pitch.

  1. When X has (action,tragedy, moment of weakness, etc.), they must X (fix problem, escape, fight, etc) before (the stakes of failing to do so)
  2. X finds themselves in (danger, new world, crazy shenanigans) they must (stop an evil wizard, save the world, rescue lost princess) to (solve the problem)

Any of these styles will you help form your pitch. How you decide to do it is strictly up to you.

Additional Hints to Help You

When designing your pitch, keeps this in mind:

Do Not Craft Pitch Day Of

This is a rookie mistake. Your pitch will be seen by agents, editors, and everyone else in the community, why hurt yourself by not taking the time to create that perfect pitch?

Do Not Bog Down On Details

Do we need to know that your character has brown eyes or likes listening to Elton John? Unless it pertains to the plot, cut it out. At the same time, feel free to spoil the book for us. You have such limited space that the big details of the book matter like your character being a lost princess, finding out the guy they’re dating is a serial killer, or dying.

Use The Appropriate Tags

When an agent or other industry professional clicks on the #OWN or the #POC tag, they expect that the writer is in fact part of the #OWN or #POC. If they see a pitch for a biography on George Washington written by a white professional, that won’t fly over well. Sub-tag categories are there are a reason. They’re to help agents cut down on the massive influx of pitches and to find what they’re looking for. Don’t clog up the tags by picking the one you think will help get your pitch some attention.

Additional Resources


35-word and Twitter pitch simplified

PitMad Success Stories

Pitching…From Elevator to Twitter