The Tao of Snark

Dear Miss Snark:

You said, "A couple auto-no's for most agents: dead kids, torture, child abuse, sex abuse. They are auto-no's for as many reasons as there are agents."

Forgive my asking what may be an obvious question, but (taking the issue of "dead kids" as my example) does that mean:
1. No children die in the book, whether directly in the narrative or by inference.
2. No mention of dying or dead children in the book.
3. No one in the book ever has lost a child.
4. No plot events involve a child who has died or someone who has lost a child.
5. Some other permutation.

IOW, are you saying that you don't want to read a manuscript in which the death of a child is depicted? You don't want to read a manuscript in which there's the faintest mention of the loss of a child in any way or for any reason? What does it take to trigger the "eeeew" response and the thumbs-down reaction?

Seeking clarity (and nitwittily yours)

For clarity you must go sit zazen at the local Serenity Bar and Chill.

You cannot parse this "auto no" list reasoning, because it is not a function of logic.

You cannot avoid "no" for weird reasons.

You must be the grasshopper and toil away, ignoring the reality of John Deere mowers.

Miss Snark sucks her hookah and smiles enigmatically.


GutterBall said...

Miss Snark is gettin' her Zen on today.

Anonymous said...

I love it.

angrylil'asiangirl said...

i, too, now second the zazen-and-chill notion. at least for the moment, i shall hereby cry "uncle!" and wave a tattered white flag.

at the same time, however, as i retreat into my angrylil'cave to practice my angrylil'zazen, i will send my energy to the universe in the hopes that writers will inundate agents and publishing houses with purely pedagogical writings that, as stacy commented in the prior "auto-no" blog entry, make direct political and social statements and that, more importantly, will not always have the white man getting the asian girl.

not that there's anything wrong with that. there really isn't! but you know what i mean, you closeted and un-closeted amy tan fans.

Tulie said...

I was really hoping you tear into this one with both elegant fists, Miss Snark. The son of my one main characters drowns halfway through my manuscript, largely because of her ex-husband's negligence. The MC doesn't witness the drowning; in the divorce, she lost custody due to her (often dangerous) sleepwalking episodes. She learns of her son's accident well after it happens.

It never occurred to me that agents might be repulsed by such a scenario.

Dave said...

There is a Sergio Leone movie (yes, a spaghetti western) that has entered moviedom's most honored batch of movies. It is Leone's homage to Howard Hawks and is called "Once upon a Time in the West".

It is very stylized, very imitative of Hawks, very operatic and REMEMBERED BIG TIME for Henry Fonda (mister good, mister happy, mister handsome before Clooney was handsome) ordering the death of an entire family and shooting a child. To borrow the colloquial (dirty word warning) people went bug-fuck, moon-bat and wing-nut crazy at the sequence. Fonda got away with it because he is Henry Fonda. And Sergio Leone succeeded in creating one of the truly evil, archtypal villians of all time. The movie is brilliant for many other reasons.

Now just because this western had that scene, it didn't mean that all other movies copied that scene or plot. No one else did. They made violent movies but they never tackled an onscreen massacre like that again.

I am not Leone, nor Tolkein, nor Styron, nor Mahler, and I promise you that I am not tackling these subjects in any of my stories.

Alley Splat said...

ok, scared by the combinastion of zen and the John Deere mowers... are we talking maintenance?

Dave said...

I'm going to post another of these messages about how the public handles some topics.

I have bought full season tickets to the Symphony since 1972 (seventy-two, just in case you thought that was a typo). A good friend still buys his dead wife a ticket three years after her death and sits next to the empty seat. We are classical music lovers.

However, whe the Symphony performed Gustav Mahler's "Kindertotenlieder," the house was half filled. Mahler's music is heartwrenching and beautiful beyond all description. But these are "songs on the death of a child" and that is just too hard a topic to listen to no matter how magnificent the music or the setting.

To his death, Mahler regretted the music because he lost his daughter shortly after writing and performing it.

That is why certain topics rate an automatic "no." It's too emotionally harrowing for people to see or hear or read.

type, monkey, type said...

This question had to be a joke. Had to be.

I mean, what the hell difference does it make what one agent gets squicked by? Especially an anonymous one?

I don't like guys with bad teeth. It bugs me. How bad? Overbite? Nicotine stains? Crooked? Which ones are crooked exactly? Is it a size issue? It it the way too much gum shows when they smile? Heaven forbid I try to put it into words and run off my perfect mate, or worse, send some nitwit off to get 8 grand worth of dental work done.

Zany Mom said...

I have a sick kid as a major character in my novel. That he's sick is just part of who he is; it's not the focus of the novel, though the kid plays a major role in changing the lives of some of the adults around him. He is who he is.

He's not there for sympathy. He's not there for the cuteness factor.

That my characters come to me as whole, fully developed people with quirks and flaws and illnesses is fodder for another blog.

Or maybe I'm just mentally ill. ;)

Will an agent reject my novel because of him? I can't worry about that now. I just need to tell the story that begs to be told.

M. G. Tarquini said...

I stamp all my queries with the following:

"Guaranteed: No dead kids inside."

In big red letters.

Just to be sure.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but the quotation from Miss Snark's original statement says "A couple auto-no's for most agents." Notice the word "most"? Now do you wonder why someone would ask an agent who answers questions a question theoretically applicable to most agents?


eric said...

So my latest, DEAD BRAT ISLE, is going to be a turn off, hmmm?


writtenwyrdd said...

I suppose the lesson for today is write what you love and write it well. Then don't get upset if some agents don't like the dead baby or the buckets o' blood.

Xopher said...

Rats, I put dead kids in everything. Usually they're apparitions who advise the main character (occasionally to hir benefit, but usually not).

I take it back. I have one story with no dead kids. Actually there ARE dead kids, but you can't tell, because you can't pick them out of the piles of bones. Everyone in that story is dead except the two main characters, who are both adults (more or less).