Monday, April 11, 2016

Kara Analyzes Pixar Movies: WALL-E

I have never tried to write a book with more than one point of view, although I accidentally did once when I was a novice writer and didn't understand what the heck I was doing. There was a lot of head hopping. I don't recommend it.

As I've been doing query critiques for my Tuesday Museday feature, I've had the opportunity to critique queries with multiple POVs. We've seen some in our Pass Or Pages contests, both as hopeful entrants and finalists. What I've learned from these is that writing a query letter for a book with multiple POVs is quite a difficult beast. You have to show the reader who two people are, plus their goals, plus the stakes, plus how they intertwine. And it can still only be a page long!

Why do you have to be sure to show all that? Well, for an example, let's examine WALL-E.

Do you remember the trailers for WALL-E? We got an impression that the movie would be about a funny robot, and... that was it. That was all we knew. Pixar has a history of vague movie trailers, and WALL-E's was the nadir.

So you start watching the movie. Sure enough, there's the robot. He's adorable. There's funny references to Earth culture. If you're lucky, you don't get "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" stuck in your head.

Then there's another robot. Then the robots are traveling in space. And suddenly, there are hilariously fat humans and a rogue autopilot and a very important plant. The story is no longer about WALL-E and his quest to find love with the robot EVE. Now it's about the humans, and their quest to get back to Earth. WALL-E's love story, once the most important part of the movie, is thrust to the back burner.

If you, like me, were completely thrown for a loop by the appearance of the humans, then you should understand the importance of clearly communicating all the important POVs in a query letter. Pixar's query letter for WALL-E (the movie trailer) showed us a robot, and we requested pages (bought a movie ticket) expecting a story about a robot. By the middle of the manuscript (movie) our story about a lonely robot has shifted into a story about the human race reclaiming their planet.

I'm not saying WALL-E is not a good movie. I like it. My kids once watched it seven times in a row on a drive to Yellowstone. It won an Oscar. But the advertising for WALL-E was misleading because it only focused on one character. For people looking for a movie about robots, they might have felt betrayed when the humans showed up and took over the story. For people looking for a heartwarming story about the human race overcoming challenges, they would never have tuned in and missed a great story.

Don't do that with your query letter.

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