Writers’ Tip for the Day: Writing an Eye-catching Proposal, Part 3
The Character Sketches and the Backdrop
So far in our review of what makes an eye-catching proposal, we’ve looked at the Title Page, the Table of Contents, the Synopsis, and the Author Bio. Today, we’ll review Character Sketches and the Backdrop.
As previously mentioned, editors and agents might offer different guidelines for their proposal’s components or they might have the components listed in a different order. Always ask for their guidelines before you spend much time writing your proposal for a specific request. However, I think it’s a very good idea to get a proposal ready with the basic components as soon as you start working on a new fiction manuscript. It’s much easier to tweak a 60plus-page proposal than start from scratch, especially if the editor or agent wants the proposal ASAP.
Below I’ve included samples of some character sketches and backdrop. The character sketches are “sketchy,” which might be adequate for some editors, but for others, might not be. Perhaps they’ll request a full-page sketch of the main character or a few of the secondary characters, as well. So be prepared and give the editors what they want.
LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN
Louellen Bidleman Friesen – twenty-five-year-old Amish woman unhappily married to Eli Friesen, a mid-twenties Amish man. Louellen feels trapped in her life for two reasons: she craves love from her husband, which she is not receiving because she can’t give him children, and she is questioning her Amish roots and belief system, which leaves her empty and with no assurance of God’s love or her eternal destiny. Louellen is a beautiful woman, slender with long wavy auburn hair, green eyes, and a rosy complexion.
Eli Friesen – mid-twenties six-foot-tall Amish farmer with thick, brown wavy hair, dark brown eyes and curly eyelashes. Eli is a troubled soul, who publicly fits into the Amish mold but in his heart questions his Amish beliefs and longs to know God more intimately. Eli also guards another secret well that only he and his medical doctor know – Eli is the reason he and Louellen have no children, but his pride and bitterness cause him to resent Louellen and ignore her longings to have an intimate emotional relationship with him.
Dr. David McAndrew – 40 years old; gentle brown eyes, wavy blonde hair, tall, and handsome; doctor of obstetrics; not a Christian; bitter at God for taking his wife; performs abortions; finds himself romantically attracted to Louellen Friesen.
Andrea McAndrew– 18 years old; blonde hair, brown eyes; slender; interested in spiritual matters but doesn’t tell her father because of his bitterness toward God; would love to see Louellen and her father get together; a freshman in college.
Jenna McAndrew – 16 years old; blonde hair, brown eyes; slender; interested in spiritual matters but doesn’t mention it to her father; would love to see Louellen and her father get together; a junior in high school.
Cheryl Whentfield – 32 years old; RN who works in obstetrics with David; divorced with two boys, Brent, 15, and Conrad, 13, and would like to connect with David; deep blue eyes, long styled black hair (bottled because of premature gray); shapely and very attractive; wears make-up fashionably; not a Christian.
Jacob Knapp – Amish farmer; neighbor of the Friesens. Married to Emma and has five children, ages 16 to 5.
Ezekiel Romig – Amish farmer; neighbor of the Friesens. Married to Martha and has six children ages 17 to 3.
Zeb Clouser – Amish farmer; brother-in-law of the Friesens. Married to Esther, Louellen’s sister and has three children, ages 7 to 4. Two girls, Rebecca, 7, and Sarah, 6, and Joseph, 4
Pastor Hugh Grove – pastor of Community Fellowship Church where David and his wife went before she died; mid-fifties; parts graying hair down middle; has pot belly; passionate about soul winning and cares deeply for David’s soul.
Louellen’s family –
- Dad Bidleman – thin mid-forties Amish farmer; graying beard; brown eyes; leathery skin
- Mom Bidleman – plump mid-forties Amish housewife and mother; graying auburn hair in bun and kapp; green eyes and rosy cheeks
- Zeb Clouser – brother-in-law; blonde hair, blue eyes; thin farmer with weathered skin; 28 years old; farmer
- Esther Bidleman Clouser – 27 yrs. old; same features as Louellen; often mistaken for her twin
- Rebecca Clouser – seven years old; looks like father; blonde hair; blue eyes
- Sarah Clouser – six years old; same features
- Joseph Clouser – four-year-old nephew of Eli and Louellen; the boy Eli idolizes
- Samuel Bidleman – Louellen’s brother; typical Amish man; auburn hair and brown eyes; 29 years old; farmer; kind
- Marie Zook Bidleman – Samuel’s wife; 28 years old; plump; dark hair; brown eyes; pregnant with third child
- Samuel Bidleman – eight years old; looks like his father, Samuel. All boy
- Adam Bidleman – five years old; rosy cheeks; brown hair and brown eyes; plump
Mapletown – small town in central Pennsylvania where the story takes place
Presbyterian Community Hospital– where Dr. David McAndrew works
Washington High School– where Jenna McAndrew attends
Wellington State University– where Andrea McAndrew attends
Bald Eagle Valley– where Friesens and other Amish families live; west of Mapletown
In an Amish/Mennonite fiction novel, in which family is so vitally important to the storyline, it is expected that you would include the family members of the main character. However, in most other subgenres, the editors would probably not ask for such detail.
Next time, we’ll discuss the last components of a good proposal: the Sample Chapters (or the entire manuscript), Marketing Information, and the Date of Completion.