Some of you are saying this isn’t that Flash Gordon post you promised us! No, it isn’t. When we started character month I had a few surprises planned. This was one of those surprises. Ms. Marini was kind enough to answer a few questions about characters for us, which is no small feat considering how busy she is. You have to admit she’s pretty awesome too. The needs of her clients, queries to answer, and manuscripts to read, and she still set aside some time for character month. You rock Victoria.
Getting to know Victoria Marini: From her official website: http://www.victoriamarini.com/ “I am an associate literary agent with the Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency,and an assistant to the boss-ladies: Jane Gelfman, Deborah Schneider, and Heather Mitchell. Gelfman Schneider has been in business for over 30 years. We passionately represent a wide range of authors including American Academy of Arts, Edgar Awards and Pushcart Prize winners, as well as several New York Times bestselling authors. Click the link above to find out more about my awesome agency.
I am the newest (and shortest) member of the team, and I began taking on clients in 2010. Currently, I’m building my list and hungry for more.”
From the Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency website: “Victoria began taking on clients in 2010, and she has begun to build her own client list which includes literary fiction, commercial fiction, pop-culture non-fiction, and young adult. She is very interested in acquiring engaging Literary fiction and mysteries / suspense, commercial women’s fiction (romantic suspense, sci-fi, fantasy), and Young Adult (contemporary, sci-fi/fantasy, thriller and horror ). Above all, she is looking for anything with an engaging voice, compelling narrative and authentic characters.”
Let’s get to the questions, shall we? Our thirst for character knowledge is never satiated.
What, in your opinion, makes a character great or memorable?
This is one of those je ne sais quoi things; there’s usually something indomitable in the spirit of a great character. I think great characters are multi-dimensional; they have many sides, behaviors, experiences, beliefs, opinions. They can not be described as an archetype or a caricature.
Can you tell us the most common character mistakes you come across in requested materials?
When the protagonists enemy has no motivation for being antagonistic, or a very shallow motivation.
What type of characters are you drawn to?
Flawed ones. I like characters who screw up a lot whether it’s because they make active mistakes during the course of the narrative, or they’re bad at communication, or they’re don’t listen to the needs of others.
Do you feel “flat” characters are deal breakers?
Absolutely. I don’t know anyone who would disagree with me, either.
If you could meet one character from a book, who would it be and why?
This is too difficult. Ummm, honestly? I suppose Sydney Carton from A TALE OF TWO CITIES because – while I’m not a Dickens fan – Sydney was the first “literary crush” I had. I suddenly realized it was possible to create a character so real that could actually like him. I don’t know that I still have a thing for him, but I’d be interested to explore the memory; like meeting an ex-boyfriend 10 years later and trying to figure out who you both were then. Oh wait, wait, also Miles from LOOKING FOR ALASKA. or Mibbs Beaumont from SAVVY. I told you this was a difficult question.
I’d like to thank Victoria for stopping by and sharing her thoughts on characters. I really enjoyed her answers, especially to which character she’d like to meet. And I love the phrase “literary crush”. I’ll have to think about mine. If anyone was wondering, Victoria is a fabulous agent who always makes time for her clients and an all around good person who should be at the top of your query list. She’s definitely an agent to watch. I’ll see everyone Monday when we’ll have another special guest talking characters with us. You guys are so lucky.
What Victoria wants in submissions. “Bottom Line: I’m looking for a fantastic idea (the kind where you go “Oh My Goodness, what a GREAT premise!) and the voice, character, story, and world-building to back it up.” Before you hit the send button, make sure you know what she’s looking for. A good place to start is here. Gelfman Schneider submission guidelines can be found here.
Anyone thinking of querying Ms. Marini (and why wouldn’t you?) should pay attention to what she likes and doesn’t like in her characters. For the rest of us, we get a glimpse into the mind of what a literary agent is looking for as she reads queries or requested materials. This is what she does every day, all day. Keep in mind each agent will have different tastes and needs to fill in their list of clients. But a little knowledge never hurt anybody. Right? 😉 Good luck!