Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Offer up your page (or query) for Nathan's critique on the blog.

Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 18 Nov 2010, 23:19

Okay! You all remember how this works. Below is the query up for critique. Feel free to chime in with comments, create your own redline (please note the "font colour" button above the posting box), and otherwise offer feedback. When offering your feedback, please please remember the sandwich rule (Positive, very polite constructive feedback, positive). In order to leave a comment you will need to register an account in the Forums, which should be self-explanatory.

I'll be back later with my own comment, and I'll update this original post with a link to my comment in case anyone wants to click to it directly. There will not be a separate thread, just this one.

And if you'd like to enter a page for a future Query or Page Critique, please do so in this Forum.

As of this posting there were 161 queries up for critique. The random number generator at random.org says.....

76!

Congrats to Robert Meacham, whose query is below:


Candida- The Making Of A Princess

When twenty-seven year old Candida began pondering her place in the universe, she had no idea that her energy would attract Belial, the demon of destruction. He came to her with voiceless messages, tempting her with power beyond her imagination. The more she listened to the whispers in her soul , the more she became seduced by the idea of power.

Belial warns her that her journey will be a war with the hierarchy of the souls of hell. She would need Arioch, the demon of vengeance as her protector.
He would see that she made it safely past the most powerful of dark gods, Atazoth, and then she would have powers and magic equal to Lilith, the Princess of hell.

Candida began the self-initiation rite and committed her soul to the red one of darkest brilliance, the Prince of Darkness. The wars began. The seduction for power soared in Candida’s energy as did her love for Arioch, the greatest seduction of all.
After nearing completion of all the battles, Candida had one last act to complete; she must destroy Arioch to receive her powers and stature from Satan. Only then would the veil be lifted and the gates of hell opened for Candida.

Mr. Bransford. I have been following your blog for some time and believe it to be entertaining and helpful in this industry. That is why I am choosing you for a go at my query of this 54k paranormal work.
I look forward to hearing from you.
User avatar
Nathan Bransford
 
Posts: 1327
Joined: 04 Dec 2009, 21:17
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby Holly » 19 Nov 2010, 04:55

Nathan Bransford wrote:Congrats to Robert Meacham, whose query is below:


Candida- extra space needed before the hyphen The Making Of of A a Princess

When twenty-seven-year old Candida began begins pondering her place in the universe, she had has no idea that her energy would will attract Belial, the demon of destruction. He came comes to her with voiceless messages, tempting her with power beyond her imagination. The more she listened listens to the whispers in her soul , extra space here before the comma the more she became becomes seduced by the idea of power. This is also a passive sentence -- better if you tell who is doing the seducing

Belial warns her that her journey will be a war with the hierarchy of the souls of hell. She would will need Arioch, the demon of vengeance as her protector.
He would will see that she made makes it safely past the most powerful of dark gods, Atazoth, and then she would will have powers and magic equal to Lilith, the Princess of hell.

Candida began begins the self-initiation rite and committed commits her soul to the red one of darkest brilliance, the Prince of Darkness. The wars began begin. The seduction for power soared soars in Candida’s energy as did do her love for Arioch, the greatest seduction of all.
After nearing completion of all the battles, Candida had has one last act to complete; she must destroy Arioch to receive her powers and stature from Satan. Only then would will the veil be lifted and the gates of hell opened open for Candida.

Mr. Bransford. I have been following your blog for some time and believe it to be entertaining and helpful in this industry. That is why I am choosing you for a go at my query of this 54k paranormal work.
I look forward to hearing from you.


Hello, Robert. Good luck to you with your query.

I enjoyed the passion you have for your story.

I couldn't get past the name Candida, which means yeast. Most of us associate this word with yeast infections, or candidiasis. I'd find another name for the main character.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candida_(genus) "Candida is a genus of yeasts. Many species of this genus are endosymbionts of animal hosts including humans. While usually living as commensals, some Candida species have the potential to cause disease. Clinically, the most significant member of the genus is Candida albicans, which can cause infections (called candidiasis or thrush) in humans and other animals...."

You change verb tenses several times in the query and need to stay in present tense. The letter also has some small punctuation problems. You want to take care of these things so your work has a professional appearance. I would go back and make sure the grammar and punctuation are in order in the manuscript as well as the letter.

Finally, I'm confused by the idea behind the story. A demon of destruction approaches young Candida, but she receives protection from another demon, who she has to destroy before she can receive her powers and stature. Is hell supposed to be good or bad in this story?

Best of luck. Your genuine passion shows in the letter.
Last edited by Holly on 19 Nov 2010, 14:20, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Holly
 
Posts: 500
Joined: 21 Dec 2009, 19:42
Location: Gettysburg, PA

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby slavandria » 19 Nov 2010, 09:27

Great post, Holly, and I completely agree. You took the words away from me. :-)

I, too, would change Candida's name. If you like the sound of it, then perhaps the name Cantita or Castida or something like that to get the image of a cheesy yeast infection out of the reader's mind.

I can't really add much more to what Holly said. Fix the grammar/punctuation and stay in present tense. I wish you all the luck in the world with this. You've accomplished something most people dread. I know I'd rather tear out my fingernails than write a query or synopsis. I think you've done a great job. Now comes the polishing.

Thank you for the read.


http://jennykellerford.wordpress.com
User avatar
slavandria
 
Posts: 33
Joined: 14 Mar 2010, 06:40
Location: Florida

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby Jaligard » 19 Nov 2010, 11:46

I get a good sense of what happens in your book and it sounds pretty interesting, but I think I need to know more about Candida. Why does she succomb to this tempation and why does she have what it takes to pull it off? Why should we care about her, particularly when she's trying to earn a rank in Hell?

There's a bit of name soup going on here, but you pull it off well, I think. Maybe trim those down to a main antagonist?

Overall, a very good start.
Jaligard
 
Posts: 56
Joined: 11 Aug 2010, 10:42

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby SSB » 19 Nov 2010, 12:40

I agree with the posters above. The heroine's name needs a change. I could not get past it either.
User avatar
SSB
 
Posts: 40
Joined: 07 Aug 2010, 06:35
Location: Charleston, S.C. now, I was a Jersey Girl.

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby taymalin » 19 Nov 2010, 12:56

I'd like to throw my vote in for a name change too, just in case it helps. I read the name, and that's all I could concentrate on. I thought that the name choice might have been deliberate (it could work in a certain type of comedy) but obviously this is not a comedy.

Though, I could see someone naming a child Candida in real life, if they didn't know what it meant and they thought it was pretty. Sort of how the word Chlamydia is pretty until you find out what it is.
taymalin
 
Posts: 9
Joined: 07 Dec 2009, 19:56
Location: Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby ted » 19 Nov 2010, 13:51

Candida- The Making Of A Princess

When twenty-seven year old Candida began pondering her place in the universe, she had this stopped me, because the present tense is typically used in queries...i.e. "begins pondering...she has no idea" no idea that her energy would attract Belial, the demon of destruction. He came to her comes to her with voiceless messages is this like a silent movie?, tempting her with power beyond her imagination. The more she listened to the whispers in her soul weren't the messages voiceless? , the more she became becomes seduced by the idea of power.

Belial warns her OK, now we're in present tense... so the preceding paragraph should be made consistent with this one that her journey will be a war with the hierarchy of the souls of hell. too many prepositions here, maybe "a war with the hierarchy of souls consigned to hell"? She would will need Arioch, the demon of vengeance as her protector.
He would will see that she made makes it safely past the most powerful of dark gods, Atazoth, and then she would have powers and magic equal to Lilith, the Princess of hell. Now I'm getting a little jaundiced by the overuse of weak verbs like "make" and "have".

Candida began begins the self-initiation rite and committed commits her soul to the red one of darkest brilliance, the Prince of Darkness "darkest brilliance" sounds like an oxymoron, and two darknesses in one sentence is one too many.. The wars began begin. The seduction for of power soared soars in Candida’s energy as did does her love for Arioch, the greatest seduction of all. one seduction per sentence, and this structure imples that Arioch is the seduction, which sounds ungrammatical. After nearing completion of all the battles this is missing a word. Maybe "as the battles near completion", Candida had has one last act to complete; she must destroy Arioch to receive her powers and stature from Satan. Only then would will the veil be lifted what veil? and the gates of hell opened open for Candida.

***
At the end, I don't really have a sense of the characters and what they want. Does Candida want the gates of hell to open for her? If so, should the reader want to see that happen? Is she trying to usurp the Prince of Darkness (or the princess of Hell) and take over? Who is fighting these wars, and on what side? Are there any good guys in this story?

I think you have a fully-imagined conflict with a cast of immortal characters arrayed against each other, but the phrasing of the query needs work so that the rest of us can understand the plot. Standardizing on present tense throughout the query is a critical first step toward making it easier to understand.
User avatar
ted
 
Posts: 7
Joined: 22 Dec 2009, 09:25
Location: Arlington, VA

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby Madaboutstories » 20 Nov 2010, 07:07

Love the story line. I totally get the she's seduced by evil plot, but then has to destroy who she loves to get total power. Love the name Candida, reminds me of Voltaire. Candide- meaning optimism.
There does seem to be numerous character names for a query, so maybe try to cut it down to the nitty gritty.
Why is she pondering her place so late in life-or in her world is 27 young?
The end is totally cool...so many say 'so and so will have to make a choice', but you spell out her dilemma for us, so good on you.
To read a story is to breathe life into society-real or imagined, yet the imagined comes out of the truth.

Laura Hyatt
Madaboutstories
 
Posts: 17
Joined: 16 Dec 2009, 20:45
Location: Hamilton, Ontario

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby rob » 20 Nov 2010, 08:55

Candida (space) - The Making Of A (of a) Princess

When twenty-seven year old (hyphens are important. Are there twenty-seven year olds or one person who is twenty-seven-years old?) Candida (not convinced by the name) began pondering (ponders – it’s active and present tense, plus one less word) her place in the universe, she had (has) no idea that her energy (needs a bit of explanation) would (tense – will) attract Belial, the demon of destruction (Epithets are capitalized. Is Belial the only Demon of Destruction? Or are there many demons of destruction?). He came (weak verb – try speaks, communicates, etc., something stronger) to her with voiceless messages, tempting her with power beyond her imagination. The more she listened (tense - listens) to the whispers in her soul (does she hear this in her mind?) (extra space) , the more she became (tense - becomes) seduced by the idea of power. (Voices in the head and a thirst for power are one thing, but I think she needs more motivation – a ‘something or else you die’ scenario).
Belial warns her (extraneous, drop ‘her’) that her journey will be (passive verb – ‘be’ verbs, are, is, am, was, were, be, being and been, are passive; try to avoid them) a war with the hierarchy of the souls of hell (What does that mean? In a physical sense? Spiritually? Awkward.). She would need (She needs) Arioch, the demon of vengeance (see capitalization above and missing comma) as her protector. (Formatting issue – there’s a line-space between the first and second paragraphs. Why not here?)He would see (tense and weak verb – try will ensure, etc) that she made (tense – makes) it safely past the most powerful of dark gods (I’d capitalize), Atazoth, and then she would (will) have powers (one too many ‘powers’) and magic equal to (could be stronger – try ‘to rival’ instead of ‘equal to’ for an extra bit of conflict) Lilith, the Princess of hell (capitalized).
Candida began (tense and weak – try commences, starts, etc.) the self-initiation rite and committed (tense - commits) her soul to the red one of darkest (drop - one too many ‘darkest’) brilliance (I’d change this change - not synonymous with darkness), the Prince of Darkness. The wars began (tense and weak verb). The seduction (seems awkward, especially with the second seduction – try thirst, desire, yearning, craving, etc.) for power soared in Candida’s energy as did her love for Arioch, the greatest seduction of all. (still an awkward sentence even with the changes. I’d rewrite completely.) (Formatting issue – there’s a line-space between the first and second paragraphs. Why not here?)After nearing completion of all the battles (almost and ‘ing’ construction, read something like Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King to better understand this kind of mechanics [not in the car or garage sense] locution), Candida had (tense – has) one last act to complete; (needs a colon instead of a semicolon – you’re introducing a phrase that explains or amplifies what has gone before) she must destroy Arioch (I thought from above that Arioch was supposed to be her protector. Why must she destroy him now?) to receive her powers and stature from Satan (Is this the same guy as the Prince of Darkness above? If so, either call him the Prince of Darkness here or call him Satan above. Consistency). Only then would (tense – will) the veil (what is this?) be (passive ‘be’ verb) lifted and the gates of hell (I’d capitalise this) opened for Candida (her). (See the revised version below).

Candida - The Making of a Princess

When twenty-seven-year old Candida ponders her place in the universe, she has no idea that her energy will attract Belial, the Demon of Destruction. He communicates to her with voiceless messages, tempting her with unimaginable power. The more she listens to the whispers in her mind, the more she becomes seduced by the idea of power.

Belial warns that the souls of Hell will make war on her during the journey. She needs Arioch, the Demon of Vengeance, as her protector. He will ensure that she makes it safely past the strongest of Dark Gods, Atazoth, and then she will have powers and magic to rival Lilith, the Princess of Hell.

Candida commences the self-initiation rite and commits her soul to Satan, declaring war on the souls of Hell. But she has one last act to complete before she achieves her goal: she must destroy Arioch to receive her powers from Satan. Only then will she lift the Veil and open the Gates of Hell.

This is intriguing, if a little confusing for me. The really good thing about this is that it showcases some of the writer’s creativity. I would advocate using the ‘creative’ side of the brain in writing the first draft and then switching to the ‘editing’ side of the brain for a few revisions. I think rewriting to the present tense and dropping some of the passive verbs will make it skip along a bit more. There are a multitude of names in a short space; this tends to make me think the work is overly complicated. A query should be punchy and active without making the reader stop and think too much (unless it’s stop and think in a good way, like, ‘that’s highly original!’). Punctuation and grammar could be improved. At one point, the writer seems to contradict themselves re Arioch’s purpose in the story. That would probably be a killer moment in the reading life of any query. Personally, I feel that Candida needs more motivation in going out the door than voices in her head and a thirst for power. Some people get that every day.
rob
 
Posts: 1
Joined: 20 Nov 2010, 08:46
Location: Cambridge, England

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby Nathan Bransford » 20 Nov 2010, 13:06

This is definitely an interesting premise, and I think delving into hell could make for an interesting paranormal novel. There are some interesting relationships here and I'm intrigued by the premise. But I'm afraid I had a hard time grasping what is actually happening because there's too often a lack of specificity.

There's a fine line in a query between summarizing enough that the reader isn't bogged down by unnecessary detail, while still being specific enough that the reader is grasping what is happening. I think this is a bit too far into the summarizing spectrum, and there were several times (which I'll point out below) where some specificity would really have gone a long way to illuminate what is happening.

Most of all, I just wasn't sure why everything was happening. What does Belial want? What does Candida want? And why do they want it? It's a pretty big thing to start a war with souls in hell, so what are they after? Power doesn't seem like enough of a motivator, particularly when we don't know what the power is. Power to do what? What are they hoping to achieve?

I was a bit surprised that others in the comments had a problem with the name Candida. That didn't bother me, but I guess that's a personal thing.

I really do think this could be an interesting world to build a novel in, but it's so important that the character's arc comes through in the query, and I'm just not sure we have enough of a sense of Candida's quest. We know what she's doing, but we don't know what's motivating her or what she is striving for.


Nathan Bransford wrote:
Candida- The Making Of A Princess

When twenty-seven year old Candida began pondering her place in the universe, she had no idea that her energy would attract Belial, the demon of destruction I'm a bit confused by this plot point. Just pondering her place in the universe brought this about? Pretty much everyone ponders her place in the universe, so why her?. He came to her with voiceless messages, tempting her with power beyond her imagination What kind of power? What can he do or help her do? Be specific here. The more she listened to the whispers in her soul , the more she became seduced by the idea of power.

Belial warns tense change her that her journey will be a war with the hierarchy of the souls of hell Another place for specificity. Why is this her journey? What is he hoping to achieve?. She would need Arioch, the demon of vengeance as her protector.
He would see that she made it safely past the most powerful of dark gods, Atazoth, and then she would have powers and magic equal to Lilith, the Princess of hell Again, confused about these details. Just not understanding the "why" of everything.

Candida began tense change the self-initiation rite and committed her soul to the red one of darkest brilliance, the Prince of Darkness. The wars began. The seduction for power soared in Candida’s energy as did her love for Arioch, the greatest seduction of all this sentence is awkwardly phrased.
After nearing completion of all the battles, Candida had one last act to complete; she must destroy Arioch to receive her powers and stature from Satan. Only then would the veil be lifted and the gates of hell opened for Candida But why does she want this?.

Mr. Bransford. I have been following your blog for some time and believe it to be entertaining and helpful in this industry. That is why I am choosing you for a go at my query of this 54k paranormal work.
I look forward to hearing from you.
User avatar
Nathan Bransford
 
Posts: 1327
Joined: 04 Dec 2009, 21:17
Location: Brooklyn, NY

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby Matthew MacNish » 20 Nov 2010, 20:02

Candida- The Making Of A Princess

I saw that Nathan mentioned others taking issue with this name. I don't have a problem with it at all. Even if it's derivative of Candid, "to be open and honest", I can't see that as a bad thing.

When twenty-seven year old Candida began pondering her place in the universe, she had no idea that her energy would attract Belial, the demon of destruction. He came to her with voiceless messages, tempting her with power beyond her imagination. The more she listened to the whispers in her soul , the more she became seduced by the idea of power.

Okay first of all I would like to point out that your opening is pretty good. It gives us a pretty good idea of CHARACTER, which is the first key to a query. We know our MC is 27, female, probably hot, and questioning where she's at. All of that is good. But unfortunately that is where this query stops being stellar. Don't get me wrong, the rest isn't bad, but it could be better.

When I write a query I try to think about the three Cs. CHARACTER, CONFLICT, CHOICE. You've got a good idea of Character in your opening here, but you jump so fast into the other two. Nathan has pointed out that the way you do this is also quite vague, and he's right, but I also thing there are more fundamental problems.

Let's assume you wrap that first paragraph up succinctly, with a better concept of who Candida is. There is nothing wrong with giving some idea of the main conflict and or backstory and or the weight of such things in your opening, but keep them brief and concise, and then expand in the second.


Belial warns tense change (this is Nathan's valid point that I left colored as it's very accurate) her that her journey will be a war with the hierarchy of the souls of hell. She would need Arioch, the demon of vengeance as her protector.

This is incredibly confusing. I have a rule that doesn't ALWAYS work, but is usually wise. A query should be short, sweet, and make the reader fiend for more. One way to quickly negate all of that is to name more than two characters. You should always name the MC, and then you may have to pick between an antagonist and a Romantic Interest. If this is a rule (which it isn't) obviously it should be broken, but keep in mind that naming more than one demon/devil/fallen angel/lucifer in a single query can quickly get confusing for an agent who reads thousands every week.

He would see that she made it safely past the most powerful of dark gods, Atazoth, and then she would have powers and magic equal to Lilith, the Princess of hell Now you've lost me. An angel, a demon, AND a dark god, and they all start with A or B? Sorry, can't keep it straight. I don't mean to sound funny, because this really does sound like an awesome story, but I don't think you need all this in a query..

Candida began tense change (Nathan again) the self-initiation rite and committed her soul to the red one of darkest brilliance, the Prince of Darkness. The wars began. The seduction for power soared in Candida’s energy as did her love for Arioch, the greatest seduction of all.
After nearing completion of all the battles, Candida had one last act to complete; she must destroy Arioch to receive her powers and stature from Satan. Only then would the veil be lifted and the gates of hell opened for Candida And now the ACTUAL, LITERAL Satan gets involved? WHY? And what powers does he give her?.

I think you have an awesome premise here. It doesn't sound like TMI for a novel at all, but it does sound like TMI for a query. Try to write three short paragraphs, the first giving us the character, the second showing what conflict she will overcome, and the third making it clear what choice she will have to make to do so.

Mr. Bransford. I have been following your blog for some time and believe it to be entertaining and helpful in this industry. That is why I am choosing you for a go at my query of this 54k paranormal work.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Great Start!
User avatar
Matthew MacNish
 
Posts: 285
Joined: 05 Mar 2010, 14:31
Location: Georgia

Re: Query Critique Friday 11/19/10

Postby polymath » 21 Nov 2010, 11:01

Candida: The Making of a Princess

The title gave me an inference of Voltaire's Candide. I see similarities between Candida and Candide lurking beneath realization. Candide disillusioned by unshakeable optimism and Candida seduced by power.

Some hunch nagged at me since I read the query. There's a series of events and situations given, a hint of Candida's purpose and a gamut of complications opposing her purpose. Ah hah! Candida's purpose. The query is vague about what her purpose is. Does she want to be a princess of Hell from the beginning or is she seduced into wanting it? If so I'd like to know in the query the motivations for her wanting it and the stakes if she fails to achieve it. In other words, more specific detail of her personal desires and the underlying causes for and effects from them.

I sense from the query's vagueness the novel's plot isn't quite as fully realized as might be a best practice. I feel more realization of Candida's purpose from or for the novel and for the query would go a long way toward a full realization of what the novel's all about for the query.

In a sense, literary conflict is an opposition of motivations and stakes, an antagonism of purpose and complication. A situation can provide one or the other or imply both; however, a plot ought best to fully realize the personal purpose and complication of a protagonist's struggle. Then the final outcome for the protagonist can be fully realized too.
Spread the love of written word.
User avatar
polymath
 
Posts: 1801
Joined: 08 Dec 2009, 09:22
Location: Babel


Return to Page (or Query) Critique Fridays

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron