Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Share your blood sweat tears query for feedback and lend your hard-won expertise to others
Post Reply
User avatar
mmcdonald64
Posts: 99
Joined: March 14th, 2010, 6:57 pm
Contact:

Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by mmcdonald64 » March 16th, 2010, 12:08 am

Here's my latest attempt at a query:
Dear (agent):
NO GOOD DEED goes unpunished. Ask Mark Taylor, a freelance photographer living a comfortable double life. An old camera found in a dusty Afghanistan bazaar gives Mark more than great photos. It triggers dreams of disasters. Disasters that happen exactly as he dreams them. He learns that not only can he see the future, he can change it. Then the unthinkable happens and everyone ignored his frantic warnings. Thousands die. Suddenly, the Feds are pounding on his door and the name they have for Taylor isn't urban hero. It's enemy combatant. And, it means they can do anything they want to him. Anything at all.

Mark's dreams visit him even in prison and he uses them to gain his freedom. Free, but now homeless, friendless, and broke, Mark struggles to rebuild his life. Just when things finally start going his way, the dreams return. Another brutal attack will claim innocent and not so innocent lives. One of those victims is the bastard who interrogated him for over a year.

NO GOOD DEED, a 90,000 word paranormal thriller, is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

PaulWoodlin
Posts: 49
Joined: February 19th, 2010, 9:55 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by PaulWoodlin » March 16th, 2010, 12:30 am

Right off the top of my head, the first sentences can be combined and tightened up. Second, we have an external character arc but no internal character arc. Third, no ending mentioned. Telling the agent the end of the story is not a spoiler in a query.

Bron
Posts: 71
Joined: December 21st, 2009, 6:21 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by Bron » March 16th, 2010, 3:25 am

I've heard agents say not to include the ending, that the purpose of a query is to entice them to read it and make them wonder what will happen. But I agree with Paul that you need some sort of mention of an ending here. You don't have to say how it ends but I think it would read better if you presented the final conflict. eg. Mark must decide between trying to save the lives of the potential victims, and risk not being believed again, or say nothing and let them die, including the man who tortured him. Obviousy a lot more polished than that but it sets up the final act.

User avatar
mmcdonald64
Posts: 99
Joined: March 14th, 2010, 6:57 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by mmcdonald64 » March 16th, 2010, 9:35 am

Paul--thanks for taking a look and offering some suggestions. I think I will combine the first two sentences. As far as giving away the ending, I had that in a previous query and it didn't work. I've since heard not to include the ending. I'm totally confused on whether I should or not now. :/ As far as internal conflict, I was thinking my very last sentence set that up. No?

Bron--you bring up a great point. I actually did have something almost exactly like what you have, about Mark's dilemma, whether he should save the innocent and his enemy, but risk going back to prison because they'll think his advance knowledge is proof that he was in on the plot, or ignore the whole thing and let everyone die, but remain safe. My beta reader took a query writing class, and presented my query to the instructor. (I don't know who that was, but judging from what she says about pitch sessions, sounds like she has some inside knowledge) She axed the two sentences I had about that conflict. Here's what she had to say about the query (which was a bit different than what I have above):
Your friend's pitch is pretty good. A little long though. It's a neat
premise, but it's also one I've seen three or four times recently in several
agent pitch sessions. The pitch needs to really stress what makes this
book different from all the others like it (limited knowledge of future
disasters). I've taken the pitch and tighten it up, reducing it from 200
words to 163 words. One of the things I took out were the two questions at
the end of the pitch. It's my opinion you don't need them. I think the
last line - "One of those victims is the bastard who interrogated him for
over a year" - is really powerful! The conflict is obvious!!
So, now, for me, it's a toss up. This query writing stuff sucks. lol I do value everyone's opinion, but I'm completely confused now. However, I've only sent this particular query to one agent so far. I'm going to make the minor change of combining the first two sentences.

User avatar
gonzo2802
Posts: 105
Joined: March 8th, 2010, 5:33 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by gonzo2802 » March 16th, 2010, 9:58 am

Good premise for the story. I read a little more of the description on your blog last night.

Based on the query alone, here are some of my thoughts. (I am far from a query expert, mind you, but a fresh eye never hurts.)

1) I like the first sentence hook, but you might be able to make it a little more powerful if you mention something to really tie in what the main character suffers. Maybe something like, "No Good Deed goes unpunished, Mark Taylor learned that lesson the day he received his prison sentence."

2) I'd try to clarify what you mean by saying Mark lives a "comfortable double life". Is it Mark that has a double life or does the camera pull double duty (taking normal pictures, but also triggering dreams of disaster)?

3) For the sake of the query reader, how does Mark know that the camera is responsible for triggering his dreams of disaster?

4) What sort of disasters does he dream of? Earthquakes? Train Wrecks? 9/11 type deals? I think naming one or two would really help the query reader understand just how powerful his dreams are.

5) "He learns that not only can he see the future, he can change it." The first part of the sentence sounds a little clunky to me... and I say this because I always find myself wanting to do the "not only" situation myself. I'd think of maybe changing it to something along the lines of "Mark learns he can do more than see the future, he can change it." Even better if you can give an idea of how he's able to change it.

6) In the second paragraph when you're talking about Mark using his dreams to get out of prison, I'd think about using the word "escape" instead of freedom, if that's what happened, because it sounds more "on the run" and thriller-ish.

7) You don't need to put an ending in your query, but there does need to be some sort of ultimate conflict that Mark is fighting against. Is the conflict having to convince people that there is another brutal attack coming, even though one of the people he'd be saving is his interrogator? Will warning people mean a risk of being sent back to jail? Etc.

User avatar
gonzo2802
Posts: 105
Joined: March 8th, 2010, 5:33 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by gonzo2802 » March 16th, 2010, 10:13 am

I was in the middle of posting when you left your last comment, but I wanted to respond to what the query instructor mentioned about the sentence with the "bastard who interrogated him".

I do like that sentence, but I don't agree that it makes the conflict perfectly clear. Or, I guess I should say, as a reader I don't like the conflict it represents. If the only reason Mark may not be willing to save thousands of innocent lives is because he's pissed off at the jerk who interrogated him it makes him a highly unsympathetic hero, and I wouldn't be convinced I'd be able to root for him. On the other hand, if the conflict of saving thousands of people (and begrudgingly saving the man who interrogated him) would mean he'd be risking his freedom, and possibly lose the family he'd created in his "new" life, it's easier to understand the struggle.

User avatar
mmcdonald64
Posts: 99
Joined: March 14th, 2010, 6:57 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by mmcdonald64 » March 16th, 2010, 11:14 am

gonzo2802 wrote:I was in the middle of posting when you left your last comment, but I wanted to respond to what the query instructor mentioned about the sentence with the "bastard who interrogated him".

I do like that sentence, but I don't agree that it makes the conflict perfectly clear. Or, I guess I should say, as a reader I don't like the conflict it represents. If the only reason Mark may not be willing to save thousands of innocent lives is because he's pissed off at the jerk who interrogated him it makes him a highly unsympathetic hero, and I wouldn't be convinced I'd be able to root for him. On the other hand, if the conflict of saving thousands of people (and begrudgingly saving the man who interrogated him) would mean he'd be risking his freedom, and possibly lose the family he'd created in his "new" life, it's easier to understand the struggle.
Thanks! I love how you clarified that and it makes perfect sense. Some of your suggestions in the previous post are also excellent. I think I'll work in the part about the conflict about going back to prison, because for me, that was a big one. It's why the first half of the novel takes place, actually. To build up his fear of ever having to go back there.

All your suggestions were great, actually, it's just that some don't apply to my novel. Like, Mark doesn't escape, he's eventually released. While not as thrillerish, it's realistic, which other than the magical camera/dreams, the story is about as realistic as I could make it, especially in regards to his imprisonment.

That's also one of the problems though, in writing the query. For instance, I love how you changed my first sentence, about how Mark learns that when he's given his prison sentence, and I wish I could use it...only as an enemy combatant, he's never actually given a sentence. He's just held. He doesn't get a trial, not even a hearing. That's how it worked for the only three I found that were held. I've taken what I found on these three, and cobbled it together to create what I hope, is picture of what it would be like being held as an enemy combatant. Then I took it step further to wonder what it would be like to be held as an e.c. and be completely innocent and never given a chance to defend yourself. (Btw, these aren't Gitmo prisoners, these three are all Americans and were held at Navy brigs on American soil in almost complete isolation, in one case, for over seven years.) At one point in my queries, I had a hook saying something like no rights, no trial, no way out. But then he does get out, so that didn't quite make sense either.

Gosh, I hope I'm not coming off as disregarding all these suggestions made by everyone. I truly appreciate them and I'm going to spend the afternoon taking a good hard look at my query.

User avatar
gonzo2802
Posts: 105
Joined: March 8th, 2010, 5:33 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: NO GOOD DEED paranormal thriller

Post by gonzo2802 » March 16th, 2010, 12:13 pm

You most definitely don't sound like you're disregarding anyone's suggestions. And that goes to show you why these critiques should be taken for what they're worth, only you will know if a particular suggestion fits your circumstance, because only you know the full extent of your story!

And we get to learn stuff too. For instance, I didn't know exactly what an enemy combatant was. So using that, you could still play around with the first sentence and say something along the lines of "No Good Deed goes unpunished - Mark Taylor learned that lessen the day he lost his freedom." Play around with it, try to have fun. That's what I'm doing now, at least. Otherwise the query world can eat us alive, lol.

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests