ceiser wrote:Okay. First, let me just thank you all again for your feedback. I've tried to let it sink in and work passive, background magic and hopefully that will show.
All feedback welcome and appreciated!
Newest Latest Version
Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, given immense power by the Emperor's gift of an Artifact. (that second clause isn't very powerful.) But his Artifact, the Ritual Mask, was never meant to last, and when it fails, Jav is a dead man. Unless, that is, he can win a new, permanent Artifact in a competition to be held in five years. (I would probably reorganize the opening slightly to something like: Jav Holson is one of the Viscain Empire's elite soldiers, but he's dying. His ritual mask was a gift from the Emperor, and it gave Jav tremendous power, but it was never meant to last. Etc... That's just an example. You did a good job so far of slimming down this backstory into a single, short paragraph. I think it can be punchier: he's a powerful soldier. He's dying because his mask is losing power. He needs this competition. Same information, mostly, but snappier.)
To have any chance of success in the competition, (I'm not sure you need that part. His life literally depends on it, and it seems a little... melodramatic?) Jav must train in the Eighteen Heavenly Claws. With the Ritual Mask sealed away to conserve its power, Jav practices long past dark every day, enduring senior student Mei Pardine's abuse and outright attacks. (This is a little passive. I'd probably put this in a new sentence, and change "outright attacks") His only distraction is carving stone flowers for Lili Farina, still in a coma by his hand. (I like this. He fights hard every day to save himself, but still does this for this girl. The queries before pointed out the selfish nature of Jav's goals, and this adds depth. Is the character Lili important to the central conflict? Probably not (in terms of the query anyway), but it helps give us a full picture of who Jav is in a few words. Also, carving stone flowers is unique, and sounds pretty. It's imaginative. All around, excellent!) But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training, her beautiful performance of the Eighteen Heavenly Claws (say something else here, we already know they're all training/part of the tournament) overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment as if like he's known her forever. (Mixed response. I don't like "But, when Mei's half-sister, Mai, takes over Jav's training"... there's a lot of needless words and breaks here. Plus, it does feel like character overload with the way you've written it. I don't have an example to give, but try a shorter sentence with less breaks. But, I wanted to say that I like this part: "her beautiful performance [...] overwhelms him, and he feels for a moment like he's known her forever." The first part about her taking over the training needs tightening. That second part is fine.) He can't help but start to have feelings for her. (If you want to say he falls in love, I'd say that, but I'm not sure the sentence is needed at all. You showed this connection forming, you don't really need to tell us after.)
Together they have a lot of work to do. Besides first raising Jav to Mei's level, they have to survive a vacation turned deadly and be ready for the qualifying preliminary match. Jav unwittingly earns the hatred of one of his teachers and stumbles onto a nest of alien pirates all on his own. Every step forward is a hazard, but Jav has to make it to the competition. He has to master the Eighteen Heavenly Claws if he's to have any future at all. (This is too much plot. You do need to end the query with a sense of conflict. You have that already with Jav's life hanging in the balance of this tournament. Isn't Mai also competing in this tournament, presumably against him? Is there conflict there, since she wants to win, but winning would mean he dies? Also, Mei's attacks get sort of lost behind in the last paragraph. What happens when she finds out he likes her sister? And just how serious are her attacks against Jav? You don't need to explain everything, but this paragraph was too long and filled with things we don't need to know. You have the right idea of saying his life hangs in the balance, but maybe just try to focus on the waves that are created with the plots you've already told us about. Don't spring new things on us like this.)
THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a 76,000-word science fiction novel (I know I pointed this out before, and you may be right that "science fiction novel" is okay, but at the very least fiction and novel together are redundant, and it still opens up the possibility that agents (like Janet Reid) will say no just because of it. She might even have a filter for "fiction novel." You can say the exact same thing as: THE ARTIFACT COMPETITION is a work of science fiction of 76,000 words. No risk there, right?). I chose to submit to you because blah blah blah. Thank you for your time and consideration.
First, I want to say I have to disagree with some of Quill's remarks. I point these out in case you, ceiser, may get something out of hearing the two sides of criticism. Nothing against Quill, of course, and no disrespect to other writers here. I hope everyone calls me out on my advice when they disagree with me :P
I think telling us Jav practices until dark is perfectly fine. It shows us that he's practicing hard. It sounds more interesting than "he practices hard."
Secondly, I like the subplot of carving stone for her. It shows us the character in a way I honestly didn't think this query ever would. It might not be necessary down the road in further revisions, but I think it's absolutely a step in the right direction in that it's integrating the soul of this character into the query. He is very much not a shell anymore, and I think kudos is absolutely warranted. I say that it might not be necessary to have the subplot later in case you find other ways of showing this amount of character wrapped tighter into the main conflict. As mentioned above, however, I do
think the phrase "by his hand" without a description could be problematic. I read the last incarnations of your query, so I know what you're referring to. It distorts my ability to see if the fact that's mysterious in a good way, or a bad way here.
"Beautiful" is more feminine and seems more natural to me. I like it for that line.
I agree with everything else he (or she?) said.
Now, about my own reaction...
I feel like this has improved a lot
. I'm thoroughly impressed at the way you've managed to flesh out this character and make me sympathize with him so much in one revision, whereas I felt absolutely nothing at all about him before. Not only that, it's not done in an awkward way... saying he's carving stone flowers, for instance, is both pretty imagery, but it's also strange and sounds like it belongs in the realm of science fiction/fantasy. The introduction of Mai doesn't feel like a tacky setup to romance. It's an exceptional
I don't think you've found your killer ending for the query yet. That's usually a tough one, but I'd say amp up the tension with the stories you've already told us about in the preceding paragraphs and let us know not only what's at stake (which will be helped now that Jav is more sympathetic, by the way), but how difficult his challenges will be.
Excellent work. Honestly. You really, really are getting closer.