BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » May 14th, 2010, 12:20 pm

Hmmm, I find this one intriguing, and yet it's still short. You set up the frame, but not the life actually lived. But you could simply put that in, right after "happened". What happened in this life that led to madness, murder and finally it's own death? You have the set up and thematic concerns, and now you just need the specifics.
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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 14th, 2010, 4:21 pm

Thanks, guys. I'm taking a three-day weekend--leaving directly after I post this--with no queries, no new manuscripts, no intrawebs. Just me, Lake Erie, a couple of bottles of wine and (according to the forecast) a lot of wind. I'll likely spend entirely too much time THINKING about getting some writing done, but won't actually DO any; so I'll make another attempt on Monday some time after my brains have, hopefully, gelled into something useful.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by GeeGee55 » May 15th, 2010, 10:45 pm

This new query is really quite a lot better, I think. Still needs to be worked on, but it's clearer. I might be out to lunch with this idea, but perhaps it will be of some help to you. I tend to feel my way emotionally through a story when I'm writing it. From samples of your writing I've seen elsewhere in these Forums, I get the sense you may do the same thing. I've discovered I can't feel my way through a query - I have to think my way through, plan, organize, etc. Not to imply that one does not think when creating a scene, but the approach with a query][/color
is different, less based in emotion. I don't know if I'm being clear here, hope you know what I mean.
==============
Dear $Agent,

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. This works because it's clear and it orients me, I think Ink and others are right about this approach {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.}

Driven for years on the cusp of madness, a haunted life finally ends. Before finding rest in the afterlife, this lost soul must face the truth this phrase echoes what appears below and I think you don't have to go there so quickly. Try Before finding rest in the afterlife, this lost soul must face the ghosts of lovers and strangers he has murdered. As the shade relives its live, his victims give voice to what really happened...something like that and leave the ultimate fate line for the last : the dreams and hallucinations that hounded it through life veiled gruesome outbursts.

At long last, the ghosts of lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer as the shade relives its life, and to give voice to what really happened. The soul's ultimate fate depends on whether or not it is able to find truth within itself.

Sincerely,

You're a brave writer to tackle this unusual style. I wish you luck finding representation because I'd really like to read your book.

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 17th, 2010, 7:33 pm

Well, the Lake was awesome, if too windy and rather colder than I like. We took her parents, as they'd never been; they were awestruck, which was neat. It made me think of my own reaction, some 20-odd years ago, which turned me reflexive in general. It helped me work out some issues that were niggling at my brain regarding the new Project, and also put me in a different frame of mind to think about the query for BM.

So, I liked most of what I wrote last time, but had also considered that it was too short; I realized that the challenge has been predicated on differing ideas about what information was vital. Armed with that, I've made another go, which I'll post at the end. First, though, a couple of potshots at Ghost ;)

1The character may be absolutely batsheep insane, but it unaware of it; the feeling that s/he isn't quite on solid footing, however, has been there for a long time. You question your own grip, maybe think you're on the edge, but wouldn't go so far as to say you're nuts. It's a matter of perception, and who is doing the perceiving. 2 The original draft used 'hid', but I went with 'veiled' because it was the most accurate, demonstrating that while the details were hidden, there was some knowledge about what was happening underneath. 3 Shade implies certain things about the state of the soul, describes certain metaphysical conditions, etc. Just trying to use the right words for the job. But I can see where trouble could be found.

Now, the query:
==============
Dear $Agent,

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.}

Driven for years on the cusp of madness, a haunted life finally ends. Before finding rest in the afterlife, this lost soul comes to know the truth: the dreams and hallucinations that hounded it through life hid gruesome outbursts.

At long last, the ghosts of lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer, and to give voice to what really happened. Faced again with the days of its final breakdown, the spirit relives its return to Kerring, site of trust rent asunder, and a chance encounter with a former schoolmate. Those catalysts spark memories of bitter betrayal and a first love lost, and open the door for full mental collapse.

The soul's ultimate fate depends on whether or not it is able to find truth within itself.

Sincerely,
~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Mark
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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Mark » May 17th, 2010, 8:16 pm

I skipped the first page and so have not read the advice contained therein, but I'm surprised at how you've structured your query.

This is from Query Shark
Dear Query Shark,

I would like you to consider Polaris, my YA romantic suspense novel for your list. The manuscript is completed at 81,000 words.

Don't start with this. It's not the most enticing part of your query letter. It's the housekeeping part: the word count, that it's finished. Put it at the end. And you can leave out that you want me to consider this. Of course you do. I want you to keep breathing, and have a long and happy life, but I don't start my letter to you with that.

I see this a lot. I think it's because you feel awkward just leaping into the deep end of the query. Don't be. A quick drop into cold water is EXACTLY how you want to start a novel (and thus a query.)
I'm reading your latest revision as the first, and haven't opened this thread before to see your explanations or changes. From here, I have no idea what your book is about. Thematically, it sounds very interesting, but I've never read The Yellow Wallpaper, so that doesn't help me make sense of it. I think your query needs to stand on it's own enough that an agent might read it and think "huh, sort of like The Yellow Wallpaper, cool."
Mark wrote: Dear $Agent,

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.} I'd slip this paragraph to the end, especially if you're going to include the agency homework. From the bulk of professional query critiques I've seen (blogs, etc), I feel like the same advice about jumping into the action is repeated over and over again.

Driven (by what? to where?)for years on the cusp of madness, a haunted life finally ends. Before finding rest in the afterlife, this lost soul comes to know the truth: the dreams and hallucinations that hounded it through life hid gruesome outbursts (this wording is a little vague, and I had a hard time discerning your meaning. The nature of the outbursts could be elaborated on.)

At long last, the ghosts of lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer, and to give voice to what really happened. (specific ghosts or just everyone? Is there an event that triggers this?) Faced again with the days of its final breakdown, the spirit relives its return to Kerring, site of trust rent asunder, (how was trust rent asunder? It sounds like you want us to believe it's a big deal, but I don't really have a reason to believe it right now) and a chance encounter with a former schoolmate. (like running into an old pal at the grocery store?) Those catalysts spark memories of bitter betrayal and a first love lost, and open the door for full mental collapse.

The soul's ultimate fate depends on whether or not it is able to find truth within itself. (again, very vague)
Personally, I need way more information about what this novel is about. I think that you're trying to play on the ethereal themes and unreliable narrator, but an agent really needs to know that there's a story behind that cool idea. This query vaguely hints at what your story might feel like, but doesn't give much information about what actually happens. I'd like to see a lot more synopsis, and to let your sample pages deliver the vibe of the writing.

Sounds like a very interesting idea you're working from. Sorry to bounce off in the opposite direction of some of the others here.

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Quill » May 18th, 2010, 12:11 am

Agree. The voice is definitely GREAT. Poetry-quality great. Just not quite enough info (about what kind of book this really is). Is it an existential tone poem? An internal dialogue? Second person perspective I can't imagine, your query is not in second person, is it? And I'm not familiar with "The Yellow Wallpaper."

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Ghost in the Machine » May 18th, 2010, 12:33 pm

Hi Serzen,

This is better. As for Mark and his thoughts on the opening, he is right. If your query is not in second person, you can put the info. about genre, title, and comp. at the end. If the query ends up in second person, then we need to know that first.

In paragraph one, ‘gruesome outbursts’ is a lovely phrase, but it is too coy. How about ‘murderous outbursts’ or ‘deadly outbursts’?
There’s another reason to be more specific. From the point of view of a first time reader, I didn’t think it was clear that the ‘killer’ at the beginning of paragraph two was the same as the ‘lost soul’ of paragraph one.

I also don’t like how the first paragraph is coming from the lost soul’s point of view, sort of, and the second starts ‘At long last, the ghosts of lover and strangers’ which (sort of) changes the point of view to the victims. The first sentence of paragraph two should be rewritten to the lost soul’s viewpoint, i.e. ‘Trapped in limbo, the lost soul is forced to bear witness to the memories of lovers and strangers that met the blade of its killing knife.’

The rest of the paragraph is full of teasing hints. Can you find more specific words or phrases for “site of trust rent asunder”, “chance encounter” “former schoolmate”, and “memories of bitter betrayal and a first love lost”? They can be poetical, but we need detail.

The last line is okay, but sounds too easy, somehow, like a quasi, self-help mantra. What are the consequences if this soul doesn’t face what they’ve done? Give me some angst.

Ghost

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by bigheadx » May 18th, 2010, 5:06 pm

Serzen,
hopefully I have chosen your latest draft to read/critique. Allow me to say I have scanned but not absorbed the many fine comments by others, and your responses. But I wanted to put on an agent's "hat" and read this without preconceptions. Comments below in blue....
Serzen wrote:
Dear $Agent,

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.} Of the many examples I have read, good and bad, most often I have seen this agency and homework info either in the first or last paragraphs. Your reference to Gilman's short story indicates that it has a similar theme, but it appears to me that Gilman's theme was the familiar 19th century male-dominated social order and the oppression and subjugation, if you will, of females as inferior creatures. But I cannot discern in your query whether your "lost soul" is male or female. Also, is the indication of second person narration essential to your query?

Driven for years on the cusp of madness, a haunted life finally ends. Before finding rest in the afterlife, this lost soul comes to know the truth: the dreams and hallucinations that hounded it through life hid gruesome outbursts. Sorry, "Driven for years on the cusp of madness" does not make sense to this reader. A person may live or teeter or perch or tiptoe for years on the cusp of madness due to their own or other's actions. Perhaps your affection for that phrase is the "flaw" here? Many questions also come to mind, including: who/what drove this character to the edge of madness? how/why did the haunted (by what?) life "finally end?" what are these "gruesome outbursts?" and who performed these outbursts? Your "seasonings" are significant, almost overwhelming, but where is the "meat," the story that they flavor?

At long last, the ghosts of lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer, and to give voice to what really happened. Killer? And, before we had "a haunted life" and now we have "ghosts of lovers and strangers?" Where did they come from? Your words are beautiful, but what are they saying? Faced again with the days of its final breakdown, the spirit relives its return to Kerring, site of trust rent asunder, and a chance encounter with a former schoolmate. Those catalysts spark memories of bitter betrayal and a first love lost, and open the door for full mental collapse. Wait, how can the dead experience "full mental collapse?" Is BROKEN MIRROR a ghost story? And what is Kerring?

The soul's ultimate fate depends on whether or not it is able to find truth within itself. Beautiful words, if a bit clichéd, but what do they have to do with your story? And what exactly is your story?

Sincerely,
~Serzen
May I humbly suggest that you jot down the old who/what/when/where/why of your tale and then sculpt that with the fine touch of your beautiful prose?
best of luck!
John

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Kirril » May 19th, 2010, 4:13 pm

BROKEN MIRROR is a 45,500 word work of literary fiction. Thematically similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," it uses second person narration to ask whether there is anything that is truly unforgivable. {Extra crap to demonstrate that I've done my homework about your agency here. Or maybe in its own paragraph directly below this one. Or at the utter end, I don't know yet.}

I agree that this should go at the bottom. Start with "Dear Agent" and go straight to the 2nd 'graf. I'm not familiar with The Yellow Wallpaper, but any agent who's likely to rep you will be.

Driven for years on the cusp of madness, a haunted life finally ends. Before finding rest in the afterlife, this lost soul comes to know the truth: the dreams and hallucinations that hounded it through life hid gruesome outbursts.

So the MC in 2nd person gets to relive the traumas in his life? Just making sure I understand the plot.

At long last, the ghosts of lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer, and to give voice to what really happened. Faced again with the days of its final breakdown, the spirit relives its return to Kerring, site of trust rent asunder, and a chance encounter with a former schoolmate. Those catalysts spark memories of bitter betrayal and a first love lost, and open the door for full mental collapse.

The "rent asunder" feels overwritten to me. This bit about the plot feels so skeletal to me. Why don't you write this using the usual pronouns as if it's not told in 2nd person to flesh things out and put that version here. I guess the indefinite articles make this feel empty to me since I don't connect it as well to someone real. On a sidenote, this isn't the sort of thing I usually read so I may not be the best authority anyway.

The soul's ultimate fate depends on whether or not it is able to find truth within itself.

This succinctly presents the stakes but I feel a little lost scraping together the plot. Hope this helps.

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 19th, 2010, 4:32 pm

"The Yellow Wallpaper" (a short story, by the by, and thus in quotes and not italics) was written by Gilman in 1892. It is a story about a woman gone insane, driven there by prescribed bed rest. It's a fine example of a highly internalized degeneration. It deals unabashedly with the descent into madness, and with the powerlessness of the narrator to do anything other than yield. Alan Ryan said of it "It may be a ghost story. Worse yet, it may not."

I'm familiar with the feminist interpretation, but the author herself asserted that that was not the point; rather, the intent was to demonstrate to a physician how dangerous a misdiagnosis could be. Thus, when I say that my novel is thematically similar, I am specifically referring to the theme of internalized insanity.

That out of they way, let me thank you various ones for adding your thoughts. I believe that I see where my various errors are derived from, let us see if I am able to correctly discern how to fix them.

==============
Once propelled through life beneath the surface of madness, a haunted life reaches its natural conclusion. Rather than rest, the gateway to the afterlife brings the lost soul face to face with ghosts of people it unwittingly slew during outbursts of derangement. At long last, lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer and give voice to what really happened.

The soul is thrust once more into the days of its final breakdown. It relives its return to Kerring, where a lover's abandonment sparks feelings of bitter betrayal. A chance encounter with a former schoolmate while shopping brings to the fore memories of first love lost to a fatal accident. Combined, their weight assures a devastating mental collapse.

Moment by moment, the soul works its way through memories and accusations to see if anything of its self still exists. If it cannot accept the truth of its actions, the spirit will be extinguished.
=============
I think this will cover more of the concreta. Enough? I don't know.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 19th, 2010, 4:37 pm

Kirril wrote: So the MC in 2nd person gets to relive the traumas in his life? Just making sure I understand the plot.
Kirril,

Yes, the MC, You, relive a whole series of events, some traumatic, others banal. Primarily based during a two week period of life, the events also referenced are from childhood, high school, young adulthood.

Hopefully the newer letter (posted directly above this) puts a little more meat on the bones of the problem.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by bigheadx » May 19th, 2010, 5:00 pm

Serzen wrote:.....
Once pPropelled through life beneath the surface of madness, a haunted life young woman's life reaches its natural conclusion. Rather than rest, the gateway to the afterlife brings the her lost soul face to face with ghosts of people it unwittingly slew during outbursts of derangement. At long last, lovers and strangers are able to confront their killer and give voice to what really happened,The soul isthrusting her soul once more into the days of its final breakdown. It relives its return to Kerring [???], where a lover's abandonment sparks feelings of bitter betrayal. A chance encounter with a former schoolmate while shopping brings to the fore memories of a first love lost to a fatal accident. [Wait, is this encounter pre- or post- death?] Combined, their weight assures a devastating mental collapse. [I'm confused, a dead person's soul can have a mental collapse?]

Moment by moment, the soul works its way through memories and accusations to see if anything of its self still exists. If it cannot accept the truth ofrevealed by its past actions, the spirit will be extinguished.
=============
I think this will cover more of the concreta. Enough? I don't know.

~Serzen
Much more meat on this one, Serzen, compared with the draft I reviewed yesterday. Good luck!

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 20th, 2010, 11:14 am

Just a quick note for now. I'm still pondering some other options, but wanted to point out a few things for people who're trying to follow and/or play along.

Kerring is the name of a town. It's been brought up previously, but I'll mention it again. Nothing mysterious here.

The "protagonist" is genderless. I went to great pains to make it this way, PLEASE don't try and impose a gender just because it makes it easier for you to work. There is none to be had. All of about four characters in the book who have names have genders; "you" are not one of them, nor are any of your partners.

Yes, a person's soul can suffer mental collapse post-death. In this case, that's not what's happened. The soul is reliving its collapse, and the reliving is being done after death. Everything that happened in the second paragraph happened to a living person.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by bigheadx » May 20th, 2010, 12:42 pm

Serzen wrote:Just a quick note for now. I'm still pondering some other options, but wanted to point out a few things for people who're trying to follow and/or play along.

Kerring is the name of a town. It's been brought up previously, but I'll mention it again. Nothing mysterious here.

The "protagonist" is genderless. I went to great pains to make it this way, PLEASE don't try and impose a gender just because it makes it easier for you to work. There is none to be had. All of about four characters in the book who have names have genders; "you" are not one of them, nor are any of your partners.

Yes, a person's soul can suffer mental collapse post-death. In this case, that's not what's happened. The soul is reliving its collapse, and the reliving is being done after death. Everything that happened in the second paragraph happened to a living person.

~Serzen
Thanks for the clarifications, Serzen! But if we are asking these questions, don't you think an agent will ask as well? For example, I received some fine feedback on a query of mine in which I referenced a person as a "Jack" Mormon. It was pointed out that some/many people might not know what that means, telling me that I can't presume what people do or don't know. If Kerring is a town, then indicate that clearly so it doesn't become an issue.
Good luck!

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Re: BROKEN MIRROR, new query, new delivery

Post by Serzen » May 28th, 2010, 1:08 pm

I've had a number of things on my plate recently, but I've been thinking about those people who've said they had a difficult time imagining the second person. So I thought I might play with it again.

The below is simply the body of the letter. Descriptors have been thoroughly hashed out, I think.
================
You made your way through life, never a success, but never quite a failure, and find success in the latter. Whenever things went pear-shaped, you picked up and moved on, started over. A couple of years ago, you met Jamie, and think you're finally done picking up and starting over.

Your boss asks you to go to Kerring to pick up some files. Kerring, where Chris walked out on you, where you were deceived, betrayed, abandoned. The memories, fears, hound you to this day. When you run into Laureen at the store it only worsens the problem, reminding you of Casey--first, tender love--drowning in the river the first night you kissed.

And Jamie, your strength, your crutch, is on field assignment, out of touch for two long weeks. You are alone. Alone with your thoughts, fears and worse. It's only a matter of time until something breaks.
==============
No, it doesn't touch on the ghosts, on death or the soul, but those things are less than a quarter of the text and, really, only vehicles for exploring the above.

Thanks,

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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