Query for Thriller - Fresh Meat, Notes to Commenters

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Ghost in the Machine
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Query for Thriller - Fresh Meat, Notes to Commenters

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 1st, 2010, 12:33 pm

Stop! Scroll down for fourth attempt (now on page 2).


Hello All,

I’ve been querying for a while with little results. I need a new approach. Here is the pitch portion of my latest query for a paranormal thriller:

Ringing phones make Detective Luke Frawley growl, especially on his catch-up day. Even worse, the voice belongs to an old girlfriend needing a favor. She manipulates Luke into a drive out to her ex-husband’s to fetch her youngest. But little Melody isn’t there, and Luke’s catch-up day turns into an Introduction to Kidnapping 101. His first lesson, dealing with the FBI, is a real bitch.

Agent Rebecca Petersen dislikes Luke on first sight. He’s not clueless, but that long, blond hair found near Melody’s house could mean anything. She focuses on the obvious suspect: Melody’s father. His sudden death in a car bombing pisses Rebecca off. Now what? Her partner isn’t much help. The man’s married to his cell.

Agent Joel DeAngelis understands Rebecca’s frustration, and he regrets adding to it. DeAngelis knows where Melody is, but he can’t tell his partner or the local police. The kidnapper, co-ed Jodie Belay, has been under his surveillance for years. This blonde is a rare psychic whose criminal acts prevent disasters. She’s already saved Melody from dying with her father, but more than one life hangs in the balance. Jodie must remain free.

---------------------

I think this query includes a dangerous amount of named characters. In an old version, I didn’t include Detective Frawley or Agent Petersen, but they have just as many pages as Jodie and Agent DeAngelis. Those queries always felt wrong, as if they were painting a picture of a different book. Anyway, feel free to critique this for too many characters and anything else. If you have feedback material on the forum, let me know. I repay gladly!

Ghost in the Machine
Last edited by Ghost in the Machine on June 4th, 2010, 11:24 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack

Post by Quill » June 1st, 2010, 1:44 pm

Ghost in the Machine wrote: Ringing phones make Detective Luke Frawley growl, especially on his catch-up day.
A good start.
Even worse, the voice belongs to an old girlfriend needing a favor.
Okay, now you've jumped from phones in general to one specific call without alerting us. Supposing you keep the sentence I'd still remove "even" and I'd change "needing" to "asking" or "wanting".
She manipulates Luke into a drive out to her ex-husband’s to fetch her youngest.
How about "she gets Luke to drive her to..." Manipulates is such a ten-dollar word for the purpose.
But little Melody isn’t there, and Luke’s catch-up day
Oops. I don't think it's wise to repeat "catch-up day".
turns into an Introduction to Kidnapping 101.
Wouldn't it just be "turns into 'Introduction to Kidnapping 101"? The "an" isn't needed. I also think it would be stronger without "Introduction to".
His first lesson, dealing with the FBI, is a real bitch.
"Dealing" is a weak word, being unspecific. We kinda know what you mean, but not really? Is it the personalities? The paperwork? The better-than-thou attitude?
Agent Rebecca Petersen dislikes Luke on first sight. He’s not clueless,
Hmm, change of perspective. Not sure it works, but I'm still with you.
but that long, blond hair found near Melody’s house could mean anything.
This seems like another shift, odd in the same sentence as stuff about Luke. I guess you are implying that Rebecca doesn't believe what Luke believes about the hair.
She focuses on the obvious suspect: Melody’s father. His sudden death in a car bombing pisses Rebecca off. Now what? Her partner isn’t much help. The man’s married to his cell.
Wow, feels like we are skipping from subject to subject. She goes from Luke to Melody's dad, to her partner, coming across as an opinionated bitch and the main character, and giving me a case of vertigo, whiplash, or something.
Agent Joel DeAngelis understands Rebecca’s frustration, and he regrets adding to it.
By now I suspect you are working on a literary device: three equal points of view, and probably three main characters. I don't think you have quite integrated the three in this query. I wonder if your strict paragraph apiece works the best for this.
DeAngelis knows where Melody is, but he can’t tell his partner or the local police.
This is intriguing. Now I'm wondering what Luke is doing in this story.
The kidnapper, co-ed Jodie Belay, has been under his surveillance for years. This blonde is a rare psychic whose criminal acts prevent disasters. She’s already saved Melody from dying with her father, but more than one life hangs in the balance. Jodie must remain free.
I can't help but feel that this is too much of the story to reveal/exposition here. Not sure what your hook is but the previous part about knowing where the girl is is the most intriguing part of the query. Maybe highlight that, or end there. Maybe just allude to the reason he knows, who he is, etc.

I'm not sure you have yet conveyed the main dynamic of the book, let alone it's main problem (is it getting the girl back? So far it sounds more about the personalities involved.)

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack

Post by WilliamMJones » June 1st, 2010, 2:05 pm

Ghost in the Machine wrote:
Ringing phones make Detective Luke Frawley growl, especially on his catch-up day.I like how the opening gives a bit of information about the character. Even worse, the voice belongs to an old girlfriend needing a favor. This sentance could flow a little better from the last one. You say he hates ringing phones, and then you talk about a voice, without making it clear she was calling. She manipulates Luke into a drive out to her ex-husband’s to fetch her youngest. Youngest what? Daughter? Son? Dog? Cat? But little Melody You probably don't need the name isn’t there, and Luke’s catch-up day turns into an Introduction to Kidnapping 101. This sounded awkward when I read it. It sounds kind of redundant. His first lesson, dealing with the FBI, is a real bitch.Is the lesson a bitch, or the agent?

Agent Rebecca Petersen dislikes Luke on first sight. He’s not clueless, but that long, blond hair found near Melody’s house could mean anything. This sentance lost me. What hair? What does the hair have to do with him being clueless? Why bring it up if it could mean anything? She focuses on the obvious suspect: Melody’s father. His sudden death in a car bombing pisses Rebecca off. These two sentances don't flow very well. Now what? The rhetorical question can be cut Her partner isn’t much help. Do you mean Luke, or DeAngelis. The man’s married to his cell. Do you mean his cell phone? Why would that make him useless?

Agent Joel DeAngelis understands Rebecca’s frustration, and he regrets adding to it. DeAngelis knows where Melody is, but he can’t tell his partner or the local police. The kidnapper, co-ed Jodie Belay, has been under his surveillance for years. This blonde is a rare psychic whose criminal acts prevent disasters. She’s already saved Melody from dying with her father, but more than one life hangs in the balance. Jodie must remain free. The last part is a little vague. Is there something more serious than the kidnapping? How does DeAngelis know about it?

The story sounds really interesting, and the query gives a good summary of the plot. One thing that I think could make it better, which you mentioned yourself, is how many characters you named. It might be a good idea to focus on one or two. From the query, it's hard to tell which character is your main POV character. Maybe focusing on the character that the story follows most would help.

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack

Post by wilderness » June 1st, 2010, 4:18 pm

Yeah, the query feels a bit all over the place. When you start with Luke Frawley, we assume that is the main character. Do you have a main character or is this sort of an ensemble book with many main characters? If so, you should say so in the query. Also, what is your hook and main conflict? If it is an ensemble, what is the theme that ties all of it together?
The kidnapper, co-ed Jodie Belay, has been under his surveillance for years. This blonde is a rare psychic whose criminal acts prevent disasters
That part is interesting. So the kidnapper was trying to save Melody? Maybe you should start with this character because her goal seems the most unique.

I've heard that novels with multiple POV can be tricky to query. I would probably try to concentrate on one character's goals, and then tie in the rest with a common thread. Good luck!

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack

Post by JustineDell » June 1st, 2010, 5:44 pm

Hi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Don't have time to tear it to shreds right now - I'm going to my daughters 6th grade graduation. But I'll be back, Ghost! Hope you've written lots and lots while you've been away!!

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 1st, 2010, 10:48 pm

Whoa, you guys are way faster than the Query Shark, and you have really opened my eyes. I am so glad I didn't send this puppy out to any agents. Sorry about the mess. Okay, bon voyage Luke and Rebecca. You're great characters, but I gotta stick with DeAngelis for the lead. He has the widest perspective on the story, so he wins. Too bad he doesn't show his face until page 36.

Let's try this again, shall we?

----------

Watch, but don’t interfere. Ever. This is FBI Agent Joel DeAngelis’s mantra for monitoring a handful of psychics who prevent disasters. For twenty years, the rule has served him well—until now.

While under surveillance, co-ed Jodie Belay kidnaps three-year-old Melody Miller. DeAngelis’s long-time nemesis screams for his dismissal and Jodie’s arrest. DeAngelis fights back with his only weapon. Jodie’s ESP follows a pattern: criminal behavior comes before a life-saving event.

Melody’s kidnapping is no exception. It saves the child from dying alongside her father in a car bombing. DeAngelis has no time for ‘I told you so.’ Jodie fails to return Melody, and DeAngelis discovers the bomb used to kill Melody’s father was just a fraction of a large cache of stolen explosives.

Though he knows where Melody is, DeAngelis can’t tell the local authorities. Keeping Jodie free is paramount. If they just stay out of her way, Jodie’s ESP will lead the Bureau to the missing explosives. But DeAngelis’s superiors don’t share his optimism. They want Jodie stopped. If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, they reason, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?

-------

Please rate from 1 to 10 on the suck-o-meter. No, I will not tell you which end is which. I'm still in chocolate-therapy from round one.

Ghost in the Machine

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack, again

Post by Quill » June 2nd, 2010, 12:13 am

I can tell you one thing, having two major characters with same sounding names (Joel and Jodie) violates an unwritten rule of thumb of writing.

Do you call him Joel mostly in the manuscript, or DeAngelis?

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack, again

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 2nd, 2010, 12:25 am

I preferred the first version, particularly the economical way the three characters introduced each other.

In the revised version you don't say what DeAngelis' 'only weapon' is, who has the cache of explosives, or just what DeAngelis does about the situation, apart from watching. You can't answer all questions in a query, of course, but you might indicate that DeAngelis actively opposes his colleagues' search for Jody and Melody, assuming that is what he does.

A bit more about the unnamed bad guys and their planned atrocity might help emphasize the high stakes.

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack, again

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 2nd, 2010, 10:20 am

Yes, I know the names Joel and Jodie are too close. It used to be worse. Luke's first name was John and the mother of the kidnapped kid was Janie. I should just suck it up and change one of these 'J' names, but I've grown attached. Plus, these two characters don't come face to face until one brief scene near the end.

Thanks for the additional input. I will start work on the next draft.

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack

Post by JustineDell » June 2nd, 2010, 11:59 am

First things first...WHOA! When I first read the query, I only got through the first 2 paragraphs before posting my "I'll catch ya' later" thing. I mean, I didn't even realize is was the same FBI story query you've been working on. I seriously didn't recognize it until I read it again today and went all the way down to the end. Then I looked at this new one (which is more like the orginal...not the original above, the other original). No luck with that one? I have to say, I REALLy like the voice in the first one posted here. But all the names? Yeah. And plus, you said DeAngleis is the man dude in the story, so best to stick with him.
Ghost in the Machine wrote:
Watch, but don’t interfere. Ever. I "heard" that agents don't like italics in queries. Google it to make sure, I could most certainly be wrong. This is FBI Agent Joel DeAngelis’s mantra for monitoring a handful of psychics who prevent disasters. For twenty years, the rule has served him well—until now.

While under surveillance, co-ed Jodie Belay kidnaps three-year-old Melody Miller. What exactly is "co-ed" supposed to mean? DeAngelis’s long-time nemesis screams for his dismissal and Jodie’s arrest. DeAngelis fights back with his only weapon. <--There should be a bridge between these two sentences, or you need to make them the same sentence somehow.--> Jodie’s ESP follows a pattern: criminal behavior comes before a life-saving event.

Melody’s kidnapping is no exception. It saves the child from dying alongside her father in a car bombing. DeAngelis has no time for ‘I told you so.’ <--This should be connected to this-->Jodie fails to return Melody, and Thisshould be it's own sentence --> DeAngelis discovers the bomb used to kill Melody’s father was just a fraction of a large cache of stolen explosives.

Though he knows where Melody is, DeAngelis can’t tell the local authorities. Keeping Jodie free is paramount. If they just stay out of her way, Jodie’s ESP will lead the Bureau to the missing explosives. But DeAngelis’s superiors don’t share his optimism. They want Jodie stopped. If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, they reason, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?
I give a 9.5 and a 1/2. ;-)

~JD

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack

Post by wilderness » June 2nd, 2010, 5:39 pm

Ghost in the Machine wrote:
Watch, but don’t interfere. Ever. This is FBI Agent Joel DeAngelis’s mantra for monitoring a handful of psychics who prevent disasters. For twenty years, the rule has served him well—until now.

While under surveillance, co-ed Jodie Belay kidnaps three-year-old Melody Miller. DeAngelis’s long-time nemesis screams for his dismissal and Jodie’s arrest. DeAngelis fights back with his only weapon. Jodie’s ESP follows a pattern: criminal behavior comes before a life-saving event.

Melody’s kidnapping is no exception. It saves the child from dying alongside her father in a car bombing. DeAngelis has no time for ‘I told you so.’ Jodie fails to return Melody, and DeAngelis discovers the bomb used to kill Melody’s father was just a fraction of a large cache of stolen explosives.

Though he knows where Melody is, DeAngelis can’t tell the local authorities. Keeping Jodie free is paramount. If they just stay out of her way, Jodie’s ESP will lead the Bureau to the missing explosives. But DeAngelis’s superiors don’t share his optimism. They want Jodie stopped. If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, they reason, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?
I like this version much better. Honestly, it is just so much clearer and more focused. I give it an 8 right now. Maybe just a tad more voice to inch it up to a 10. Good luck!

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack, again

Post by Joel Q » June 2nd, 2010, 10:00 pm

I like the second query better.
But my question is who is the main character Joel or Luke? Because based on the two queries, it could be either.
So, I'd go with a query based on the main character. Joel seems like the better angle.
Nice job.
- - -
Watch, but don’t interfere. Ever. This is FBI Agent Joel DeAngelis’s mantra for monitoring a handful of psychics who prevent disasters. For twenty years, the rule has served him well—until now. Nice opening

While under (his) surveillance, co-ed delete and add "psychic" Jodie Belay kidnaps three-year-old Melody Miller. DeAngelis’s long-time nemesis (I'd pick a word to make sure we know this nemesis is w/ the FBI) screams for his dismissal and Jodie’s arrest. DeAngelis fights back with his only weapon.(which is what?)
(I'd put this with the next paragraph) Jodie’s ESP follows a pattern: criminal behavior comes before a life-saving event.

Melody’s kidnapping is no exception. It saves the child from dying alongside her father in a car bombing. DeAngelis has no time for ‘I told you so.’ Jodie fails to return Melody, and DeAngelis discovers the bomb used to kill Melody’s father was just a fraction of a large cache of stolen explosives.

Though he knows where Melody is, DeAngelis can’t tell the local authorities. Keeping Jodie free is paramount. If they just stay out of her way, Jodie’s ESP will lead the Bureau to the missing explosives. But DeAngelis’s superiors don’t share his optimism. They want Jodie stopped. If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, they reason, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack, again

Post by Ghost in the Machine » June 3rd, 2010, 1:39 pm

Hello, this is the third attempt:

First, a word for our sponsors. Okay, lots of words.

Joel Q.: The main character is . . . Well that’s the kicker. I have a multiple POV book rotating between three camps:

Camp 1: Jodie and Melody, the kidnapping psychic and her victim/three-year-old sidekick

Camp 2: Police Detective Luke Frawley

Camp 3: FBI Agents William DeAngelis and Rebecca Petersen

I admit, I was strongly influenced by Stephen King’s The Stand when I wrote this. He bounces effortlessly among even more sets of characters. Not that I’m saying I’m Stephen King, like duh.

DeAngelis gets to star in the query because he’s the character who knows the most from the get-go. Frawley never learns that Jodie is psychic (gotta save something for the sequel) and Jodie doesn’t find out she’s been under FBI surveillance until the end.

Wilderness: Thanks for the 8! Wait. Was that a good 8 or a bad 8 on the suck-o-meter? And Justine gave me a 9 and a ½!? Crap, foiled by my own lame sense of humor.

Justine: Thanks so much for the input. I haven’t looked up the italics issue. Perhaps some servers screw up in cyberspace and you end up sending random characters instead of your query. I’ll leave it out.

J.T.Shea: The ‘weapon’ was badly named. It should be defense. DeAngelis’s defense for letting Jodie kidnap the kid is the pattern of Jodie’s ESP (crime first, life-saving event later). The kidnapping is not a crime in DeAngelis’s mind, it’s a rescue mission. (Hey, that’s not bad. Maybe I’ll work that in.)

Quill: Joel DeAngelis may become William DeAngelis. Of course, Quill sounds cool. Hmmmm. . .

WilliamM.Jones: You have taught me a valuable lesson: Double entendres do not make good transitions. The ‘real bitch’ was supposed to mean that dealing with the FBI is really difficult and that Rebecca is one. The word play with ‘clueless’ was along the same lines. Rebecca is insulting Luke’s inexperience and referring to the piece of evidence these two have a big fight over: the long, blond hair.

Without further ado, here is some fresh meat:

--------------------

While under FBI surveillance, psychic Jodie Belay kidnaps a three-year-old girl. Agent William DeAngelis doesn’t panic. Jodie’s ESP follows a well-documented pattern: crime first, life-saving event later. Sure, Melody’s parents will freak and there will be a police investigation. But after twenty years of monitoring psychics, DeAngelis doesn’t sweat the small stuff. In his mind Jodie didn’t commit a crime, she’s on a rescue mission.

However, nothing’s easy when you work for the Federal Bureau of Idiots. DeAngelis’s nemesis wants Jodie in custody so he can harness her ESP. This snake has the ear of their boss, whispering that Jodie’s evil. That Melody is drinking Coke, not milk, and sleeping in a borrowed sweatshirt instead of her Hello Kitty jammies.

DeAngelis is outraged. If not for Jodie, Melody would be in pieces along with her newly deceased father. The kidnapping kept the little girl out of her old man’s car when it blew. And there’s more where that bomb came from, a boatload of it. Some sick Santa’s hoarding a killer present—recipient unknown.

Jodie could lead the Bureau to the missing explosives, if they just stay out of her way. But no. The powers that be would rather arrest her. Merry-freakin’-Christmas.

--------------

Note: This puppy comes in at 202 words, which is reasonable for the Janet Reid 250 word query model. I think the first paragraph could be used on it’s own for those agents who want something super-short.

What do you think? Too much ’tude?

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Re: Query for Thriller - Boo, I'm ba-ack, again

Post by JustineDell » June 3rd, 2010, 2:58 pm

Ghost in the Machine wrote: --------------------

While under FBI surveillance, psychic Jodie Belay kidnaps a three-year-old girl. Agent William DeAngelis doesn’t panic. Jodie’s ESP follows a well-documented pattern: crime first, life-saving event later. Sure, Melody’s parents will freak and there will be a police investigation. <--Hearing Melody's name in this sentence is jarring, because you haven't introduced as the three-year old girl.You could delete it and I wouldn't miss anything. And then delete the "but" in the this sentence--> But after twenty years of monitoring psychics, DeAngelis doesn’t sweat the small stuff. In his mind Jodie didn’t commit a crime, she’s on a rescue mission.

However, nothing’s easy when you work for the Federal Bureau of Idiots. DeAngelis’s nemesis wants Jodie in custody so he can harness her ESP. This snake has the ear of their boss, whispering that Jodie’s evil. That Melody is drinking Coke, not milk, and sleeping in a borrowed sweatshirt instead of her Hello Kitty jammies. <--While I love this part, I think you could delete it. And put the next paragraph with the first three sentences of this one.

DeAngelis is outraged. If not for Jodie, Melody would be in pieces along with her newly deceased father. The kidnapping kept the little girl out of her old man’s car when it blew. And there’s more where that bomb came from, (put a dash between these or make these two different sentences for more impact) a boatload of it. Some sick Santa’s hoarding a killer present—recipient unknown.

Jodie could lead the Bureau to the missing explosives, <--I'm no grammar smarty pants, but I'm not sure if this comma belongs here. if they just stay out of her way. But no. The powers that be would rather arrest her. Merry-freakin’-Christmas.

--------------
Whoa Missy! I like the 'tude in this baby. Roll out the red carpter cuz the Ghost is coming. Quick question-does this actually take place around Christmas time? It would be weird if it didn't and you included something Christmas-y in the query.

Other than that. I. Love. It. Nuff' said.

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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Re: Query for Thriller - Fresh Meat, Notes to Commenters

Post by J. T. SHEA » June 3rd, 2010, 3:40 pm

The Federal Bureau of Idiots!? The ghost of J. Edgar Hoover will get you! Unless you really are a ghost yourself, in which case professional courtesy applies.

But you're right. Only an evil person would let a child drink Coke...

I like this version, attitude and all. I take it DeAngelis actively protects Jodie from his own FBI colleagues? And thereby faces dangers even worse than Hoover's ghost? Otherwise he sounds a little fatalistic.

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