TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

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FK7
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TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 12:01 am

I began querying on May 18th 2010. Within three days I had a request for a full and a week after that, another request for a full and a partial. Since then, it's been nothing but rejections and this week, my full and partial were both rejected (with some feedback). Even though I still have a full out, it's clear my query isn't as good as it could be. I think the reason it worked so well for the agents I queried first is because they were highly researched (through blogs or twitter accounts) and my query was therefore heavily personalized for each. Can't really personalize a query with an agent who has no blog, twitter or informative agent profile on their agency's website.

I just spent days reading the Shark and Miss Snark and re-wrote a new query with certain guidelines in mind in the hope even a generic query could pique interest:
-A query written in the present tense provides more immediacy (original query was in written in past tense)
-Keep it as short as possible (original query was 41 words longer... still something)
-Try to capture the voice (my ms is written in 1st person and the original query didn't capture the voice, probably because I didn't feel confident enough.)
-Introduce MC in first paragraph (original query did this)
-Make sure the plot, setting and conflict are well defined (I let go of all the generic stuff in the original query)

I really appreciate any feedback you can give me.
See this for revision.
Thank you very much for your honest critique! :)
Last edited by FK7 on July 13th, 2010, 11:32 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by katbrauer » July 12th, 2010, 6:01 am

FK7 wrote: Bioengineer Gabriel Clarkson is a cappuccino addict and self-declared workaholic. Armed with nothing but sarcasm and tenacity, he has spent the last five years in his Vermont lab trying to cure cancer. All the late nights finally pay off: he's awarded a fifteen million dollar grant from an anonymous donor, thus securing not only his research's future but the holy grail of espresso machines to go with it. Victory has never been so caffeinatedand sweet. (Either that or switch the adjective order. Otherwise I think you're referring to sweet coffee.)

A month and a new colleague later, his lab is plundered and someone gets killed. (Eh??? Who is this someone? Does he get killed in the lab?) When two men try to kidnap him and his witty jokes fail to help, his colleague Emilie shows up with rescues him using inhuman kung-fu moves and rescues him almost effortlessly. The fact she has a more impressive academic pedigree was already hard to swallow, but now that she saved his life, the jealousy is palpable. (Hmm... I find this last sentence awkward. Maybe something more like... "Her obnoxiously good academic pedigree was hard enough to swallow, but her additional bad-assery just makes him want to drown his sorrow in about eighteen lattes."

Emilie brings Gabriel to a vast underground megalopolis hidden under the mountains of Vermont. Reminiscent of Mesoamerican architecture, Toturia is a sight of beauty. He's introduced to the Protectors, a race of humans born from the hybridization of feline and human DNA ten thousand years ago. Naturally fast, strong and highly intelligent, all of it pales in comparison to the fact they tame jaguars and leopards to be their companions. (Yeah, this is full of awkward. It's more awkward than my high school prom night. Hahaha, kidding, nothing could be more awkward than that. The rest of your query is sort of charmingly blase, make this in the same vein: "they also happen to tame jaguars and leopards, keeping the snarly predators as pets." Or somesuch.

As he discovers just how influential Protectors have been in our evolution and history, the shock of this new reality is accentuated whenhe's told his research could save them from total extinction. After Gabriel learns a distant clan of Protectors is responsible for his troubles (awkward), Emilie's people (wait, she's a protector?!) offer him protection in exchange for his help. All that's left to figure out is how to protect the rest of his friends and family while he tries to save an ancient civilization he didn't even know existed until now before his last cup of joe. (Yeah, this entire paragraph is just confusing to me. Do the protectors have cancer? And if it's his research, then why would this other clan want to off him? And also, why does he want to do this? Emphasize what he gets out of helping the Protectors.)

Complete at 95,000 words, TRINITY is an urban fantasy novel where big cats rule all and expensive coffee is totally in style. (The kind that is made from bat poop? HAHAHAHAHA!...ah, good times.)

I have a background in history and anthropology and am currently completing a dual bachelor program in molecular and evolutionary biology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
I really enjoyed the voice in this. I may have made too much of the coffee references in my comments, so do with that as you will. I just think it's funny. Clearly, you don't want to overdo the coffee, but you can continue to use it to play up your voice.

I do find the query a little long, and it doesn't help that your last paragraph--the stakes--is so convoluted, at least to me. That being said, I think it's all easily fixed.
:) Kat
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 9:39 am

I was worried the coffee jokes might be unfunny... they appear to work, so does the voice, so that's good.

The fact that Emilie being a Protector isn't clear is a big red alert, so this needs ASAP fixing.

I had issues in the original query explaining how Gabriel's research might influence them... it's so complicated that it would take too many words to clearly lay it out, but it's not so unimportant that I can leave it out. I see if I can spin in around differently.

Bat poop I hear is definitely in style :D Thanks for the feedback!

PS. Now I want to know what happened on Prom night! :D

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by Emily J » July 12th, 2010, 12:22 pm

Bioengineer Gabriel Clarkson is a cappuccino addict and self-declared workaholic. Armed with nothing but sarcasm and tenacity, he has? spent the last five years in his Vermont lab trying to cure cancer. All the late nights finally pay off: he's awarded a fifteen million dollar grant from an anonymous donor, thus securing not only his research's future but the holy grail of espresso machines to go with it. Victory has never been so caffeinated and sweet. i like the opening paragraph, it's got plenty of voice, however I can just here query shark ranting about exposition in queries, the story really starts in paragraph two

A month and a new colleague later, his lab is plundered and someone gets killed. "someone gets killed" is far too vague to be of any use, murdered? hit by a bus? and who was it anyway? When two men try to kidnap him I would use Gabriel here, starting to feel pronoun heavy and his witty jokes fail to help, his colleague Emilie shows up with inhuman kung-fu moves and rescues him almost effortlessly. The fact that? she has a more impressive academic pedigree was already hard to swallow, but now that she saved his life, i think it should be "but now that she has saved his life" but honestly it's hard to tell, you are shifting tenses quite a bit, moving between exposition and present day a bit too much the jealousy is palpable.

Emilie brings Gabriel to a vast underground megalopolis hidden under the mountains of Vermont. this transition seems out of nowhere, why does she lead him here? Reminiscent of Mesoamerican architecture, in Vermont? Toturia assuming this is the name of the underground megalopolis? is a sight of beauty. He's introduced to the Protectors, a race of humans born from the hybridization of feline and human DNA ten thousand years ago. *blinks* well that's quite a turn, i thought this was a conspiracy type thriller... also, exactly how was gene splicing accomplished thousands of years ago? seems like a rather gaping plot hole Naturally fast, strong serial commaand highly intelligent, DANGLING PARTICIPLE! all of it pales in comparison pales in comparison is a cliche and wordy to boot to the fact to the fact - ack cut this please they tame jaguars and leopards to be their companions. errr... companions? friends i hope... tho would that only be half bestiality? hmmm...

As he discovers just how influential Protectors have been in our evolution and history, the shock of this new reality is accentuated odd verb choice, the shock of this new reality is accentuated? doesn't read right to me when he's told his research could save them from total extinction. errr how? After Gabriel learns a distant clan of Protectors is responsible for his troubles, Emilie's people wait what? is Emilie a Protector? you never said that, does she have whiskers? offer him protection in exchange for his help. All that's left to figure out is how to protect the rest of his friends and family while he tries to save an ancient civilization he didn't even know existed until now.

Complete at 95,000 words, TRINITY is an urban fantasy novel where big cats rule all and expensive coffee is totally in style. ehh i understand you are trying to be cheeky, but this falls flat for me "totally in style" doesn't work for me

I have a background in history and anthropology and am currently completing a dual bachelor program in molecular and evolutionary biology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


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Thank you very much for your honest critique! :)[/quote]

So I think you shift tenses a bit too much in the beginning and I think you need to find a way to shorten this overall. It feels too lengthy. Queries are suppose to be short and concise. Also, I find the paragraph introducing the Protectors to be quite a turn from what I was expecting so the query reads a bit disjointed for me. Perhaps find a way to introduce the heart of the story earlier thus making it more cohesive and shortening it at the same time.

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 1:07 pm

Thanks a lot for your feedback Emily!

Funny you mention the Shark because I've spent hours there, especially to look at the queries that got a YES.

This one received a yes immediatly. Story starts in paragraph two. (215 words, YA)
This one got a yes after four revisions. Story starts in paragraph three. (381 words, thriller)
This one required one revision. Conflict and stakes don't show up before paragraph four. (281 words, crime)
Here we had a yes after two revisions. Stakes are mentioned in paragraph two.(303 words, women fiction)
This one got a yes after two revisions. Lots of exposition but we get the stakes with the tag line and second paragraph. (475 words! YA?)
The last one got a yes after two revisions. It has great voice, but the story starts in paragraph two. (181 words! commercial fiction)

At 353 words my query is definitely too long and I'll try to bring it well under 300 and closer to 250. I'm not sure what you mean by exposition in first paragraph... the Shark actually seems to like them. What's your take on this?

After compiling statistics from both miss Snark and the Shark I dare say things are confusing, but the really good ones are all short (< 250 words). It seems to be more difficult to write a short fantasy query because you have an entirely new world to present... I tried writing a 2 paragraph pitch query, but there lacked a voice. If I put emphasis on voice in 2 paragraphs, there lacks plot elements.

My first query got me 3 requests but it was all about the plot, so I think this time I'll try with the voice approach.

Thanks for your critique, I'll tidy it up!

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 1:20 pm

Emily J wrote: *blinks* well that's quite a turn, i thought this was a conspiracy type thriller... also, exactly how was gene splicing accomplished thousands of years ago? seems like a rather gaping plot hole.
I just want to answer that question because I am a terrible geek with an invested interest in evolutionary biology! And imho, it's fascinating stuff that too few people know.

500k years ago, Homo sapiens was born, the oldest ancestor of the modern human. Everyone knows who Homo sapiens is so I don't think I need to say more.

What a lot of people don't know is that around 100k years ago, there were three genetic mutations that led to three different human species branching off homo sapiens. There was Neanderthal (now extinct), the "Asians" (now extinct) and the anatomically modern African, which became Cro-Magnon later (us). Though each human species lived in different part of the worlds, we know for sure Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal crossed paths and we also believe Cro-Magnon might have been the one to finish them off. The last Neanderthal is believed to have died about 40k years ago.

For much of our history there was more than one human species living on this planet. The fact Cro-Magnon has been alone for 40k years is quite exceptional compared to the millions of years humanity spent evolving. Isn't that amazing? Imagine if Neanderthal had survived and we both shared the planet to this day... that alone could be a novel! :)

The premise of the novel is based on the idea that another spontaneous mutation could have occurred in Africa 10k years ago, thus creating another branch in the human family tree.

[Geek moment over]. Back to work on that query armed with more invaluable feedback!

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by wilderness » July 12th, 2010, 1:27 pm

Congrats on your full requests!

However, I agree, it's too long. There are some awkward sentences as well, but I think you first want to get the content right.

I would do 3 paragraphs:
1. Paragraph 1 introduces the Protectors from an omniscient point of view. I think you should start with this so people are not confused about the genre.
2. Paragraph 2 introduces Gabriel. Everything going forward is Gabriel's POV. This should be mostly the information in the current Paragraph 1.
3. Paragraph 3 introduces the conflict. Gabriel learns about the Protectors and what he needs to do to help him. You will have to brain storm a concise explanation about how his cancer research affects them. If you need help, tell us the long version and maybe we can help you whittle it down.

You can remove most of the information from the current Paragraph 2 -- the details of the mysterious break-in and his jealousy of Emilie -- since it's all just build up to learning about the Protectors. Let's just go straight to the big stuff in your query :)

Hope that helps. I think the concept about the Predators sounds like a fun urban fantasy, and I do like the coffee jokes--they add voice.

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 1:39 pm

Haha, thanks wilderness! Coffee's so good!

The reason I talk about the break-in, murder and kidnapping is it's the catalyst to the introduction, and also the stakes. It's not clear in this query (working on it now) but the ones behind the attacks is another clan of Protectors (who live in Eurasia. There are only two clans by the way). So in exchange for Gabriel's help in finishing the research (with added incentive), Emilie's people offer him protection against that other clan. Why they want his research for themselves is a mystery (they don't het along).

The shark also insists we should always introduce the MC in the first paragraph... you think the Protectors are more important than the MC? I'm not too bothered about that though, I'll try both approach and see how it goes!

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by Emily J » July 12th, 2010, 1:41 pm

I get it now, these Protectors are just another branch from our genetic tree that split thousands of years ago. I think I was incorrectly inferring that there had been some sort of mad scientist gene splicing (i blame those darn SPLICE trailers on tv ever two minutes).

But now you have me curious, how did this hybridization occur? I must admit only one thing comes to mind...

I feel I should apologize since for some reason with this query my mind keeps going to bestiality. And that is a sentence never before uttered (or written). LOL

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 1:49 pm

Truth be told, genetic mutations are usually spontaneous, unpredictable and we don't know what sets it off. Cancer is exactly like that... we know cells mutate and begin replicating very rapidly, but we don't know what sets it off. We know certain factors like environment (radiation, pollution, poisons), lifestyle (diet, smoking, etc) and genetics (certain people carry genes that are more likely to splice or mutate) influence the process, but we know way too little about DNA to understand the process fully. Mutations happen every day in most organisms... it's rarely enough to change anything major though (like creating another race). For example, we share 98.4% of our DNA with apes, but that 1.6% was obviously enough to trigger important anatomical changes. We just don't know which changes they were or how it happened!

The book does address this biological mystery, but it's part of the main plot arc :D

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by wilderness » July 12th, 2010, 1:57 pm

FK7 wrote: The reason I talk about the break-in, murder and kidnapping is it's the catalyst to the introduction, and also the stakes. It's not clear in this query (working on it now) but the ones behind the attacks is another clan of Protectors (who live in Eurasia. There are only two clans by the way). So in exchange for Gabriel's help in finishing the research (with added incentive), Emilie's people offer him protection against that other clan. Why they want his research for themselves is a mystery (they don't het along).
I get they are the catalyst to Emilie showing him the world of the Protectors but I think you can just shorten it to say "After a break-in threatens his life, Emilie saves him and reveals what she really is..." or some such, and then move quickly on to the Protectors. Taking a whole paragraph for what is basically set-up is too much, IMO.

Also, I think that in science fiction/fantasy it's okay to introduce the world to the query reader first. However, even if you just do 1) Introduce Gabriel 2) Straight to the Protectors 3) Conflict -- you will still get there faster and avoid confusion with a conspiracy/thriller. In the current version, it feels like the Protectors came out of nowhere since it's so late in the query.

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 2:07 pm

Here's a new version. At 275 words it's 78 words shorter than the original. It's significant, but I'm very reluctant to cut more.

Here's my thought process:
-I tidied the first paragraph up just a little, but because Shark and Snark often say starting with the MC is important, I'd rather keep it as it is. The voice appears to work for most people (and I do like the coffee jokes, so here goes :))
-Second paragraph was shortened and cleared up. It's the catalyst to the story. Without it the transition from cancer research to new race of humans seemed really weirder. What's your take on this?
-Third paragraph was shortened as well, but felines are an integral part of the book's mythology (they say in the old days they used jaguars/leopards on the battlefield and cheetahs as scout due to their speed... now they're sacred and they still tame them... I think it's cool, but if it seems superfluous I'll remove it.) and I liked the snarly predator feedback. Too geeky?
-Fourth was completely re-written so it gets to the point really quickly.

Let me know what you think of the new shortened version:
Dear Ms. Shark:

Bioengineer Gabriel Clarkson is a cappuccino addict and self-declared workaholic. Armed with nothing but sarcasm and tenacity, he's spent the last five years in his Vermont lab trying to cure cancer. A breakthrough earns him a fifteen million dollar grant, thus securing not only his research's future but the holy grail of espresso machines to go with it. Victory has never been so caffeinated.

A month and a new colleague later, his lab is plundered and an acquaintance is killed during the break-in. Trouble finds Gabriel again when two men try to kidnap him and the new obnoxiously smart colleague, Dr. Emilie Jensen, rescues him with inhuman kung-fu and a badass attitude.

She brings Gabriel to her home, a vast underground megalopolis hidden under the mountains of Vermont. He's introduced to the Protectors, an ancient race of humans born from the hybridization of feline and human DNA. Naturally fast, strong and highly intelligent, they tame jaguars and leopards and keep the snarly predators as sacred pets.

The Protectors are facing extinction and Gabriel's research could save them. He learns another clan might be responsible for the attacks because they want his virus for themselves. Stuck between a rock and a feline war, he accepts to trade knowledge for protection. All that's left to figure out is how to protect the rest of his friends and family while he tries to save an ancient civilization he didn't even know existed until his last cup of java.

Complete at 95,000 words, TRINITY is an urban fantasy novel where big cats rule all and expensive coffee is totally in style.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Last edited by FK7 on July 12th, 2010, 3:17 pm, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by FK7 » July 12th, 2010, 2:09 pm

wilderness wrote:
FK7 wrote: The reason I talk about the break-in, murder and kidnapping is it's the catalyst to the introduction, and also the stakes. It's not clear in this query (working on it now) but the ones behind the attacks is another clan of Protectors (who live in Eurasia. There are only two clans by the way). So in exchange for Gabriel's help in finishing the research (with added incentive), Emilie's people offer him protection against that other clan. Why they want his research for themselves is a mystery (they don't het along).
I get they are the catalyst to Emilie showing him the world of the Protectors but I think you can just shorten it to say "After a break-in threatens his life, Emilie saves him and reveals what she really is..." or some such, and then move quickly on to the Protectors. Taking a whole paragraph for what is basically set-up is too much, IMO.

Also, I think that in science fiction/fantasy it's okay to introduce the world to the query reader first. However, even if you just do 1) Introduce Gabriel 2) Straight to the Protectors 3) Conflict -- you will still get there faster and avoid confusion with a conspiracy/thriller. In the current version, it feels like the Protectors came out of nowhere since it's so late in the query.

Great points all around. I'll see how I could effectively introduce the Protectors first. Thanks so much! :D

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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by katbrauer » July 12th, 2010, 7:52 pm

FK7 wrote: Bioengineer Gabriel Clarkson is a cappuccino addict and self-declared workaholic. Armed with nothing but sarcasm and tenacity, he's spent the last five years in his Vermont lab trying to cure cancer. A breakthrough earns him a fifteen million dollar grant, thus securing not only his research's future but the holy grail of espresso machines to go with it. Victory has never been so caffeinated. (Lovely.)

A month and a new colleague later, his lab is plundered and an acquaintance is killed during the break-in.(Not sure I like acquaintance. Is there a better way to describe this? It doesn't help that the sentence is written in passive voice, so the immediacy is taken away. Also, can we change "killed" to "murdered" just to make it sound more harsh? :) ) Trouble finds Gabriel again when two men try to kidnap him. and the His new obnoxiously smart colleague, Dr. Emilie Jensen, rescues him with inhuman kung-fu and a badass attitude. (I thought that that sentence was too much information and description as one sentence, so I did my best to split it into two. However, having done so, it now reads a little incomplete to me, so play around with it.)

She brings Gabriel to her home, a vast underground megalopolis hidden under the mountains of Vermont. He's introduced to the Protectors, an ancient race of humans born from the hybridization of feline and human DNA. (I'm not feeling the phrase "he's introduced to..." I think you could try to rework this sentence so it relates more to Emilie. Also, perhaps change "humans born from" to "humans evolved from.") Naturally fast, strong and highly intelligent, they tame jaguars and leopards and keep the snarly predators as sacred pets.

Except the Protectors are facing extinction and Gabriel's research could save them. (Good.) He learns another clan might be responsible for the attacks on his lab because they want his virus for themselves. (This is okay, but I think the sentence could be made stronger, particularly the first clause.) Stuck between a rock and a feline war (hahaha, I like this!), he accepts to trade knowledge for protection. All that's left to figure out is how to protect the rest of his friends and family while he tries to save an ancient civilization he didn't even know existed until his last cup of java. :)

Complete at 95,000 words, TRINITY is an urban fantasy novel where big cats rule all and expensive coffee is totally in style.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
This is definitely a stronger version and much less confusing overall, so good on you for improving so much so quickly. I also think the voice is stronger, as it carries through each paragraph instead of just appearing in the first and the last. Looks like a fun story. And I do like my human-cat hybrids.

...do they have tails?
:) Kat
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Re: TRINITY, an urban fantasy query

Post by wilderness » July 12th, 2010, 8:29 pm

I like your second version a lot better too! You cut out a lot of what was slowing it down. I'm not sure you need to mention both the break-in and the kidnapping...just one should serve as the inciting incident which leads to Gabriel learning about the Protectors. "An acquaintance is killed" is weak because we don't know or care about this acquaintance. But overall it's pretty darn good as is.

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