Alone With Everyone - Literary query

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BRSloan
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Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by BRSloan » July 24th, 2010, 1:09 am

This query has been a real dud, so I thought I'd put it up here to see if you guys could give me any input on it. I also did a complete rewrite from a different angle, but I really can't decide between the two, though I lean toward the first. Please let me know which you think is better, or if that's too much, just critique the first. Thank you! Please be brutal:

[NEW VERSION FURTHER DOWN. Thanks.]
I am seeking representation for ALONE WITH EVERYONE, a 70,000-word literary novel.

Amanda yearns to discard her dress and bonnet, but her parents won't let her. According to their religion, women are only housewives, but even at twelve she knows she wants to go to college. Chris, the disfigured musical genius who lives in seclusion down the road, proves the only sympathetic adult and her only friend.

But when her father finds out Amanda spends hours alone in the house of this strange hermit, he forbids her to see him, suspecting the worst of their relationship. Amanda, sick of her oppressive parents, runs away, hitching a ride with Fred, an enormous trucker who believes violence is the purest form of prayer. He imprisons her thousands of miles from her Indiana home, shows her the clothes of the wife he murdered, and promises her the same if she ever tries to leave.

Amanda lives under this threat until she sees the chance to get online while Fred is asleep. She has little experience with a computer, and no one to contact, but through a news search she discovers that Chris has been imprisoned in connection with her disappearance. She decides she must return to free him—but first must free herself. Thus begins her brush with vengeance and the long trek home to confront a father utterly changed by the injustice he helped perpetrate.

Thank you for your time,
I actually recently rewrote it to try to make it more punchy, but I'm not sure if I like the new one:
I am seeking representation for ALONE WITH EVERYONE, a 70,000-word literary novel.

When a girl raised in a cult that considers her only fit for cleaning must escape from a sadistic trucker who has abducted her, she needs an inner strength. For Amanda, it comes from more than her natural willfulness. It is inspired by the man wrongfully imprisoned for molesting her: Chris, a disfigured musical genius who happens to be her only friend.

Richard, her father, is the agent of Chris's imprisonment. He mistrusted Chris's relationship with his daughter from the beginning, and when she disappears, he assumes Chris is responsible. When the Pastor of their church testifies that Amanda admitted Chris had abused her, it isn't long for the hermit to be tried and found guilty. Four years later, however, a girl much like Amanda turns up pregnant by the same Pastor, and an investigation proves him to have abused many girls, including Amanda. Richard becomes convinced he put the wrong person in prison, and sets out to have him freed.

Meanwhile, as Amanda's abductor sleeps, she sees a chance to get online. Due to her monastic upbringing, she has little experience with a computer, and no one to contact, but through a news search she discovers that Chris has been imprisoned in connection with her disappearance. She decides she must return to free him—but first must free herself. Thus both father and daughter unknowingly fight for the same end, but while one confronts his own fallibility, the other confronts her captor: an enormous man who believes that violence is the purest form of prayer.

Thank you for your time,
Also: I'd call it literary, but it also has an active plot. It's almost literary thrillerish, but even "thriller" sounds too strong. Would "mainstream" word for something like this, or would that just annoy agents?

Thank you for your time!
Last edited by BRSloan on July 24th, 2010, 12:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by HillaryJ » July 24th, 2010, 2:15 am

Hi,

I'm seeing a real disconnect between the story and the style of the query. The query is well-written and steady, but the story you're describing seems full of difficult choices, urgent, terrifying and possibly brutal situations.

What is this religion? I feel like you're being vague when you don't have the space to do so. So, Amanda's raised in a strict [insert religion] fundamentalist family, but dreams of independent thought and, presumably, moving away. Her parents discover that she's been alone with a man and lock her away and then she runs away. And then you hit the most interesting part of the query: "who believes violence is the purest form of prayer." One, that's intense. Two, it's an interesting way to describe someone. More of that, please.

The two long sentences about Amanda struggling to understand how to use a computer don't seem necessary, though they did surprise me because I thought the time was at least a couple of decades in the past.

You do show Amanda's character development - that she starts quiet, hiding her true feelings, and ends perpetrating what I assume is violent vengeance and then a quest for justice back at home. I guess I just don't feel like that development is organic. I'm surprised that she would put herself at such risk over Chris, because I didn't feel their relationship was anything more than two lonely people sharing space. So, increase the level of their connection (what does he and his freedom mean to her that forces her to act?), and increase the drama and tension in the language to reflect this dark, intense plot.

Good luck.
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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by John Dillon » July 24th, 2010, 7:23 am

I think your story sounds exciting. Are you reluctant to call it a thriller? In any event, I started tinkering with the first query, which I preferred, and maybe it'll give you some ideas:

I am seeking representation for ALONE WITH EVERYONE, a 70,000-word literary novel.

Amanda's parents won't let her discard her dress and bonnet. Women, they tell her, should be housewives. Amanda wants more.

Sick of her oppressive parents, Amanda runs away. She hitches a ride with Fred, an enormous trucker who believes violence is the purest form of prayer. He imprisons her thousands of miles from her Indiana home, shows her the clothes of the wife he murdered, and promises her the same if she ever tries to leave.

Meanwhile, Chris, the disfigured musical genius who lives in seclusion down the road from Amanda's parents, is charged with Amanda's disappearance. Chris had been Amanda's only friend. He was the one escape she'd had from her suffocating parents and their oppressive religion.

As Fred's prisoner, Amanda lives with his threats until she sees the chance to get online. She has little experience with a computer, and no one to contact, but she soon discovers that Chris has been wrongly imprisoned. She decides she must return to free him—but first must free herself. Thus begins her brush with vengeance and the long trek home to confront a father utterly changed by the injustice he helped perpetrate.

Thank you for your time.

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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by BRSloan » July 24th, 2010, 12:48 pm

Thanks for the responses, both of you!

HillaryJ: The religion she is in is the German Baptists, an obscure Christian sect that isn't very well known outside of the midwest, or even Indiana really. I originally had the name in the query, but it felt liek ti was wasting space. Maybe this new version does a better job of not sounding vague. And you're dead right about the disconnect: I have no idea how to fix that. It's not exactly a thriller, but not really a brooding character study either.

John Dillon: Thanks for the rewrite. It helped me to view it from another angle.

Let me know what you think about this rewrite:
I am seeking representation for ALONE WITH EVERYONE, a 70,000 word literary novel.

At the age of twelve, Amanda has never owned a computer or a pair of pants. She has, however, handled a revolver.

Born into a cult that views her as a future housewife, she is expected to clean, sew, and read the Bible. Amanda wants more: she dreams of becoming a scientist. One day, while counting fish in a local woods, she meets Chris, the disfigured musical genius who lives down the road. He is a brash, grotesque man who wants to be left alone. Despite his defensive abrasiveness, they soon discover the loneliness they have in common and become the best of friends.

Only Amanda has a secret that sends her into fits of weeping, and she can't bring herself to tell anyone about it. Richard, her father, interprets this as abuse at the hands of Chris, of whom he knows nothing, but assumes to be a seductive monster. He forbids her to see him, and brings her to the doctor to be examined for sexual activity.
Amanda, unable to bear explaining the results, runs away, and is picked up by Fred, an enormous trucker and amateur philosopher who believes that violence is the purest form of prayer.

He imprisons her thousands of miles from her Indiana home, shows her the clothes of the wife he killed, and promises her the same if she ever tries to leave. She is to be a disciple in his crusade against humanity. As he sleeps, however, she sees a chance to get online and discovers through a news search that Chris has been imprisoned in connection with her disappearance. Worse: he was convicted through the testimony of Pastor Warren, the man who had actually been molesting her. Confronted with her only friend being destroyed by her oldest enemy, she decides she must return to give them both what they deserve. But first, she must escape from Fred, which necessitates killing him.

Thank you for your time,
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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by thewhipslip » July 24th, 2010, 2:57 pm

BRSloan wrote:
I am seeking representation for ALONE WITH EVERYONE, a 70,000 word literary novel Take out the "literary novel". Agents hate that. Just say "work of fiction", or "mainstream novel". All novels are literary..

At the age of twelve, Amanda has never owned a computer or a pair of pants. She has, however, handled a revolver.

Born into a cult that views her as a future housewife, she is expected to clean, sew, and read the Bible. Amanda wants more: she dreams of becoming a scientist. One day, while counting fish in a local woods, she meets Chris, the disfigured musical genius who lives down the road. He is a brash, grotesque man who wants to be left alone. Despite his defensive abrasiveness, they soon discover the loneliness they have in common and become the best of friends.

Only Amanda has a secret that sends her into fits of weeping, and she can't bring herself to tell anyone about it. Richard, her father, interprets this as abuse at the hands of Chris, of whom he knows nothing, but assumes to be a seductive monster. He forbids her to see him, and brings her to the doctor to be examined for sexual activity.

Amanda, unable to bear explaining the results, runs away, and is picked up by Fred, an enormous trucker and amateur philosopher who believes that violence is the purest form of prayer.

He imprisons her thousands of miles from her Indiana home, shows her the clothes of the wife he killed, and promises her the same if she ever tries to leave. She is to be a disciple in his crusade against humanity What does this mean? How does that work?. As he sleeps, however, she sees a chance to get online and discovers through a news search that Chris has been imprisoned in connection with her disappearance. Worse: he was convicted through the testimony of Pastor Warren, the man who had actually been molesting her. Confronted with her only friend being destroyed by her oldest enemy, she decides she must return to give them both what they deserve. But first, she must escape from Fred, which necessitates killing him.

Thank you for your time,
I'm having trouble seeing why Amanda learning about Chris makes her more likely to return home? Hasn't she been trying to escape from the truckie all along? Why does finding out about Chris make her more eager to escape? And why is killing the truckie a problem? He sounds like a maniac. And if she was able to kill him before finding out about Chris...why didn't she? I'm not understanding the motive here, and that's where the disconnect in the query is coming from.

Perhaps the truckie gives her something that she wants, so part of her doesn't want to go? Give us more of a sense of Amanda's mental state while she's being held captive.

Hope this helps!
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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by GeeGee55 » July 24th, 2010, 4:01 pm

I didn't read the previous versions, so these are my impressions from reading this one over
BRSloan wrote:Thanks for the responses, both of you!

HillaryJ: The religion she is in is the German Baptists, an obscure Christian sect that isn't very well known outside of the midwest, or even Indiana really. I originally had the name in the query, but it felt liek ti was wasting space. Maybe this new version does a better job of not sounding vague. And you're dead right about the disconnect: I have no idea how to fix that. It's not exactly a thriller, but not really a brooding character study either.

John Dillon: Thanks for the rewrite. It helped me to view it from another angle.

Let me know what you think about this rewrite:
I am seeking representation for ALONE WITH EVERYONE, a 70,000 word literary novel.

At the age of twelve, Amanda has never used a computer or owned a pair of pants. She has, however, handled a revolver. - now that's a shocker, good strong beginning

Born into a cult that views her as a future housewife, she is expected to clean, sew, and read the Bible. Amanda wants more: she dreams of becoming a scientist. One day, while counting fish in a local woods, - this seems a bit too specific, perhaps just say she meets Chris she meets Chris, the disfigured musical genius who lives down the road. He is a brash, grotesque man who wants to be left alone. - I think you could leave this sentence out Despite his initial abrasiveness defensive abrasiveness, they soon discover the loneliness they have in common share? and become the best of friends.

Only Amanda has a secret what? that sends her into fits of weeping, and she can't bring herself to tell anyone about it. Richard, her father, interprets this as abuse at the hands of Chris, of whom he knows nothing, but assumes to be a seductive monster. - this sentence has no flow, it's rough Try less words - Richard, her father, suspects that Chris is sexually abusing Amanda and He forbids her to see him, and He forces her to go to a doctor brings her to the doctor to be examined for sexual activity.
Amanda, unable to bear explaining the results- not clear cause we don't know what the secret is, runs away, and is picked up by Fred, an enormous trucker and amateur philosopher who believes that violence is the purest form of prayer.

He imprisons her thousands of miles from her Indiana home, shows her the clothes of the wife he killed, and promises her the same if she ever tries to leave. She is to be a disciple in his crusade against humanity. As he sleeps, however, she sees a chance to get online and discovers through a news search - again a bit too much info, I think that Chris has been imprisoned in connection with her disappearance. Worse: he was convicted through the testimony of Pastor Warren, the man who had actually been molesting her. Confronted with her only friend being destroyed by her oldest enemy, she decides she must return to give them both what they deserve. But first, she must escape from Fred, and I'd end this right here and leave us wondering how she'll escape from Fred. which necessitates killing him.

Thank you for your time,
Is she twelve years old throughout this whole story, if she's not you need to make that clear. Maybe you have already done this, but a search for information on defining genre might help you define your work. Literary is usually very high quality work that delves into character and explores deep themes. This sounds like quite a bit of action. I like your idea, it sounds like an interesting read. Good luck with it.

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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by sbs_mjc1 » July 24th, 2010, 4:07 pm

I am seeking representation for ALONE WITH EVERYONE, a 70,000 word literary novel.
At the age of twelve, Amanda has never owned a computer or a pair of pants. She has, however, handled a revolver.
Good opening hook.
Born into a cult that views her as a future housewife, she is expected to clean, sew, and read the Bible. Amanda wants more: she dreams of becoming a scientist. One day, while counting fish in a local woods, she meets Chris, the disfigured musical genius who lives down the road. He is a brash, grotesque man who wants to be left alone. Despite his defensive abrasiveness, they soon discover the loneliness they have in common and become the best of friends.
O
nly Amanda has a secret that sends her into fits of weeping, and she can't bring herself to tell anyone about it. Richard, her father, interprets this as abuse at the hands of Chris, of whom he knows nothing, but assumes to be a seductive monster. He forbids her to see him, and brings her to the doctor to be examined for sexual activity.Amanda, unable to bear explaining the results, runs away, and is picked up by Fred, an enormous trucker and amateur philosopher who believes that violence is the purest form of prayer.
This paragraph is very confusing. What is Amanda's secret-- you need to explain, or the reader will be scratching his/her head. Furthermore, what is the whole business with her sex life? Please tell us what the "results" of the test are.
He imprisons her thousands of miles from her Indiana home, shows her the clothes of the wife he killed, and promises her the same if she ever tries to leave. She is to be a disciple in his crusade against humanity. As he sleeps, however, she sees a chance to get online and discovers through a news search that Chris has been imprisoned in connection with her disappearance. Worse: he was convicted through the testimony of Pastor Warren, the man who had actually been molesting her. Confronted with her only friend being destroyed by her oldest enemy, she decides she must return to give them both what they deserve. But first, she must escape from Fred, which necessitates killing him.
Well, you've answered the question here, but it's too late. You should introduce Pastor Warren earlier. Also, you've introduced a lot of disconnected elements and questions. For example, why does she have to kill Fred to get away?
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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by sarahdee » July 25th, 2010, 2:26 am

Hi

I just read all the comments and have nothing extrato add for the query.

Re the genre though - it sounds to me like a psychological thriller perhaps? I did have a quick look for your excerpt and couldn't see it so I suggest that just by reading the query...

It doesn't need to be a Bourne type action packed from start to finish to come under the thriller title.

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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by BRSloan » July 25th, 2010, 4:07 pm

Thank you to everyone who has responded. A lot of good information. I'll have to do a good bit of pondering on all the feedback and put that into a new version, but I wanted to go ahead and thank everyone.

On the genre thing, I guess "mainstream" sounds the best. From the all the definitions I've read, it just doesn't seem to fit any one category. (Neither do my other novels. Not because I think they're "original" or anything, I just can't place them.) I don't know. It's frustrating.

I'll post the new version soon. Thanks again to all who help!
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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by HillaryJ » July 26th, 2010, 12:00 am

I think that "fiction novel" is what agents hate, not "literary novel".

I really like this hook: "At the age of twelve, Amanda has never owned a computer or a pair of pants. She has, however, handled a revolver."

One day, while counting fish in a local woods, she meets Chris, the disfigured musical genius who lives down the road. He is a brash, grotesque man who wants to be left alone. Despite his defensive abrasiveness, they soon discover the loneliness they have in common and become the best of friends. "One day..." sounds too fairy tale for me. Because you've set up her community's expectations for her, maybe you can just jump into her and Chris's relationship instead of walking us through their meeting. Something like "her ally in her secret goals is Chris, a disfigured musician who...etc. He is grotesque and brash and everything she should avoid, but he's also alone...etc"

Only Amanda has a secret that sends her into fits of weeping, and she can't bring herself to tell anyone about it. Richard, her father, interprets this as abuse at the hands of Chris, of whom he knows nothing, but assumes to be a seductive monster. He forbids her to see him, and brings her to the doctor to be examined for sexual activity. Give this some thought and polish. This revelation adds a level of complexity but feels stilted and doesn't flow too well as is.

Amanda, unable to bear explaining the results, runs away, and is picked up by Fred, an enormous trucker and amateur philosopher who believes that violence is the purest form of prayer. I don't like the addition of "and amateur philosopher" unless that's how he lures Amanda in. If that's the case, then I'd like to see something like "but Amanda soon comes to find out that his only real belief is that violence is purest form of prayer".

He imprisons her thousands of miles from her Indiana home, shows her the clothes of the wife he killed, and promises her the same if she ever tries to leave. She is to be a disciple in his crusade against humanity.* I don't think the preceding sentence is necessary* As he sleeps, however, she sees a chance to get online and discovers through a news search that Chris has been imprisoned in connection with her disappearance. Worse: he was convicted through the testimony of Pastor Warren, the man who had actually been molesting her. *If you're going to reveal this fact, do so earlier rather than being vague about her secret and then explaining it here* Confronted with her only friend being destroyed by her oldest enemy, she decides she must return to give them both what they deserve. *I really like this* But first, she must escape from Fred, which necessitates killing him.

The last sentence seems quick and cold. It also takes away some of the sympathy I have for the MC. Maybe, soften it a bit, something like: She must return to her hometown to save the friend whose dreams she shared from the man who'd stolen her innocence. But following the just path may require her to break the first rule, to take a life. That may be overly dramatic, and might not follow your style at all, but even though she thinks thoughts beyond the cult's teachings, I imagine that she's been raised under a pretty strict Christian ideology, so the idea of killing should be abhorrent.

Anyway, do what you feel comfortable with, and keep working with this. The more complicated the characters/story, the harder it is to dilute yourself a query. Best of luck.
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Re: Alone With Everyone - Literary query

Post by atdeluca » July 26th, 2010, 9:45 am

I like the first version at the beginning of this thread.

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