Query: The Between People - first time attempt

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fersnerfer
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Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by fersnerfer » August 16th, 2010, 10:15 pm

Hi there.

I am new to these forums and decided that with my novel being Beta read, now might be a good time to practice writing a query. My novel is a dark fantasy epic with horror and steampunk undertones.

Here is my query:


Dear [agent]

What would you do if you knew too much about everyone you met?

Skyla is an outcast eleven year-old girl, who has the uncanny ability to read people’s souls through their shadow; but when she receives a mysterious note from an aunt she never knew, loses her mother, and is driven from her home by a witch hunter, Skyla finds herself fleeing the city to discover who and what she really is.

Bollingbrook has been both home and prison for Skyla, but as she leaves the theocratic city-state, and the Church that rules it behind, plans are already in motion to pursue her for miles across an alternate history America.

THE BETWEEN PEOPLE, a 128,000 word, dark fantasy epic, explores the effects of death, grief, guilt, and fear of the unknown.

I thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Marlan K. Smith


-----

I am still unsure about the hook, and I wonder if I should add more to the synopsis. It feels a little formulaic, but I am going for simplicity here.
I just don't want to add to much.

Thoughts?
-------------------------------------
http://marlanesque.wordpress.com/
Spoiler:
It turns out he really IS the killer!

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Quill
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Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by Quill » August 16th, 2010, 10:56 pm

fersnerfer wrote:
What would you do if you knew too much about everyone you met?
I don't know. What are my choices?

I'm not sure this is pointed enough for a kickoff of the query. Too much for what?
Skyla is an outcast eleven year-old girl, who has the uncanny ability to read people’s souls through their shadow
So she's safe from this curse (assuming it is a curse rather than a blessing, since you said "too much") on cloudy days and moonless nights?
;
Replace semi-colon with comma or period.

but when she receives a mysterious note from an aunt she never knew, loses her mother, and is driven from her home by a witch hunter, Skyla finds herself fleeing the city to discover who and what she really is.
This is a lot for one sentence, even if broken off from the first part introducing her. And it feels like we're skipping ahead. You made a big point of her ability, then you say "but" she finds herself fleeing. Do you see the disconnect? She has the uncanny ability but finds herself fleeing.

And, why would she or we suspect she is other than an eleven-year-old girl with an uncanny ability? I mean, that's what you said she was. If her clue is in the note, how about cluing us in? The sentence seems to encapsulate your entire book, which is cool in itself, but hey, you do get a bit more space to entice us to read it.
Bollingbrook has been both home and prison for Skyla, but as she leaves the theocratic city-state, and the Church that rules it behind, plans are already in motion to pursue her for miles across an alternate history America.
Here again, too much compression.

An awkward turn of phrasing placing the name (Bollingbrook) first, then waiting to the end of the next clause to tell us what it is (city-state), leaving us to assume this is the same place as "the city" she flees in the previous sentence.

Awkward putting the Church in there, leaving us to figure out what that might have to do with this story.

The last part about an alternate America completes a sort of disorienting effect of the paragraph. I wonder about your geography. Planning to pursue her "for miles" once she gets there seems odd; is there no ocean to cross to get there? Will they not be pursuing her across that? "For miles" seems odd also in relation to a continent? How far are you thinking, across maybe New Jersey?

And the planning to pursue; is this some sort of game? Who is doing this planning? It's mysterious, which is kind of cool, but also a bit passive: No one is planning, the plans are simply in motion.
THE BETWEEN PEOPLE, a 128,000 word, dark fantasy epic, explores the effects of death, grief, guilt, and fear of the unknown.
Always better to show above than to tell here what the book is about.

Meredith
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Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by Meredith » August 17th, 2010, 12:14 am

fersnerfer wrote:Hi there.

I am new to these forums and decided that with my novel being Beta read, now might be a good time to practice writing a query. My novel is a dark fantasy epic with horror and steampunk undertones.

Here is my query:


Dear [agent]

What would you do if you knew too much about everyone you met? Many agents have a knee-jerk reaction to starting with a rhetorical question. I wouldn't. Just start by introducing Skyla and her unusual talent.

Skyla is an outcast eleven year-old girl, who has the uncanny ability to read people’s souls through their shadow; I don't see any connection between these two statements. Put a period after shadow. I'd even start a new paragraph with "When she . . ."but when she receives a mysterious note from an aunt she never knew, loses her mother, and is driven from her home by a witch hunter, Skyla finds herself fleeing the city to discover who and what she really is. Wow. I feel like you just summarized the whole first third of the book in one sentence. My head is spinning. Slow down a bit and give a little more detail. You might want to pick and choose, here. Surely getting a note from her aunt does not have the same importance as losing her mother. Putting them together like this makes it feel like they are the same. Suggest something more like: "Everything changes for Skyla when she loses her mother." (But add some detail here to show the uniqueness of your story.) "She is driven from her home by a witch hunter."

Bollingbrook has been both home and prison for Skyla, but as she leaves the theocratic city-state, and the Church that rules it theocratic and ruled by a Church mean the same thing. Don't waste space using both. behind, plans are already in motion to pursue her for miles across an alternate history America.Once again, a little too much for one sentence. Break it up. I'd start with her choice to flee the city in search of answers. (The last clause from the sentence above.) You could describe the theocratic city-state here or above (with the witch hunter). Instead of "plans are underway", explain why the Church wants to catch her so badly.

THE BETWEEN PEOPLE, a 128,000 word, dark fantasy epic, explores the effects of death, grief, guilt, and fear of the unknown. You don't need to put the theme in here. But this is where I would mention the alternate history setting. You're going to have to make a decision on subgenre. Pick one: Dark fantasy, epic fantasy, or alternate history. (If you're story really can be classed as any of the above, it's okay to pick the sub genre based on the individual agent's tastes.)

I thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Marlan K. Smith


-----

I am still unsure about the hook, and I wonder if I should add more to the synopsis. It feels a little formulaic, but I am going for simplicity here.
I just don't want to add to much.

Thoughts?
MeredithMansfield.WordPress.com

fersnerfer
Posts: 52
Joined: August 11th, 2010, 9:36 pm
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Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by fersnerfer » August 17th, 2010, 12:24 am

This is all fantastic feedback. I'll revise and re-post. Thanks a ton, guys.

It's sort of amazing to me how much harder this is than writing the entire book, BTW. I really appreciate the help.
-------------------------------------
http://marlanesque.wordpress.com/
Spoiler:
It turns out he really IS the killer!

fersnerfer
Posts: 52
Joined: August 11th, 2010, 9:36 pm
Contact:

Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by fersnerfer » August 17th, 2010, 1:47 am

OK. Thanks again for the advice.

Here is another revision. I think that before I was confused about just how much is too much to share. Coming down from writing the entire book, it's easy to want to encapsulate every into a blurb. I am attempting her to limit the synopsis to a few chapters rather than summarize the entire novel. :)

---


Dear [agent]

Skyla’s mother had always said it was a family curse, reading people’s shadows.

Everybody has one. It is the silhouette we see when our bodies subtract the light from a wall or a sidewalk. It can multiply when walking between streetlamps or when more than one candle is lit in a room.

To Skyla, there is an additional shadow. It is the silhouette our soul leaves against the fabric of the universe, one that reflects a person’s sins and fears. It has done nothing to make her popular at school, and in her mother’s case it has gotten a woman killed.

That was before the shadows claimed her mother and came for her as well. It was before the witch hunter arrived with his cold blue eyes and perfect white suit, burning her home of eleven years and forcing her to flee the city for her life.

Seen as a threat to the power structure of The Church, Skyla must discover who and what she is before either the shadows or the witch hunter catch up to her.

THE BETWEEN PEOPLE, a 128,000 word, [fantasy/dark fantasy/epic fantasy depending on agent] novel, set in an alternate history America.

I thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Marlan K. Smith


---

Thanks again for all the advice. I hope I put it to good use.

-Marlan
-------------------------------------
http://marlanesque.wordpress.com/
Spoiler:
It turns out he really IS the killer!

Hyaline
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Joined: August 17th, 2010, 9:07 am
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Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by Hyaline » August 17th, 2010, 9:36 am

Hi there--very cool idea. Nice work on the revision--this round is much better :)
fersnerfer wrote:OK. Thanks again for the advice.

Here is another revision. I think that before I was confused about just how much is too much to share. Coming down from writing the entire book, it's easy to want to encapsulate every into a blurb. I am attempting her to limit the synopsis to a few chapters rather than summarize the entire novel. :)

---


Dear [agent]

Skyla’s mother had always said it was a family curse, reading people’s shadows.This is way better than the rhetorical question--agreed with above that rhetoricals seem to elicit a knee-jerk reaction.

Everybody has one. It is the silhouette we see when our bodies subtract the light from a wall or a sidewalk. It can multiply when walking between streetlamps or when more than one candle is lit in a room. Hmmm...this felt a little too technical for me. I can see that understanding what a shadow is could be important to getting the concept of the story, but this felt almost text-book-y. Could you slip a condensed description into the summary of the plot somewhere?

To Skyla, there is an additional shadow. I'm not sure if this means she sees or has an additional shadow, and what it's in addition to? It is the silhouette our soul Our collective soul? Individual's souls? leaves against the fabric of the universe, one that reflects a person’s sins and fears. This again feels more technical than plot-driven...I guess as a reader I want to know what happens, not just details about how this element of the story works. It has done nothing to make her popular at school Interesting--I do like how you place her more in context with this statement (before I wouldn't have guessed she was in school) but does it have much to do with the plot? , and in her mother’s case it has gotten a woman killed Now I feel like we're picking up a plotline...but there's a bit of a nonsequitor--we've only been talking about Skyla, so how is it that her issue with the shadow has caused her mother to get someone killed?.

That was before the shadows claimed her mother and came for her as well. It was before the witch hunter arrived with his cold blue eyes and perfect white suit, burning her home of eleven years and forcing her to flee the city for her lifeCan you make this about Skyla, make it more active? I guess I mean, these things seem to happen to her, but she doesn't seem to have a stake in it. I've seen the advice to make the character's choice very clear, but I don't see a conflict for Skyla--just really bad circumstances! Show us what the conflict is, what choice Skyla needs to make..

Seen as a threat to the power structure of The Church Because The Church has a "real world" meaning (I though immediately of the Catholic Church because it's usually referred to that way, in capitals) I don't think you can get away without more explanation--power structure is a touch vague, and could still mean what we understand as The Church. Perhaps Seen as a threat to the theocratic government of The Church..., Skyla must discover who and what she isThis feels a touch vague...I feel like I've read it in dozens of query example lol :) before either the shadows or the witch hunter catch up to her.

THE BETWEEN PEOPLE, a 128,000 word, [fantasy/dark fantasy/epic fantasy depending on agent] Wise move :) novel, set in an alternate history AmericaI would show this in the query, if you can, rather than tell it..

I thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Marlan K. Smith


---

Thanks again for all the advice. I hope I put it to good use.

-Marlan
You have a really cool idea here--I just think you could pull more out of the query. Show us the central conflict, what Skyla's main choice/objective/stake is in the whole thing. Try to show us more and give us a sense of this really cool world you've created without giving us definitions--it's so hard to slip it into a short query naturally, but if you can, I think it will really let your work shine. Good luck!!

fersnerfer
Posts: 52
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Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by fersnerfer » August 17th, 2010, 12:32 pm

I think I am starting to catch on to what you mean. Here is another revision:

---

Dear [agent]

Skyla’s mother had always said it was a family curse, reading people’s shadows.

Everybody has one, the silhouette we see when our bodies subtract the light from a wall or a sidewalk. It can multiply when walking between streetlamps or when more than one candle is lit in a room. To Skyla, there is an additional shadow within the physical.

She can see the silhouette that a person’s soul leaves against the fabric of the universe, one that reflects a person’s sins and fears. Skyla can’t help but make people see this part of themselves. The ability comes as naturally to her as crossing one’s eyes or rolling one’s tongue. It has done nothing to make her popular at school, but against bullies, it has been good enough to buy her time to run away.

Now she is running again. This time from a witch hunter, hired by the theocratic government that seeks to either use her or destroy her.

Forced from her home of eleven years, Skyla must decide whether to spend her life running or learn the true limits of her abilities and face those who seek to control everything she is.

THE BETWEEN PEOPLE, a 128,000 word, [fantasy/dark fantasy/epic fantasy depending on agent] novel, set in a world where airships rule the sky, and religion rules the cities.

I thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely,
Marlan K. Smith


---

I kept some of the technical, but tried to use it as setup for the actual conflict.

I'm not sure if her age even matters to be honest. I'm curious what you think.

Thanks again for the feedback. I hope it is getting better. :)

-Marlan
-------------------------------------
http://marlanesque.wordpress.com/
Spoiler:
It turns out he really IS the killer!

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Quill
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Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by Quill » August 17th, 2010, 9:40 pm

Curious as to why you started another thread for your query. I see both have updated versions. Are they repeats? Which one is current, with the latest update?

fersnerfer
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Re: Query: The Between People - first time attempt

Post by fersnerfer » August 17th, 2010, 11:44 pm

Sorry. That's me being a noob.

I saw other people starting new threads with their revisions, so I did the same. Both this and the new thread are the latest revision.

Sorry for the confusion. Lets consider this thread over, since I already have feedback on the new thread.

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=2002

Learning on the fly here, sorry about that.
-------------------------------------
http://marlanesque.wordpress.com/
Spoiler:
It turns out he really IS the killer!

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