The Drunkard's Daughter: Started from Scratch, see p. 2

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elfspirit
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The Drunkard's Daughter: Started from Scratch, see p. 2

Post by elfspirit » August 27th, 2010, 4:10 pm

I changed the protagonist for the query, which solved a lot of problems. Thanks in advance for your suggestions. Again, the revision is on p. 2

Dara McBride fears that her former son-in-law, Michael the Drunkard, knows the secret she intends to take to her grave. When, after forty years of exile, he returns to New York to reconcile with his son and daughter, she wishes she'd buried him first.

She can't count on her family to support her. Michael's ex-wife, who left him to save her life and sanity, encourages the reunion on misguided principles of fairness. Annie, their adopted daughter, remembers too well that her father broke her arm and nose the last time she saw him. Dara initially hopes she'll hold out, but when Annie's teenaged son demands to meet the individual he knows only as Sperm Donor, Annie's resistance on the subject of fathers collapses.

Even without the Drunkard's assistance, disturbing information surfaces. In a photo from a Magdalen asylum, Annie sees a pregnant inmate who looks remarkably like Dara. Her son, visiting relatives in Ireland, learns that the woman everyone thought was Annie's biological grandmother may have drowned as a child. These suspicious details build up to the explosive secret Michael considers his duty to reveal. Dara intends to stop him, even if it kills her.
Last edited by elfspirit on September 30th, 2010, 11:26 am, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Mainstream

Post by oldhousejunkie » August 27th, 2010, 5:20 pm

Good start. But I got way too confused following all the different people. It is my understanding that you need to write from one point of view. I'm assuming that Dara is the main character, so write it from her POV.

The beginning is good....and catchy. It makes me want to read more. But as you go along, it starts getting cluttered with the different people. Annie, the ex-wife, a son, etc. I lost track who was who, and then I asked myself, "Why is this even mentioned?"

Is Dara's secret that she was in an asylum? If so, put it in her POV. I think by taking this view, it might make things a little less confusing.

Best of luck to you!

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Mainstream

Post by Emily J » August 27th, 2010, 9:22 pm

elfspirit wrote:I know this query will need an intro, word count, and a closing, but I am focusing on the main event. I look forward to your comments.


Dara McBride fears that her former son-in-law, Michael the Drunkard, knows the secret she intends to take to her grave. hmm taking secrets to the grave is a bit cliched When, <-- you don't need this comma after forty years of exile, <-- or this one i think he returns to New York to reconcile with his son and daughter, she wishes she'd buried him first. i get what you are going for, taking the secret to the grave... buried him first, but I'm not sure how to interpret this, does she literally wish she had killed him? or simply that he had died or... hmm? I understand trying to continue the metaphor but this feels a bit vague

She can't count on her family to support her. well i like my family plenty but I dont know that I would support them in murder... Michael's ex-wife, who left him to save her life and sanity, encourages the reunion on misguided principles of fairness. Annie, their their being Michael and unnamed ex-wife's? adopted daughter, remembers too well that her father broke her arm and nose the last time she saw him. feels like subject switching, started with Dana, then ex-wife, then Annie, now Dana again Dara initially hopes she'll hold out, not sure what this means, hold out against what? him finding her secret? her going to the reunion? plus hold out feels like a cliche but when Annie's teenaged son demands to meet the individual he knows only as Sperm Donor, Annie's resistance on the subject of fathers "resistance on the subject of fathers" feels a bit stilted, why so generic when it seems to be a very specific situation? collapses. <-- confused, does the she in "Dara initially hopes she'll" refer to Annie? if so that is unclear - indefinite pronoun

Even without the Drunkard's assistance, disturbing information surfaces. In a photo from a Magdalen asylum, Annie sees a pregnant inmate who looks remarkably like Dara. Her son, visiting relatives in Ireland, <-- be careful about using this construction of the embedded clause, its popped up more than a few times in the query - also, I was under the impression until now that this took place in Ireland, hmm guess I was wrong! learns that the woman everyone thought was Annie's biological grandmother may have drowned as a child. <-- ooh that's a great twist These suspicious details build up to the explosive secret Michael considers his duty to reveal. Dara intends to stop him, even if it kills her.
Where does the story take place? I was certainly reading into and enjoying the Irishness of this but apparently the setting isn't Ireland? Perhaps you can work that in. As for an introduction paragraph, opinions vary, but I know some agents prefer a query to start with the story.

I do agree with the previous comment that there seems to be a bit of subject switching. Who is the main character? Dara or Annie? I think this would be clearer if it stuck to one or the other. However, I wouldn't recommend writing from a characters POV because that often comes across as gimmicky (queryshark has described this well) but certainly focusing the query on one character might help the reading.

I do like the secret about the grandmother dying as a child. That certainly grabbed my interest!

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Mainstream

Post by JustineDell » August 28th, 2010, 5:36 pm

Thanks for helping with my query! I'll do my best to help with this one.
elfspirit wrote:

Dara McBride fears that her former son-in-law, Michael the Drunkard, knows the secret she intends to take to her grave. When, after forty years of exile, he returns to New York to reconcile with his son and daughter, she wishes she'd buried him first. This is really good opening. It makes me want to keep reading. Emily made a good point with this first paragraph, but the guts to make it killer are there. Nice job.

She can't count on her family to support her. Michael's ex-wife, who left him to save her life and sanity, encourages the reunion on misguided principles of fairness. Annie, their their who? adopted daughter, remembers too well that her father broke her arm and nose the last time she saw him. Dara initially hopes she'll she who? hold out, but when Annie's teenaged son demands to meet the individual he knows only as Sperm Donor, Annie's resistance on the subject of fathers collapses. <---Whoa...this paragraph has a lot of important elements, but it's really hard to keep the people straight. I'm sorry, but most of the time I don't know who you are referring to. There are too many "she's" and "hers" and "he's". Like is Annie Dara's daughter? Or her daughters adopted daughter? This is made cleared by the sperm donor comment (which is clever, btw) but until then I'm confused--and had to read through a few times. Wait, as I was re-writing the paragraph below, I was really confused who Dara's daughter actually was, who Annie was, and who this teenage boy is. Sorry!

Here's my humble suggestion to fix this paragraph:

Dara can't count on her family for support. Dara's own daughter, who left Michael to save her life and sanity, blindly encourages the reunion on misguided principles of fairness.

I had to stop there because I can't place the character's in the right spots. I don't know who really goes where. I really think you could make this cleared by using as few names as possible and making the connections between Dara and Micheal better.


Even without the Drunkard's assistance, disturbing information surfaces.<--this is vague. In a photo from a Magdalen asylum, Annie sees a pregnant inmate who looks remarkably like Dara. (Again, I'm confused if Dara is her mother or grandmother here.) Her son whose son?, visiting relatives in Ireland, learns that the woman everyone thought was Annie's biological grandmother may have drowned as a child. These suspicious details build up to the explosive secret Michael considers his duty to reveal. Dara intends to stop him, even if it kills her. You've got quite a hook in the making here...but I think you need to flesh it out a bit more. Make us understand the who, what, when, and where of this. Again all the people have confused me. In this paragraph you've switched to Annie, which is a strange POV switch from Dara's.
This query got off to a great start, but I would highly suggest trying to reorganize all the people and pov's in order to put more focus on one person in this query. I would also suggest not being so vague in the last paragraph. I have a feeling your secret could be your hook.

Good luck on the revisions!

~JD

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

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

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Revised

Post by elfspirit » August 29th, 2010, 12:56 pm

I am not exactly a dab hand at working this message board, so I hope I've done this correctly.


Thanks to oldhousejunkie, Emily J, and Justine Dell for their very helpful comments. It's always a relief when critiquers are in consensus. I've worked to simplify the query and reduce the character overload.

Justine, the secret might be the hook, but it doesn't get revealed until towards the end. I've read widely varying opinions about whether an ending should be part of a query. I've put it into this version.


Dara McBride fears that her former son-in-law, Michael the Drunkard, knows the secret she always intended to keep. When he returns to New York after forty years of exile to reconcile with his son and adopted daughter, she wishes she'd buried him first.

She is heartened that her granddaughter, Annie, who has never forgotten that her father broke her nose and arm, initially boycotts the reunion. However, when Annie's teenaged son demands to meet the individual he knows only as Sperm Donor, she softens towards Michael, leaving Dara alone in her resistance.

Dara is further threatened by the surfacing of details that challenge her carefully constructed autobiography. She discovers that Annie has found a photo of a Magdalen asylum for "fallen women" that shows a pregnant inmate who looks remarkably like Dara. Annie's son, visiting relatives in Ireland, reports that the woman everyone thought was Annie's biological grandmother may have drowned as a child.

Family members are beginning to question Annie's origins. Dara is desperate to conceal the truth: that she had a secret love affair that resulted in an equally secret pregnancy. She intends to silence Michael, even if it kills her.

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Revised

Post by Quill » August 29th, 2010, 1:50 pm

elfspirit wrote:
Dara McBride fears that her former son-in-law,
That would be the ex-husband of her daughter. Okay, got it. Continue.

On second thought, how about saying "Dara McBride fears that her daughter's ex-husband," just to make it really clear upfront? Since we're getting into a whole family relationship query and there are lots of characters.
Michael the Drunkard,
This name throws me. "the Drunkard" sounds like a title. Since it's not in quotes and it's capitalized, I have to assume it's not a nickname, but official. Is this his legal name?
knows the secret she always intended to keep.
How about "HAS always intended to keep" or some other way to say it? "Always intended" sounds like past tense, like the secret is already out.
When he returns to New York after forty years
Wow, that puts Dara at, what, sixty, seventy, eighty years old? Trying to get some feel for this age group. Any way to make it easier for us?
of exile
Hmm. That's an odd word. Is it self-exile? if so, maybe say so. And from the City? How come. Or from the family, maybe say so. If exiled by others, by whom? Who else but oneself has the power to exile one from a city? You imply exile from New York (not from the family), so please clarify. What is going on here?
to reconcile with his son and adopted daughter, she wishes she'd buried him first.
Why, is Dara a criminal matriarch? Would she think to personally murder him? Or is this just a figure of speech. Not sure what sort of story I am in here. This insinuated murder threat is throwing me.
She
"Dana" please, to keep us straight about this increasingly large cast of query characters.
is heartened that her granddaughter, Annie, who has never forgotten that her father broke her nose and arm, initially boycotts the reunion.
1. "Heartened" is a strange word to describe what seems primarily a bitter emotion.

2. Omit "and arm". We get the picture with "broke her nose", and it slows the sentence.
However, when Annie's teenaged son demands to meet the individual he knows only as Sperm Donor, she softens towards Michael, leaving Dara alone in her resistance.
Starting to be too many characters for this query, introducing a fourth generation here. Four characters in this sentence alone, two of them brand new, and three actions. My mind is beginning to glaze. Any way to omit the great-grandson and Donor or simply allude to them somehow?

Although this story may be an ensemble piece, there's got to be a way to simplify so as to convey the purpose of the query, which is to intrigue an agent to request more, without confusing the matter and creating the opposite effect.
Dara is further threatened by the surfacing of details that challenge her carefully constructed autobiography.
I almost think you can omit this sentence. A the least consider streamlining it and making sure it contains vital info. As is it seems both generic and packed with overly complicated words.
She discovers that Annie has found a photo of a Magdalen asylum for "fallen women" that shows a pregnant inmate who looks remarkably like Dara. Annie's son, visiting relatives in Ireland, reports that the woman everyone thought was Annie's biological grandmother may have drowned as a child.
This seems like important stuff, and I feel we are nearing the crux of your story, the big secret and all, but I afraid I am getting lost in a morass of names to keep straight (which generation is Annie? Who is the biological grandmother?) and questions (what is a "fallen woman"? Why are we suddenly shuttling to Ireland?), as well as a feeling that I'm reading a synopsis, not a hooky, succinct query pitch.
Family members are beginning to question Annie's origins.
Omit.
Dara is desperate to conceal the truth: that she had a secret love affair that resulted in an equally secret pregnancy.
Change colon to comma.

Omit "equally" as a weak modifier.
She intends to silence Michael, even if it kills her.
So she is a (potentially) murderous senior citizen?

How would it (potentially) kill her to do this? Heart attack while doing the deed?

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Revision at End of This Page

Post by oldhousejunkie » August 29th, 2010, 2:02 pm

Maybe you should start the query out with the whole secret love affair that culuminates in the secret pregnancy. If you elaborate and say that is Dara's secret, and then segway to Micheal coming back, I feel that there's more at stake. As it reads now, it's still a "character soup" with hints of a very complicated storyline to end it. And I agree with Quill--does she really want to kill Micheal? It reads right now that she has a near-death experience while murdering him.

Good shot, though, and keep trying. :-)

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Revision at End of This Page

Post by mfreivald » August 29th, 2010, 2:42 pm

Hello, elfspirit.

This post applies mostly to the second query.

This query needs focus and rising tension. You hit me rapid fire with so many names and familial relationships that I would have to draw a diagram to keep track. I only have a vague idea about the biggest worry of your protagonist (the query doesn't stay focused on one thing, and its hard to see how the numerous issues relate to each other) and who it is with. I would recommend really honing in on the high-tension issue of the book, build the tension on that issue alone as much as possible without the extraneous issues, and limit the other characters to one, maybe two or refer to them in the collective as "family."

I think going through this exercise could be beneficial for you:
The One Sentence, One Paragraph, and Two Paragraph Pitch

I worked through it for my query, and although it didn't produce the final form, it went a long way to informing and influencing my final version.

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Revision at End of This Page

Post by elfspirit » August 30th, 2010, 11:53 am

Thanks to all who commented on the first revision. I appreciate the work that goes into critiquing a query, and I even more appreciate the friendly and helpful tone overall. I have been on message boards where much sharper knives were in evidence.

I am starting from scratch, developing a one-woman show kind of query. I will let it settle for a day or so before posting.

BTW, if anyone else is struggling with a query letter for a multi-pov novel, I found this link: http://www.annemini.com/?cat=301
You may find it helpful.

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Revision at End of This Page

Post by dvmcollymore » August 30th, 2010, 6:47 pm

You have convience me in your storytelling that Dara McBride has every reason to be frighten. But you must stay with your first thought of burying Michael before he can tell all. If Dara takes her life or someone takes it the secret still lives. He could drink himself to death. No, that will take too long. Stay with
the secret and the mysterious death of Michael and bring someone else along and drop the rest.

Keep on writing,
Denise Collymore

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Latest Revision at the End of Page

Post by elfspirit » September 3rd, 2010, 1:02 pm

I've changed and shortened this. It's 135 words. Thanks in advance for your comments.

85-year-old Dara McBride scorns those who turn talk shows into confessionals by flaunting deeds better left unmentioned. For decades she has kept quiet about her sins of passion, preferring to be seen as a hard woman than to sacrifice her pride.

She fears that her former son-in-law knows that Annie, the baby he and Dara's daughter adopted was born of Dara's love affair. Though she has prayed that the liquor would kill him before he could expose her, he returns to New York City after forty years to reconcile with Annie. Dara fails to persuade Annie to boycott the reunion and decides she must break her silence before he does. To speak honestly means conquering the shame and pride that have imprisoned her for so long and finally speaking the long-suppressed truth of her heart.

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Latest Revision at the End of Page

Post by hulbertsfriend » September 5th, 2010, 2:12 pm

elfspirit wrote:I've changed and shortened this. It's 135 words. Thanks in advance for your comments.

85-year-old Dara McBride scorns those who turn talk shows into confessionals by flaunting deeds better left unmentioned. For decades she has kept quiet about her sins of passion, preferring to be seen as a hard woman than to sacrifice her pride.

She fears that her former son-in-law knows that Annie, the baby he and Dara's daughter adopted was born of Dara's love affair. There is too much going on in this sentence,Though she has prayed that the liquor would kill him before he could expose her, he returns to New York City after forty years to reconcile with Annie. Dara fails to persuade Annie to boycott Change this word "avoid?" the reunion and decides she must break her silence before he does. To speak honestly means conquering the shame and pride that have imprisoned her for so long and finally speaking the long-suppressed truth of her heart.

I like this far more than the last version. I like the talk show reference, but it may be ill placed. It's an "Out of the blue" comment. Find a way to keep it, because it is a great visual.

Great work! Voice is clean.

DougM
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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Latest Revision on pg. 2

Post by ABFTomioka » September 6th, 2010, 12:50 am

Hello! Your story sounds fantastic - what genre is it? I feel like lots of people can identify with the main character. Your query is short and to the point, which is nice, I think. Here are my few suggestions:

85-year-old Dara McBride scorns those who turn talk shows into confessionals by flaunting deeds better left unmentioned. (So, is she a habitual talk show-watcher? Like the previous commentor, I love this visual too, but maybe you can tie talk shows into her life more smoothly...) For decades she has kept quiet about her sins of passion, preferring to be seen as a hard woman rather than sacrifice her pride.

She fears her former son-in-law knows that Annie, the baby he and Dara's daughter adopted, was born of Dara's love affair. (How does her son-in-law know this? Has he been dropping hints, or threatening Dara? Maybe a tiny bit more detail would be useful here...) Though she has prayed that the liquor would kill him before he could expose her, he returns to New York City after forty years to reconcile with Annie. Dara fails to persuade Annie to boycott the reunion and decides she must break her silence before he does. (What are the consequences if she doesn't? Would it destroy the family to know the truth? Maybe a bit more background about why she has kept this a secret for so long, and why she fears it coming to light.) To speak honestly means conquering the shame and pride that have imprisoned her for so long and finally speaking the long-suppressed truth of her heart.

Great ending! Now I'm curious what happened...it's an intreguing place to leave your letter. Best of luck!

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Latest Revision at the End of Page

Post by Hilary » September 6th, 2010, 10:32 am

elfspirit wrote:I've changed and shortened this. It's 135 words. Thanks in advance for your comments.

85-year-old Dara McBride scorns those who turn talk shows into confessionals by flaunting deeds better left unmentioned. For decades she has kept quiet about her sins of passion, preferring to be seen as a hard woman than to sacrifice her pride.

She fears that her former son-in-law knows that Annie, the baby he and Dara's daughter adopted was born of Dara's love affair. Though she has prayed that the liquor would kill him before he could expose her, he returns to New York City after forty years to reconcile with Annie. Dara fails to persuade Annie to boycott the reunion and decides she must break her silence before he does. To speak honestly means conquering the shame and pride that have imprisoned her for so long and finally speaking the long-suppressed truth of her heart.

This is much better. But I had to re-read the first sentence of the second paragraph a few times to figure it out. Maybe try this: She fears that her former son-in-law knows the truth – that Annie, his adopted daughter, is Dara's child. I'd also change the word "boycott" to "avoid."

Now that you have pared it down, you could build up a bit more. You have a hundred more words to play with. You might use them to give a bit more insight into Annie – we need someone to root for here. I'm also curious about the father's relationship to his daughter. Why does he want to hurt her? Why does he want to expose Dara?

Really, this is a great improvement and the story sounds lovely. Keep at it!

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Re: The Drunkard's Daughter: Latest Revision on pg. 2

Post by elfspirit » September 6th, 2010, 6:08 pm

Thanks to all of you for your critiques and encouragement. I'm fooling around with my extra wordage and trying not to stray off into detours. I live in hope that this is going somewhere good.

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