Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (v. 4 on page 2)

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Quill
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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (v. 4 on page 2)

Post by Quill » September 10th, 2010, 7:45 pm

Jaligard wrote:***Fourth version***

Born blind, the street musician Tessa always considered her ability to see auras—and nothing else—as more of a curse than a blessing.
Why? Why would a blind person consider some form of seeing as a curse?
Seeing auras may not win her many friends,
Why would it matter in matters of seeking friendship? How would any potential friends even know she was reading their aura? How does seeing auras handicap her in seeking friendship?
but being able to spot the blackened hearts of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city of Beldessario.
Good.
Tessa walks alongside the canals,
Why not say "along the canals" (following the canals), rather than "alongside" (next to the canals)?
playing her dulcimer for strangers and relying on their generosity to survive.

Tessa’s meager life is torn asunder when she is kidnapped by Raz,
Is that what kidnapping does, tears one's life asunder? Kidnapping tears one's life apart? Into pieces?
a fire wizard so evil he has no aura. He wants to remake the world into a wizard’s utopia and does not care how many ordinary people have to die along the way.
One wizard's utopia? His utopia and his alone? That's how it is punctuated.

Omit "along the way" as anticlimactic.
The one thing he needs most of all is an apprentice to carry on after him,
This does not appear to logically follow. He wants to remake the world, has a dream of remaking it, and the one thing he needs (in order to do this) is a protegee? Why??
and Tessa’s latent magical powers make her perfect for the job.
What latent magical powers? First we're hearing of this.

And, it's a job? She's been kidnapped to perform a job? Job seems like an odd word for something one is coerced to do.
As Raz’s captive,
Omit, as it's info we already know.
Tessa learns that she has been working magic all her life.Whenever she offers up something in trade worthy of her prayers, her request is granted. It has earned her a patron, a place to live, and protected her virtue on the streets, but left her penniless and alone.

Confusing. How could she have been unaware that she was offering and receiving in kind all these years? Was it not obvious why she had a patron, place to live, and protection?

What is "something in trade worthy of her prayers"? Please explain or rework. Think of the flap copy of a book you might pick up. That's the kind of clarity that should imbue every sentence and every idea you put forth here.
With nothing left to sacrifice,
What did she have, to sacrifice, before? Why does she have nothing left? What sort of sacrifices have been needed, and why? What sort would be needed now, if she had the wherewithall? I'm thinking "sacrifice" might not be the best word here.
Tessa must outsmart Raz before he twists her into a wizard as depraved as he
How would he "twist" her? Maybe explain what he would do to her. "Twist' just doesn't seem very descriptive.
and, while she is at it, undo his evil plan.
This sounds almost like an afterthought, when I presume this will really take some doing.
THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice,
I still think calling your setting a fake or artificial Venice is an odd way of promoting it.
complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water.
Alright, this makes me think the whole story is a comedy. And a mundane one at that. Is it?

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wilderness
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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (v. 2 on page 1)

Post by wilderness » September 14th, 2010, 1:40 pm

Jaligard wrote:Third version. Hopefully getting closer. I've dropped Alli from the query and focused even more on Tessa and her powers.

Comments appreciated.

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name],

Born blind, the street musician Tessa always considered her ability to see auras—and nothing else—as more of a curse than a blessing. Seeing auras may not win her many friends, but being able to spot the blackened hearts of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city of Beldessario. Tessa walks alongside the canals, playing her dulcimer for strangers and relying on their generosity to survive.

Tessa’s meager life is torn asunder when she is kidnapped by Raz, a man so evil he has no aura. Sent by the emperor to negotiate the city’s surrender, the fire wizard has a greater plan. He wants to remake the world into a wizard’s utopia and does not care how many ordinary people have to die along the way. The one thing he needs most of all is an apprentice to carry on after him, and Tessa is perfect for the job.

As Raz’s captive, Tessa learns that she has been working magic all her life. Whenever she offers a tribute worthy of her prayers, her request is granted. It has earned her a patron, a place to live, and protected her virtue on the streets, but left her penniless and alone. I'm confused. Who is her patron? I thought she lived on the streets? With nothing left to sacrifice, Tessa must outsmart Raz before she becomes a wizard as depraved as he and, while she is at it, undo his evil plan. Not sure "with nothing left to sacrifice" has the right transition -- you just said she had a patron and a place to live, etc. Also you really haven't built up to her becoming "depraved" so we didn't know she was in danger of it.

THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO is a 90,000-word fantasy novel set in a Renaissance pseudo-Venice, complete with courtesans, sword-fights, wizard duels, and a bucket of water.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
[Jaligard's real name]
I like this version a lot better. I think taking Alli out of the query was the right move. The last paragraph could still use some tinkering though. Good luck!

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (v. 4 on page 2)

Post by Jaligard » September 14th, 2010, 2:11 pm

Quill wrote:What did she have, to sacrifice, before? Why does she have nothing left? What sort of sacrifices have been needed, and why? What sort would be needed now, if she had the wherewithall? I'm thinking "sacrifice" might not be the best word here.
wilderness wrote:Not sure "with nothing left to sacrifice" has the right transition -- you just said she had a patron and a place to live, etc.
I should have a new version up soon with a few tweaks, but the first batch of query letters will go out into the world today or tomorrow.

I'm having a few issues with clarity, I think. Here is the latest version of my last paragraph:
Jaligard wrote:As Raz’s captive, Tessa learns that she has been working magic all her life. Whenever she offers up something in trade worthy of her prayers, her request is granted. It has earned her a patron, a place to live, and protected her virtue on the streets, but left her penniless and alone. With nothing left to sacrifice, Tessa must outsmart Raz and undo his evil plan before he twists her into a wizard as depraved as he.
She's been kidnapped and learns that prayers she had been making all her life--"I'll give up this necklace for a place to live"--have been magic. If she offers something worthy of what she's asking for, it just happens. It's not integral to the plot, but to a couple of sub-plots. I've provided it as an example of the magic she works and the challenges she faces.

When she's kidnapped, she loses access to the things she might make sacrifices with. Do I really need to point out that a kidnapping deprives someone of freedom and possessions? At one point, Quill, you ask me drop the "As Raz's captive," as info we have already, but then you want to know why she doesn't have anything to sacrifice.

I'm at a loss here. How am I failing to communicate this?

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wilderness
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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (v. 4 on page 2)

Post by wilderness » September 14th, 2010, 3:07 pm

Okay, I understand now. I did not realize that the "sacrifice" you referred to meant the tributes she used in her magic. I think the necklace example is good, it gives us something to picture.

Consider something to the effect of:

As Raz’s captive, Tessa learns that she has been working magic all her life. She had once offered a necklace in her prayer for a place to live. The next day, a woman miraculously offered her a room in exchange for a few odd coins. In fact, in the past whenever she had offered up a worthy tribute, her wishes had always been granted. But her newfound knowledge can't help her. Alone in the dungeon, she has no trinkets to offer with her prayers, and her magic is useless. Tessa must outsmart Raz and undo his evil plan before he twists her into a wizard as depraved as he.

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Re: Query: THE HEART OF BELDESSARIO - Fantasy (v. 4 on page 2)

Post by sgf » September 14th, 2010, 5:35 pm

Hi Jaligard,

I’m a newbie here, though for what it’s worth I’ve reviewed queries on other websites and am working on my own. I know condensing a 95,000+ word story into a 250 word synopsis is a daunting task to put it nicely. I hope you find some of my comments below helpful.

Born blind, the street musician Tessa always considered her ability to see auras—and nothing else—as more of a curse than a blessing. So far—good. I like this beginning. It introduces the MC, and the dilemma of her ability also somehow getting in the way of her living a relatively normal life

Seeing auras may not win her many friends, this might lead some to wonder why seeing auras can’t help her win any friends. Does she have a problem with being overly forthright about people who have negative auras? If so, her power might not be the specific problem.

but being able to spot the blackened hearts of brigands keeps her safe in the besieged city of Beldessario. I liked this. It efficiently introduces the dangers of the city as well as shows how Tessa overcomes these dangers. But, it kind of contradicts the earlier statement that her aura is a curse more than a blessing.

Tessa walks alongside the canals, playing her dulcimer for strangers and relying on their generosity to survive. This sentence may not be necessary, as you already mention she’s a street musician in the first line. I didn’t think this sentence added any new information.

Tessa’s meager life is torn asunder maybe just use “torn apart” here.

when she is kidnapped by Raz, a fire wizard so evil he has no aura. Hmm, this made me wonder about the nature of these auras. I assumed that bad people had dark auras or something. In any case, consider focusing on him having no aura, and remove the “so evil” part. It’s telling, and you later explain his goals, which most people will think are evil, or at least very heavy handed :)

He wants to remake the world into a wizard’s utopia and does not care how many ordinary people have to die along the way. I like that you mention his goals here. But I really didn’t like the use of “ordinary people”. Maybe it’s just me. Corny as I know this sounds, there’s no such thing as an ordinary person in real life . And there shouldn’t be such a thing in fiction either.

The one thing he needs most of all is an apprentice to carry on after him, and Tessa’s latent magical powers make her perfect for the job. This is a good line

As Raz’s captive The reader already knows that Tessa is his captive. Maybe say, “As Raz’s apprentice”?,

Tessa learns that she has been working magic all her life. Whenever she offers up something in trade worthy of her prayers, her request is granted. It has earned her a patron, a place to live, and protected her virtue on the streets, but left her penniless and alone. With nothing left to sacrifice, Tessa must outsmart Raz before he twists her into a wizard as depraved as he and, while she is at it, undo his evil plan. Here’s the conflict—it’s interesting, and from reading the query the world you created and Tessa’s story sounds interesting. But I think you need to tighten this part before it’s ready. I’ll break this section down by each sentence, since it’s so important:

Tessa learns that she has been working magic all her life. good stuff here!

Whenever she offers up something in trade worthy of her prayers, her request is granted. This is interesting. But it made me wonder why she hadn’t noticed her magic before. Wouldn’t she have? It seems like most people would figure something like this out. This ability is so unique and story-worthy, I think it’s something that should be mentioned in the beginning of the query, alongside the aura-vision. Not at the end here.

It has earned her a patron, a place to live, and protected her virtue on the streets, but left her penniless and alone. I wasn’t sure what was meant by “a patron”, and thought that “protected her virtue” could be more specific. But I otherwise like these details.

With nothing left to sacrifice, Tessa must outsmart Raz before he twists her into a wizard as depraved as he and, while she is at it, undo his evil plan. Consider focusing more on what Raz forces her to do that’s so awful. I think it will add a level of tension to the query that’s otherwise missing. After all, he takes her from the streets, which might not be such a bad thing.

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