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Query - FLIGHT - magic realism (revised)

Posted: April 8th, 2011, 9:10 am
by writermorris
UPDATED AS OF 3PM EST ON TUESDAY, APRIL 18

Dear AGENT,

When Maria Black experiences intense change, she grows sick and feverish until her body erupts in flames. From the fire that consumes her, a bird rises, takes flight, and returns to her human form. Her father’s death, losing her virginity, even late-night epiphanies, all trigger the excruciating burn. Since she met her husband Joe seven years ago, Maria has painstakingly maintained a dispassionate, monotonous life to keep from burning. She doesn’t want to be a monster.

Maria’s years of control are destroyed when she meets reclusive musician Sam Montgomery and learns that they have been dreaming about each other. As their friendship develops, only Sam is willing to question why; Maria is not interested in posing questions. When Sam and Maria fall in love, she must decide if she will sacrifice her marriage and quiet life for a seemingly predestined love. But if she accepts that she and Sam are fated to be together, she must accept changes in her life and reopen herself to question why she burns.

I am seeking representation for FLIGHT, a 76,000 word work of magic realism. Readers who enjoy Audrey Niffeneger’s literary fabulism and Jeanette Winterson’s dexterous wielding of language and complex female protagonists will enjoy FLIGHT.

FLIGHT is my first completed novel, though I have been previously published under a pseudonym as an advice columnist for Playboy Online. By day, I work for an international aid organization. I hold a BA from Brown University and an MS from Columbia University. [ONLY INCLUDING THIS PARAGRAPH IF AGENT REQUESTS BIO INFO]

Many thanks for taking the time to read my query.

Re: Query - FLIGHT - magic realism

Posted: April 8th, 2011, 9:58 am
by Nicole R
I think you have a decent foundation here and need to hone in on specifics to really make it stand out.

- The first paragraph seems overly wordy, and the 3rd and 4th sentences repeat the same information. You could sum up the entire paragraph by simply saying "Maria Black is a phoenix who wants to be normal."

- Also consider adding details about the stakes. What are Maria and Sam facing? Why does it matter? What happens if they fail?

- You say the novel will appeal to those who enjoy complex female protagonists, but from this query Maria seems kind of bland. She doesn't want anything to change, and we only see her reacting to outside forces, not taking a stand. I'm sure that's not the mood you want to convey, so you might want to bring her decisions and actions into the query a little more.

Overall, the concept sounds intriguing, but I'm left with too many questions. Does it matter that Sam is a famous musician? What's so important about their dreams?

Good luck jumping back into the game!

Re: Query - FLIGHT - magic realism

Posted: April 8th, 2011, 5:04 pm
by slavandria
You know, I'd sort of like to see some sort of phoenix-like reference here. Does she change when she has these dreams? I'd want to see examples of when the transformations happened. Maybe something along the lines of:

***
The first time Maria Black had a phoenix-like tranformation, she was _____ years old and ________________(mention event). The second time it happened was when she was _________ after _______________ (mention event). The third time occurred when she was _____ and ________________ (mentions event). After years of struggling, she finally learned to conquer 'the change', but when she runs into famous musician, Sam Montgomery, she wonders how much longer she can suppress the burn.

Locked in a unfulfilling marriage, Maria turns to Sam for friendship. After ___________________ (name event) does Maria find out she and Sam have been sharing the same dreams about each other for years. With the flames of the transformation kindling beneath her skin, she must choose to remain in her normal life or face her true calling and embrace the metamorphosis in hopes Sam will understand and remain.

***
Or something along those lines. right now, I have no desire to stay wtih Maria. I need to know she's been struggling with this for a long time through being 'shown' not 'told'. i need to know what the conflict is and if she doesn't figure out how to deal with it, what will she lose? also, Maria doesn't seem to be very strong right now so I don't think I'd use strong protagonist women as someone to compare her to.

Anyway, these are just my ideas, for what they're worth. Good luck with this. I hate queries. :-)

Re: Query - FLIGHT - magic realism

Posted: April 8th, 2011, 6:52 pm
by AllieS
When Maria Black experiences intense change, she grows sick and feverish until her body erupts in flames. I feel as though this line has the potential to be catchier. Maybe cut out all the extraneous words, and say something like, "Maria Black doesn't react well to change. In fact, she bursts into flames." From the fire that consumes her Hmm...this wording sounds a little strange. It's making something that is obviously pretty exceptional sound dull. I agree with Nicole R's comment about summing up the rest of the paragraph better, too., a bird rises, takes flight, and returns to human form. Since she met her husband seven years ago, she has done everything to avoid change and suppress the burn. She wants to be the kind of woman he could love. She doesn’t want to be a monster.

The dispassionate life Maria painstakingly maintains Wordy. is interrupted when she meets Sam Montgomery and learns that they have been dreaming about each other. I would mention her dreams at the beginning of the query so this doesn't come out of the blue. As their friendship develops, only Sam is willing to question the meaning behind their dreams; Maria is not interested in posing questions that don’t have answers. When I would say "as" instead of "when," because "as" shows the progress in their relationship. "When" makes it seem like only one moment. Sam and Maria fall in love, she must decide if she will sacrifice her marriage and normal life You've already stated that she doesn't have a normal life. for a seemingly predestined love that reawakens questions about meaning and why she burns. I have no idea what this means. Maybe clarify a little?

Hope this helps!