Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY (REVISED) - New Version @ Post 8

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LurkingVirologist
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Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY (REVISED) - New Version @ Post 8

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 20th, 2012, 1:57 am

So I'm almost done editing my WiP, and a bit stuck on my query. Before I contaminate the jury pool, as it were, by explaining what I think my problems are, I was hoping to get a first impression on what I've got so far. Also, pre-mastication has been advised before tossing my baby into the chum bucket over at Query Shark, so have at it...



The problem with inner demons is they're always trying to gnaw their way out.

Lily, a foul-mouthed Gilman Steet gutter-punk, didn't think her life mattered to anyone, least of all her - until the morning she woke up cold, dead, and alone. Haunted by a presence that invokes fear or revulsion in everyone she meets, Lily knows the smart thing would be to just let the monster win. After all, what good is a soul when the future holds nothing but isolation and hunger?

The rape and murder of a 15-year old runaway sends her on a hunt from downtown San Francisco to the ass-end of California's Central Valley. Meanwhile a very different kind of predator, SFPD Inspector Janice Middlebrook, picks up the same scent; and Jan can't give up on anything. Even when she wants to.

Lily's brief, violent encounter with Jacob, the emotionally abused son of a drug-addled preacher, unexpectedly awakens her stubborn desire to live, and his long-abandoned dreams of freedom. Those would be gifts, if only their strange connection didn't threaten permanent night for both.

As Lily and Janice close in on the same prey, shadowed by Jacob, their single-minded determination triggers a series of bloody confrontations that force each of them to choose between surrendering to an empty future, or planting a few crosses of their own.

Not everyone is getting out of town alive.

SHADOWPLAY, a dark urban fantasy, weaves together the narrative strands of these three damaged lives. It is complete at 155,000 words.
Last edited by LurkingVirologist on August 12th, 2012, 6:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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elbowpatch
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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by elbowpatch » July 20th, 2012, 8:28 am

Thanks for all your help with mine. There's some good stuff here, but see my comments below.
LurkingVirologist wrote:So I'm almost done editing my WiP, and a bit stuck on my query. Before I contaminate the jury pool, as it were, by explaining what I think my problems are, I was hoping to get a first impression on what I've got so far. Also, pre-mastication has been advised before tossing my baby into the chum bucket over at Query Shark, so have at it...



The problem with inner demons is they're always trying to gnaw their way out.
Love the start.

Lily, a foul-mouthed Gilman Steet gutter-punk, didn't think her life mattered to anyone (I can't figure out how to use the strike out, when I underline, it's a suggestion that you delete. least of all her - until the morning she woke up cold, dead, and alone."Dead" should really be at the end of this sentence, don't bury the dead! Haunted by a presence that invokes fear or revulsion in everyone she meets, Lily knows the smart thing would be to just let the monster win. After all, what good is a soul when the future holds nothing but isolation and hunger?So what I think you are positing is that Lily is now a ghost, but once she became a ghost she and perhaps in the milieu you created all ghosts must face a demon/presence what have you.

The rape and murder of a 15-year old runaway sends her on a hunt from downtown San Francisco to the ass-end of California's Central Valley. (OK now who was killed, was it Lily, was it some other person, how can Lily's ghost hunt and ass-end sounds lazy use an adjective that describes it not a pejorative.) Meanwhile a very different kind of predator, SFPD Inspector Janice Middlebrook, picks up the same scent; and Jan can't give up on anything. Even when she wants to. (WHY is she a predator? Is she corrupt? Does she have a history of using unnecessary force? Or are you just using another word to say that she's a relentless hunter. Predator has a connotation of evil)

Lily's brief, violent encounter with Jacob, the emotionally abused son of a drug-addled preacher, unexpectedly awakens her stubborn desire to live,WAIT ISN''T SHE DEAD YOU CAN'T JUST RESURRECT THE DEAD AND NOT TELL YOUR READER ABOUT IT and his long-abandoned dreams of freedom. Those would be gifts, if only their strange connection didn't threaten permanent night for both. Permanent night, what is that?

As Lily and Janice close in on the same prey, shadowed by Jacob, their single-minded determination triggers a series of bloody confrontations that force each of them to choose between surrendering to an empty future, or planting a few crosses of their own. [color=#00BF00I assume you are using planting crosses as a clever way of saying killing someone. I'm not sure it works, you can plant crosses for a whole bunch of reasons not just over graves. [/color]

Not everyone is getting out of town alive. where are they going?

SHADOWPLAY, a dark urban fantasy, weaves together the narrative strands of these three damaged lives. It is complete at 155,000 words.

chounzet
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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by chounzet » July 20th, 2012, 6:28 pm

I really like the first line :) I also would like to know more about your characters-- they seem so alive to me with so many emotions, the fact that they are dead makes them even better.

I get confused on what is actually happening. How are these people connected? She wakes up dead, so clearly her soul lives, but I'm having a hard time saying "oh, this is about xyz..."

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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by Shipple » July 22nd, 2012, 9:30 pm

I think you wrote a pretty compelling query letter.

Here were a few of my issues with it:
-How and why are Lily and Jan working together? I understand they're after the same person, but that doesn't mean they'd be working together. How do they even know each other?
-What happened to Lily being dead? Doesn't it matter that she's dead if she has an inner demon? How does that work?
-What exactly happens if the inner monster wins? Doesn't he maybe threaten life on earth? People Lily might care about? What are the stakes?

I especially liked the intro line. Very fun.
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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by hagenpiper » July 22nd, 2012, 10:09 pm

LurkingVirologist wrote:
The problem with inner demons is they're always trying to gnaw their way out. (I like it.)

Lily, a foul-mouthed Gilman Steet gutter-punk, didn't think her life mattered to anyone, least of all her - until the morning she woke up cold, dead, and alone. Haunted by a presence that invokes fear or revulsion in everyone she meets, Lily knows the smart thing would be to just let the monster win. After all, what good is a soul when the future ("eternity" maybe?) holds ("offers" maybe?) nothing but isolation and hunger?

The rape and murder of a 15-year old runaway sends her on a hunt from downtown San Francisco to the ass-end of California's Central Valley. (Confused. Clarify the connection between Lily's undead/possessed condition and her need to investigate a runaway's murder. Did Lily kill the 15-year-old?) Meanwhile a very different kind of predator, SFPD Inspector Janice Middlebrook, picks up the same scent; and Jan can't give up on anything. Even when she wants to. (Not sure everything following the semicolon is critical - it's kind of implied in her job title.)

Lily's brief, violent encounter with Jacob, the emotionally abused son of a drug-addled preacher, unexpectedly awakens her stubborn desire to live, and his long-abandoned dreams of freedom. Those would be gifts, if only their strange connection didn't threaten permanent night for both.

As Lily and Janice close in on the same prey, shadowed by Jacob, their single-minded determination triggers a series of bloody confrontations that force each of them to choose between surrendering to an empty future, or planting a few crosses of their own.

Not everyone is getting out of town alive.

SHADOWPLAY, a dark urban fantasy, weaves together the narrative strands of these three damaged lives. (that helps) It is complete at 155,000 words. (It had better be incomplete at 155,000 words. ;)


It sounds like an awesome story with interesting characters. It demonstrates a strong narrative voice. If you can just clarify the connection between these characters and the murdered 15 year old - I think this would be a thumbs up for me.

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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 26th, 2012, 1:14 am

Hagen, Shipple, Chounzet, Elbow - thanks for the feedback. Seems like ya'll hit most of the bits I was struggling with, so I guess that's a good sign ;) . Now lets see if I can clarify what I was aiming for (in no particular order)...

Lily being dead - Lily's a vampire, but I don't use the word anywhere in the book and was hesitant to use it in the query. There's so much pop culture saturation that I'm worried I'll go splat right there, or end up with an agent/editor getting a very different idea compared to how I've actually implemented the mythology*. Use it or not?

Letting the monster win - Since Lily died, the barrier between her conscious 'civilized' mind and her primal, ancestral instincts has become rather thin. She has immediate access to parts of herself that most of us are able to keep locked up nice and tight. Moreover, everyone she encounters reacts on a continuum from fear to revulsion, subconsciously aware that she literally embodies death. So what I was alluding to is her choice between spending eternity facing constant rejection and self-disgust, or just piercing that last barrier and letting the killing thing inside her run the show so she doesn't have to feel anything at all. The stakes are internal. Do you think it would be worth expanding by another sentence to clarify, re-work, or just cross my fingers?

Predator - good point. Hrm. Jan isn't corrupt, but she's on the wrong side of the dedicated/obsessed dividing line. Should I use a less strong word? I'll come up with a few alternatives.

Jan/Lily - They aren't working together, in fact, they don't find out about each other until halfway through the story, at which point they are very much at cross-purposes. Lily is determined to kill Tom (the murderer) they are both chasing (she has several reasons). Jan (correctly) suspects that Lily killed an informant back in SF who was connected to the girl's murder, so she wants to take down both Lily and Tom, though she isn't aware of what Lily is. I'll re-word that section and post an update soon.

Murder - Lily kept an eye on a lot of the other runaways, even though none of them could stand to be around her. The murder victim was one of them. Should I modify that line to suggest a guardian relationship, without going into details? Something like "...the rape and murder of a 15-year old runaway under Lily's protection..."? A big part of Lily's motivation was just to have an excuse to hurt somebody, but I figured that was too much detail for a query.

Planting Crosses - hrm, I've only heard that used as slang for killing, but then again I'm not religious, so I may have to do some googling! Thanks for the heads up.

Anyway, like I said, very helpful feedback. Just trying to summarize it has been illuminating. I'll post a revised query soon, and maybe a synopsis in the other section. If anyone else has additional input, I'm all ears :D .


* My take on the vampire mythology is much closer to Let the Right One In, then it is to Twilight or Buffy (even though I loved Buffy). The main addition being what I mentioned above, that people react very negatively to her without knowing why.
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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by AllieS » July 29th, 2012, 1:03 am

Thanks for the great feedback on my query LurkingVirologist! I'll try to add what I can here, but I'm responding without reading the other comments so my opinions aren't influenced.

The problem with inner demons is they're always trying to gnaw their way out. I like the next line better for a beginning! You get straight to the character.

Lily, a foul-mouthed Gilman Steet gutter-punk, didn't think her life mattered to anyone, least of all her- until the morning she woke up cold, alone . . . and dead, I thought that part should be given more emphasis. Haunted by a presence that invokes fear or revulsion in everyone she meets, Lily knows the smart thing would be to just let the monster win. There seems to be a disconnect between this previous line and the one before it. Perhaps adding a connecting sentence about Lily adjusting to her "life" as an undead? After all, what good is a soul when the future holds nothing but isolation and hunger?

The rape and murder of a 15-year old runaway sends her on a hunt from downtown San Francisco to the ass-end of California's Central Valley. Meanwhile a very different kind of predator, SFPD Inspector Janice Middlebrook, picks up the same scent; and Jan can't give up on anything. Even when she wants to. Why is Lily involving herself in this?

Lily's brief, violent encounter with Jacob, the emotionally abused son of a drug-addled preacher, unexpectedly awakens her stubborn desire to live, and his long-abandoned dreams of freedom. Those would be gifts, if only their strange connection didn't threaten permanent night for both. Again, these ideas aren't connected well enough. When did Jacob show up? What strange connection?

As Lily and Janice close in on the same prey, shadowed by Jacob, their single-minded determination triggers a series of bloody confrontations that force each of them to choose between surrendering to an empty future, or planting a few crosses of their own.

Not everyone is getting out of town alive. I think there's a ton of potential for a cool story in here, but you're trying to cover too much ground. If it helps, try writing a query that covers only the first three chapters. Write about just enough to get an agent interested, then these events in your story will keep them surprised and invested. Try to end the query at a point where there's a conflict or choice to be made. Also, unfortunately most agents won't request a manuscript that's 155,000 words. Thats waaaay above the acceptable range. It's just a suggestion, but it might help your query to streamline your story more and shave that word count down. Hope this helps!

SHADOWPLAY, a dark urban fantasy, weaves together the narrative strands of these three damaged lives. It is complete at 155,000 words.

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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by LurkingVirologist » August 12th, 2012, 6:29 pm

Thanks again everyone for the input. Here's a revised version of the same query. If it's still a bit confusing, I'll head back to the drawing board and try to come up with a different version that only covers the beginning per Allie's suggestion. Along those lines, if I've got 3 main protags that get equal billing in the story, is it reasonable to query with a focus on only one or two?

****************************************

The problem with inner demons is they're always trying to gnaw their way out.

Lily, a foul-mouthed Gilman Steet gutter-punk, didn't think her life meant anything - until the morning she woke up cold, alone…and dead. Shrouded by a presence that invokes fear and revulsion in everyone she meets, Lily knows the smart thing would be to just surrender to the killing thing living inside her. After all, what good is a soul when the future offers nothing but isolation and hunger?

The rape and murder of a 15-year old runaway under Lily's protection sends her on a hunt from downtown San Francisco to a forgotten corner of California's Central Valley. Meanwhile a very different kind of predator picks up the same scent - SFPD Inspector Janice Middlebrook, a born troublemaker obsessed with delivering something she can't bring herself to call justice anymore.

Lily's brief, violent encounter with Jacob, the emotionally abused son of a drug-addled preacher, unexpectedly awakens her stubborn desire to live, and his long-abandoned dreams of freedom. Those would be gifts, if only their fulfillment didn't demand a terrible sacrifice.

As Lily and Janice unwittingly close in on the same prey, shadowed by Jacob, their single-minded determination triggers a series of bloody confrontations that force each to choose between surrendering to an empty future, or planting a few crosses of their own.

SHADOWPLAY, a dark urban fantasy, weaves together the narrative strands of these three damaged (un)lives. It stands alone and is complete at 140,000 words. A sequel is in progress.
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

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Re: Query snarl: SHADOWPLAY

Post by gnf » August 13th, 2012, 12:06 am

Comments in blue. You've a good writing style, but what you want to say about your story isn't clear to me. Using words which mean alive when you talk about the dead is confusing. Can you try to do it differently please. I think the story has potential.
LurkingVirologist wrote:Thanks again everyone for the input. Here's a revised version of the same query. If it's still a bit confusing, I'll head back to the drawing board and try to come up with a different version that only covers the beginning per Allie's suggestion. Along those lines, if I've got 3 main protags that get equal billing in the story, is it reasonable to query with a focus on only one or two? Show how each is important.

****************************************

The problem with inner demons is they're always trying to gnaw their way out.

Lily, a foul-mouthed Gilman Steet gutter-punk, didn't think her life meant anything - until the morning she woke up cold, alone…and deaddead[Why? Because she is cold if she is dead. And she's pretty much alone too - you've said her life doesn't mean anything]. Shrouded by a presence that invokes fear and revulsion in everyone she meets, Lily knows the smart thing would be to just surrender to the killing thing living inside her. After all, what good is a soul when the future offers nothing but isolation and hunger?[Is Lily dead here? So how can she kill something living inside her? And hunger is making me think she is alive. I'm just not sure what Lily is supposed to be here. Would like to see this rewritten.

The rape and murder of a 15-year old runaway under Lily's protection [how come Lily is (now) protective?] sends her on a hunt from downtown San Francisco to a forgotten corner of California's Central Valley. Meanwhile a very different kind of predator picks up the same scent - SFPD Inspector Janice Middlebrook, a born troublemaker obsessed with delivering something she can't bring herself to call justice anymore.

Lily's brief, violent encounter with Jacob, the emotionally abused son of a drug-addled preacher, unexpectedly awakens her stubborn desire to live[so Lily isn't actually dead?], and his long-abandoned dreams of freedom. Those would be gifts, if only their fulfillment didn't demand a terrible sacrifice.

As Lily and Janice unwittingly close in on the same prey, shadowed by Jacob, their single-minded determination triggers a series of bloody confrontations that force each to choose between surrendering to an empty future, or planting a few crosses of their own.

SHADOWPLAY is a 140 000 word dark urban fantasy, weaves together the narrative strands of these three damaged (un)lives. It stands alone and is complete at 140,000 words. A sequel is in progress.

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