The Ghost Posts a Query - 4th try

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Ghost in the Machine
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The Ghost Posts a Query - 4th try

Post by Ghost in the Machine » January 29th, 2010, 9:49 am

Please Scroll Down for Updated Version

Come one, come all to the destruction of my query. Yoshima, Justine, Kirril, and you—yes, you too—fire when ready!

Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie.

Most people resist impulses toward criminal behavior. Jodie doesn’t dare. Her FBI surveillance started two years ago when she caused a fender-bender at the post office. The other driver fled, leaving behind several envelopes contaminated with a deadly powder.

Jodie’s subsequent inclusion into the FBI’s secret ‘Guardian Project’ sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. One digs into Jodie’s past and believes she is a savior. The other proclaims her a menace, demanding her arrest for the kidnapping of Melody Miller.

Both views have merit. The kidnapping prevents Melody from dying when a bomb destroys her father’s car. But Jodie’s motives are in doubt, even to herself, because she refuses to return the child. As the hunt for Melody dovetails into a hunt for stolen explosives, the agents’ fight escalates. Will Jodie lead the FBI to the missing explosives? Or is she helping a terrorist reach their target?

A GLASS HALF FULL is my first novel, complete at 107,000 words. I would be happy to send more information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Ghost in the Machine
Literary lovechild of Dan Brown and Jonathon Kellerman (in my twisted dreams!)
21 Nos-So-Far Lane
HopeSpringsEternal, NY
(Fake phone numbers are not phunny)

So I have to ask: Is a query containing kidnapping, bombs, FBI, and potential terrorists an impossible sell in the post 9/11 era? If yes, then perhaps I should stop screwing around and start that second novel.

Then again, who wants to read about a young girl being molested then murdered?

Answer: Everyone who loves The Lovely Bones.

Unpublished wretch, you’re no Alice Sebold! Or Jack Kennedy!

Shut up.

No, you shut up.

Grrrr . . .

Okay, let ’er rip.
Last edited by Ghost in the Machine on February 8th, 2010, 11:16 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Dankrubis
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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by Dankrubis » January 29th, 2010, 11:50 am

Ghost in the Machine wrote:Come one, come all to the destruction of my query. Yoshima, Justine, Kirril, and you—yes, you too—fire when ready!

Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie. Great opening.

Most people resist impulses toward criminal behavior. Jodie doesn’t dare. Her FBI surveillance started two years ago when she caused a fender-bender at the post office. The other driver fled, leaving behind several envelopes contaminated with a deadly powder. Things are getting confusing now. The double negative is odd in the first two sentences- she doesn't dare resist impulses? Then later in the paragraph, how does a fender-bender relate to contaminated envelopes? Was Jodie delivering anthrax mail or was the other car occupant?

Jodie’s subsequent inclusion into the FBI’s secret ‘Guardian Project’ sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. Cool. One digs into Jodie’s past and believes she is a savior. The other proclaims her a menace, demanding her arrest for the kidnapping of Melody Miller. Good deal. Are these FBI agents important characters? Might need names?

Both views have merit. The kidnapping prevents Melody from dying when a bomb destroys her father’s car. But Jodie’s motives are in doubt, even to herself, because she refuses to return the child. Sweet. As the hunt for Melody dovetails Dovetails? Is that like tailspins? into a hunt for stolen explosives, the agents’ fight escalates. Will Jodie lead the FBI to the missing explosives? Or is she helping a terrorist reach their target?

A GLASS HALF FULL is my first novel, complete at 107,000 words. I would be happy to send more information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Ghost in the Machine
Literary lovechild of Dan Brown and Jonathon Kellerman (in my twisted dreams!)
21 Nos-So-Far Lane
HopeSpringsEternal, NY
(Fake phone numbers are not phunny)

So I have to ask: Is a query containing kidnapping, bombs, FBI, and potential terrorists an impossible sell in the post 9/11 era? If yes, then perhaps I should stop screwing around and start that second novel. I think it's fine. Jack Bauer deals with it all the time.

Then again, who wants to read about a young girl being molested then murdered? I'm raising my hand.

Answer: Everyone who loves The Lovely Bones. Ew.

Unpublished wretch, you’re no Alice Sebold! Or Jack Kennedy! ?

Shut up. Screw off, mate.

No, you shut up. Ok, fine.

Grrrr . . .

Okay, let ’er rip.
It's a decent query so far. But that second paragraph? If you took it out completely, the query would lose nothing. I'd like to see more, though. Right now it's like you're just describing the stakes. A girl kidnapped by crazy Jodie, they don't know if she's good or bad, bombs may explode. Who's the protagonist? Right now it sounds like its an FBI agent, but we don't even have a name. If the protagonist is Jodie, then how is this story told from her pov that would keep the reader in limbo as to her motivations? If the book is really about Jodie saving a little girl, wanting to keep her and needing to save her from terrorists and the FBI (because she can't trust them?) then come out and tell us. The ambiguity is confusing.

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JustineDell
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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by JustineDell » January 29th, 2010, 12:04 pm

Destruction commence in 3...2...1....

Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. You've got me hooked with this first line. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie. Does this agent have a name? I ask because you list two more FBI agents in the later paragraphs (without names), and I'm wondering if this one is the same as one of those?

Most people resist impulses toward criminal behavior. Jodie doesn’t dare. Her FBI surveillance started two years ago when she caused a fender-bender at the post office. The other driver fled, leaving behind several envelopes contaminated with a deadly powder. Hmmmm....this paragraph threw me for loop. At first I thought Jodie resisted, but then after thinking about it, you are saying she doesn't resist because of something that has happened in her past. Got it, but I had to read it twice (okay...three times) before I did. Now, because you and I have very different ideas on wording, albeit I love some of the ideas you gave my query, it's obvious we have a very different style. That's not bad..that's good. So, with that being said, in order for me personally to understand this paragraph it would need to read something like this (keep in mind I don't know the plot revolving around the powder, so I'm just giving you an example):

There are those who resist impulses toward criminal behavior. Jodie isn't one of the people. Her FBI surveillance started two years ago after causing a fender-bender at the post office. The other driver fled, leaving Jodie to scramble and trust her own instincts with several envelopes containing a deadly powder he left behind. Jodie's subsequent inclusion into the FBI’s secret ‘Guardian Project’ sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. Again..do we need to know who these people are? One digs into Jodie’s past and believes she is a savior. The other proclaims her a menace, demanding her arrest for the kidnapping of Melody Miller. You might want to mention the girls name in the opening paragraph.


Both views have merit. The kidnapping prevents Melody from dying when a bomb destroys her father’s car. But Jodie’s motives are in doubt, even to herself, because she refuses to return the child. As the hunt for Melody dovetails into a hunt for stolen explosives, the agents’ fight escalates. Will Jodie lead the FBI to the missing explosives? Or is she helping a terrorist reach their target? I can help but want more information here. Jodies motives? Her refusal to return the child? And where do these stolen explosives fit into the story? Were they stolen by terrorist in order to kill Melody's father, who is diplomat trying to save the rainforest or something like that? Thats silly of course, but you get my point, it may be good info to have.

A GLASS HALF FULL is my first novel (I would leave out the first novel part, the agents can prob figure that out based on the fact you haven't listed any publishing credits), complete at 107,000 words. I would be happy to send more information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time. And I know how much you hate it when we list the genre, but most agents like for you to do this...check out Nathan's section on queries.


So I have to ask: Is a query containing kidnapping, bombs, FBI, and potential terrorists an impossible sell in the post 9/11 era? If yes, then perhaps I should stop screwing around and start that second novel. Stop the train right there. Believe it or not, I have actually read a few romance novels that have circled around the death of husbands in the 9/11 attacks and the widowers finding new love. Personally, I found them tacky - but I don't think your story is tacky in anyway. Kidnappings, bombs, the FBI and terrorists can be in any novel at any time, but I think the way you handle it is okay (from what I have read of your query) and I think just so long as you don't make a connection to 9/11 itself (which I find tacky) then your fine. Thrillers have to come from somewhere and what would a thriller be without bombs and police drama?!? (and a murder here and there...)

Then again, who wants to read about a young girl being molested then murdered? EXACTLY!!!!!! The Lovely Bones has seen to this...

Answer: Everyone who loves The Lovely Bones. Oh..wait...you answered that for me ;-) I should keep reading before I comment.

Overall, I think it's a good query but I think it needs beefed up with more info. GASP!!! I'm telling someone to add...where has my mind went? Hee hee. The orginal hook is good, but I want to know more info about Jodie and her story, since I'm guessing this is her story. You seem to have a good deal of conflict to move the story along, I think it would just be good for us to have a better hint as to the motives of everyone involved and how they all connect. Make sense?

~JD

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

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

Ghost in the Machine
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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by Ghost in the Machine » January 29th, 2010, 2:16 pm

Thanks, Justine and Dankrubis, for your comments! You gave me lots to ponder for my next version.

Ghost in the Machine

tameson
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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by tameson » January 29th, 2010, 2:35 pm

I agree with a lot of what other people said (2nd paragraph confusing), but a fairly minor point they didn't make- when it says her FBI surveillance, I was uncertain on first reading if she was watching the FBI or they were watching her. The FBI began their surveillance of her, blah blah blah, or Under FBI surveillance since X...

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Kirril
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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by Kirril » January 29th, 2010, 3:29 pm

Alrighty, my turn, eh?

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie.

This hook is good, but it could be juiced up a bit. Does Jodie know she's being watched? After reading this Q 3 times, I can't decide if she knows it or not. I'm also assuming this kidnapping is current and that 2 years previous to this even the FBI started watching her. If she knows, I'd phrase it a little differently:

When Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl to save her life from a car bomb, she hopes the FBI agents watching her feel the same.



Most people resist impulses toward criminal behavior. Jodie doesn’t dare. Her FBI surveillance started two years ago when she caused a fender-bender at the post office. The other driver fled, leaving behind several envelopes contaminated with a deadly powder.

This graf left me puzzled. Jodie doesn't dare resist her criminal impulses, or doesn't dare indulge in them? To segue off my previous re-writing, here's how I'd go with this:

Since her close encounter with a terrorist two years prior, the FBI has been keeping an eye on Jodie, placing her in the secret Guardian Project. But a power struggle between two agents with a long history of mutual hatred threatens to tear her life apart. One agent thinks Jodie a savior; the other demands her arrest. And Jodie can't disagree with either.

With the bomber still on the loose, she doesn't want to return the girl. And the agents assigned to protect her are too busy fighting to help. Jodie realizes the only way to save her and the girl is to find the bomber herself or die trying. (meh, something like that)



Jodie’s subsequent inclusion into the FBI’s secret ‘Guardian Project’ sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. One digs into Jodie’s past and believes she is a savior. The other proclaims her a menace, demanding her arrest for the kidnapping of Melody Miller. I rewrote this into the graf above.

Both views have merit. The kidnapping prevents Melody from dying when a bomb destroys her father’s car. But Jodie’s motives are in doubt, even to herself, because she refuses to return the child. As the hunt for Melody dovetails into a hunt for stolen explosives, the agents’ fight escalates. Will Jodie lead the FBI to the missing explosives? Or is she helping a terrorist reach their target?

I think you should lose the rhetorical Q's. I also don't understand how the hunt for Melody could dovetail into a search for explosives. I understand she was almost killed in a car bomb but Jodie rescued her, right? So now Jodie has her spirited away somewhere, presumably where neither FBI agent knows she is. That being the case, I'm assuming Jodie is in hiding with the girl. Otherwise the cops could pinch and interrogate her. You need some connection between Jodie and the explosives. Some sort of action on the MC's part showing the activities she's undertaking to solve her dilemma. Does Jodie start searching for the bombers? Assuming she does, that could be the connection to the kidnapping.

A GLASS HALF FULL is my first novel, complete at 107,000 words. I would be happy to send more information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

I also recommend removing "my first novel" and leaving "A GLASS HALF FULL is complete at..."

Overall, not a bad query. It's concise but a little confusing. I don't think you need the FBI agents' names since you don't want too many characters intro'd here. I also don't think you need the kidnapped girl's name either. Stick with the MC's name. I hope this points you in the right direction.

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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by Yoshima » January 29th, 2010, 4:51 pm

Hey Ghost! Thanks for critiquing my query. I think I might have to steal the phrase "miracle-sundae." My MC would say that in a heartbeat! :)

I will be happy to destroy your query! *taps fingers together evilly* I purposefully didn't read the other comments so that I can tell you my exact thoughts as I was reading, no other influences. Hope it helps, either if I echo what others have said or whatever the case may be. Warning: I'm a super nit-pick. Super. Nit-pick.


Before I start, here's my general thoughts:

Great writing! No techincal problems! Love, love, love the short sentences! Yay Ghost! It left me wanting to know what was going to happen, and I didn't stop reading till the end (or, if it was a cover I wouldn't have put it back on the shelf). I think you've got a strong voice and quick pacing, which reflects well on your type of novel. However, I think you can do better. I KNOW you can. ;)



Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie. (Great hook!)

Most people resist impulses toward criminal behavior. Jodie doesn’t dare. (The way this is written is confusing. So the first sentence is about resisiting impulses. Then the second sentence is her not daring. So you've got most people resisting and Jodie not daring to resist. That's not what you mean, methinks. Reword.) Her FBI surveillance started two years ago when she caused a fender-bender at the post office. The other driver fled, leaving behind several envelopes contaminated with a deadly powder. (Anthrax? Why not just tell us what this deadly powder is? It's a detail that will make the danger feel more real to me, plus it won't add to your word count or anything. Also, am I supposed to think the deadly powder is in her car or the others' car? My question is how would she be implicated if the deadly powder is left behind by the other driver? Surely the FBI wouldn't miss that. I think a little clarification here would do wonders. I know, adding is generally not a good thing. But when you've got a complex event that builds up other complex events, you'd better let your reader know the first event in and out. Otherwise I'll get lost. And I did, by the way.)

Jodie’s subsequent inclusion into the FBI’s secret ‘Guardian Project’ (wait, why is she included? I thought she was connected with Anthrax or whatever, and that sounds terrorist-y to me. Not sure the FBI would include a suspected terrorist in a program that sounds like it guards witnesses or something. Is there another reason she's included?) sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. One digs into Jodie’s past and believes she is a savior. (I'm not a fan of the word "savior." Maybe change to a different word with fewer connotations attached.) The other proclaims her a menace, demanding her arrest for the kidnapping of Melody Miller. (Okay. I've got a problem with what you're intending me to be thinking about the kidnapping. So I'm thinking Jodie's in the Guardian Project to protect people. Then you throw the word kidnapping at me, which is a crime. I think you're trying to show me the dichotomy of the situation, but it's just confusing me, sorry to say. You said earlier that Jodie thinks she's saving her. Okay, then. Say she's saving her. Consistency. That will help us get closer to Jodie, too, because right now it's hard for me to know her struggles when she doesn't seem to know them, either.)

Both views have merit. The kidnapping prevents Melody from dying when a bomb destroys her father’s car. But Jodie’s motives are in doubt, even to herself, because she refuses to return the child (has she grown fond of her? Give me a specific reason.). As the hunt for Melody dovetails into a hunt for stolen explosives, the agents’ fight escalates (Now I'm wondering if your agents are MC's. But they don't have names, so they can't be that important. Arrghh. Who's the MC I'm supposed to be identifying with?). Will Jodie lead the FBI to the missing explosives? Or is she helping a terrorist reach their target? (I know from your comments on other queries that you like rhetorical questions, but if you're querying Nathan make sure you leave them out.)

A GLASS HALF FULL (I think "half full" is hyphenated.) is my first novel, complete at 107,000 words. (I think you should tell us the genre, just so the agent knows you know where you book fits in the market.) I would be happy to send more information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Ghost in the Machine
Literary lovechild of Dan Brown and Jonathon Kellerman (in my twisted dreams!)
21 Nos-So-Far Lane
HopeSpringsEternal, NY
(Fake phone numbers are not phunny) (ha! phunny. :) )

Okay. So, final verdict: I would still pick up your book and read it because I like the premise and your style, but this summary would make me hesitate a little. I had to read a few parts too many times to get what you're saying. An agent might not give you a third read-over. Add some clarity. I'd rather read a long query and feel totally engrossed in the story than a short one and feel like I'm either a.) only seeing the surface of your book or b.) slow and/or stupid.

I know there's a ton of red up there, but I really did enjoy your query! I just think that, for a thriller, you've got even more pressure to be super clear about the conflicts (not the outcomes, mind you. ;) ) and I wanted to point out everything that caught my eye in hopes that it'll help show you if you were on target explaination-wise or not. Good luck with revisions! Thanks again for your help on my query! Destruction complete.

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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by Ghost in the Machine » January 30th, 2010, 2:02 pm

Thanks Kirril and Yoshima! You guys have been awesome. I've got some serious thinking to do. Clearly this compact query is too confusing. (Alliteration alert!) I would love to tackle it now, but I have two young ghostlings who pretty much own me when they're not at school.

Have a great weekend all!

Ghost in the Machine

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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - Yikes and Away!

Post by Seadhlinn » February 1st, 2010, 7:49 pm

Ghost in the Machine wrote: When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie.
Nice hook here. The only thing missing would be a tidbit on Jodie (ie, When twenty-year-old goldfish trainer Jodie Belay...or whatever she does with herself). It packs in some character info, and potential twists.
Most people resist impulses toward criminal behavior. Jodie doesn’t dare.
Wait-- what? At this point, I'm completely befuddled... Doesn't dare what? Doesn't resist criminal behavior?

Also (and more importantly), I was really interested in what was happening with the girl. And the kidnapping.
Her FBI surveillance started two years ago when she caused a fender-bender at the post office. The other driver fled, leaving behind several envelopes contaminated with a deadly powder.
Why would the FBI follow her, since the other driver was the one with the poison in the car? And how would the FBI have found out about said poison? How would Jodie have even found out? Seriously, most fender benders end up with an exchange of insurance info, at most (at least in my experience...lol). Obviously if person B here made a huge fuss, and coincidentally attracted the attention of a cop, and then was belligerent with said cop, I can see this ending with the car getting searched and the poison envelopes being discovered. Maybe. There's just But I can't see this scenario happening. And even if it did, I see Jodie walking off after making a statement to the local police about backing into the person's car and no one caring.
Alternately, if she knew something was up and caused the fender-bender on purpose, you need to say this. (for example...Jodie, upon seeing Creepy Terrorist being creepy at the post office, called the cops and then backed into Ms. Creepy's car to keep her from getting away. After stuff gets real, the FBI is curious about how Jodie knew Ms. Creepy was a terrorist and decides to monitor her).

Jodie’s subsequent inclusion into the FBI’s secret ‘Guardian Project’ sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred.
An interesting second line of conflict... but WHAAAA... I'm baffled as to what is going on here. Is Jodie now working for the FBI? Or is it the...monitoring... of her activities which sets off the conflict? And I still have no idea why she's even mixed up in this...
Also...WHERE'S THE KID? I'm still curious about that dang kidnapping in the original hook!
One digs into Jodie’s past and believes she is a savior. The other proclaims her a menace, demanding her arrest for the kidnapping of Melody Miller.
This is where that tidbit in the beginning would be good-- it would tell us why the agents hold these views. Is Jodie an former terrorist? A pastry chef? A former terrorist turned pastry chef? Or just insane?
Both views have merit. The kidnapping prevents Melody from dying when a bomb destroys her father’s car. But Jodie’s motives are in doubt, even to herself, because she refuses to return the child.
Her = Melody? Jodie? Pronouns are pretty key here.
More importantly, we need to know the motives here. First, the initial motive-- why kidnap, when it seems like dragging the child away from the soon-to-explode car and calling the cops would suffice. Second, since this would involve Jodie knowing something about the soon-to-explode-ness of the car, what is her connection to Melody and the exploding stuff? Third, we need to understand her motive for the kidnapping-- we're not going to sympathize with someone who kidnapped a child for giggles.

As the hunt for Melody dovetails into a hunt for stolen explosives, the agents’ fight escalates. Will Jodie lead the FBI to the missing explosives? Or is she helping a terrorist reach their target?
So who is the main character? The agents? Jodie? I now have no idea what the main conflict is, how all the parts fit together, or what is going on.
**

You start with a strong hook. But you really need to clarify your conflict. It's not like you're worried about "spoiling" the book in the query, so you can go ahead and spill some stuff.

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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - 2nd try

Post by Ghost in the Machine » February 2nd, 2010, 10:48 am

Okay, here attempt No. 2. I hope it is less confusing.


Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie.

Jodie possesses an odd form of ESP. An eerie hum fills her ears and she is overcome by criminal urges. Two years ago, she smashed into another car at the post office. The other driver fled, abandoning several anthrax-laden envelopes on his passenger seat. For Jodie, misbehavior comes with a life-saving reward.

This brush with bio-terrorism gets the attention of the FBI’s Guardian Project—a group that secretly monitors people with the uncanny ability to prevent large-scale disasters. Jodie’s inclusion into the project sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. One looks at Jodie’s past and sees a hero. The other declares her a menace after she kidnaps Melody Miller.

Melody isn’t the only thing missing. Several hundred pounds of a potent explosive have vanished from the chemical company where her father works. The thieves try to frame Melody’s father before eliminating him with a car bomb. Jodie knows she saved Melody from dying with her father. She doesn’t understand her reluctance to take the child home.

Jodie’s failure to return Melody polarizes the Guardian Project. One agent begs for patience, believing Jodie will lead them to the missing explosives. His rival insists they take Jodie into custody with the sobering argument: If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?

The thriller, A GLASS HALF FULL, is complete at 106,000 words. I would be happy to provide further information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Ghost in the Machine

A note: I read Nathan’s blogs about STARTING queries with rhetorical questions and how much he detests this practice. Does my ending fall into that offensive category because I pose it as a question?

I hope the following points from my critiques have been resolved:

1. Jodie does not know the FBI is watching her. Jodie does not know exactly why she is afraid to take Melody home. Jodie is all about following her intuitions. Each criminal act she commits is done as a ‘leap of faith’. So far, the outcome has been greater than the crime.

2. Main Character/Point of View. This is tricky—like watching The Big Chill and trying to pick out the main character. I chose to center the query around Jodie because she is the catalyst behind the major events in the book. But the police and FBI characters have just as many chapters as Jodie. This query seems to bounce the POV between Jodie (1st line of 1st paragraph, 2nd and 4th paragraphs) and the FBI (2nd line of 1st paragraph, 3rd and 5th paragraph). Still too confusing?

3. I added more info connecting Jodie, Melody’s kidnapping, and the missing explosives. Hopefully the right amount.

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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - 2nd try

Post by Yoshima » February 3rd, 2010, 12:05 am

Hey Ghost! Me first. *cracks knuckles*
Ghost in the Machine wrote:Okay, here attempt No. 2. I hope it is less confusing.


Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie.

Jodie possesses an odd form of ESP. An eerie hum fills her ears and she is overcome by criminal urges. Two years ago, she smashed (I NEVER recommend adding adverbs, but here, I think you need one (or something else) to make it absolutely clear that she did it on purpose. On my first read I wasn't positive.) into another car at the post office. The other driver fled, abandoning several anthrax-laden envelopes on his passenger seat. For Jodie, misbehavior comes with a life-saving reward. (Hmm. The last sentence isn't bad, but I don't think it's as strong as it could be. Maybe make a statement about how she was toted as hero for saving the day or something.)

This brush with bio-terrorism gets the attention of the FBI’s Guardian Project—a group that secretly monitors people with the uncanny ability to prevent large-scale disasters. (ah. so that's what the deal is. Interesting!) Jodie’s inclusion into the project sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. One looks at Jodie’s past and sees a hero. The other declares her a menace after she kidnaps Melody Miller. (Maybe mention Melody's age, so we get that she's the young girl from above right off the bat. Or just put "young" in front of her name or something.)

Melody isn’t the only thing missing. Several hundred pounds of a potent explosive have vanished from the chemical company where her father works. The thieves try to frame Melody’s father before eliminating him with a car bomb. Jodie knows she saved Melody from dying with her father. She doesn’t understand her reluctance to take the child home. (Personal preference ahead: enter at your own risk. "What she doesn't understand is her reluctance to take the child home.")

Jodie’s failure to return Melody polarizes the Guardian Project. One agent begs for patience, believing Jodie (Jodie's ability, you mean?) will lead them to the missing explosives. His rival insists they take Jodie into custody with the sobering argument: If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing? (Ooo, like the ominous note at the end.)

The thriller, A GLASS HALF FULL, is complete at 106,000 words. I would be happy to provide further information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Ghost in the Machine

A note: I read Nathan’s blogs about STARTING queries with rhetorical questions and how much he detests this practice. Does my ending fall into that offensive category because I pose it as a question? (As long as it's not one of those rhetorical q's that can have a snarky remark, I think it's fine.)

I hope the following points from my critiques have been resolved: (I think this revision is much much better than the first. Hope a second wave of critiques helps you make it spotless! Good luck!)

1. Jodie does not know the FBI is watching her. Jodie does not know exactly why she is afraid to take Melody home. Jodie is all about following her intuitions. Each criminal act she commits is done as a ‘leap of faith’. So far, the outcome has been greater than the crime.

2. Main Character/Point of View. This is tricky—like watching The Big Chill and trying to pick out the main character. I chose to center the query around Jodie because she is the catalyst behind the major events in the book. But the police and FBI characters have just as many chapters as Jodie. This query seems to bounce the POV between Jodie (1st line of 1st paragraph, 2nd and 4th paragraphs) and the FBI (2nd line of 1st paragraph, 3rd and 5th paragraph). Still too confusing?

3. I added more info connecting Jodie, Melody’s kidnapping, and the missing explosives. Hopefully the right amount.

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JustineDell
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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - 2nd try

Post by JustineDell » February 3rd, 2010, 7:43 am

Ghost in the Machine wrote: Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent watching Jodie.

Jodie possesses an odd form of ESP. Ah Ha! I knew there was more to this girl ;-) An eerie hum fills her ears and she is overcome by criminal urges. Two years ago, she smashed into another car at the post office. Did she do this on purpose because of her ESP? The other driver fled, abandoning several anthrax-laden envelopes on his passenger seat. For Jodie, misbehavior comes with a life-saving reward.

This brush with bio-terrorism gets the attention of the FBI’s Guardian Project—a group that secretly monitors people with the uncanny ability to prevent large-scale disasters. Much better...I get the FBI connection now. Jodie’s inclusion into the project sets off a power struggle between two agents with a twenty-year history of mutual hatred. One looks at Jodie’s past and sees a hero. The other declares her a menace after she kidnaps (kidnapped?)Melody Miller.

Melody isn’t the only thing missing. Several hundred pounds of a potent explosive have vanished from the chemical company where her father works. The thieves try to frame Melody’s father before eliminating him with a car bomb. Jodie knows she saved Melody from dying with her father. She doesn’t understand her reluctance to take the child home. (She & Her? Jodie?) I don't get the "reluctance to take the child home". I'm guessing you mean Jody doesn't understand her reluctance to return the child to her home?

Jodie’s failure to return (failure or refusal?) Melody polarizes the Guardian Project. One agent begs for patience, believing Jodie will lead them to the missing explosives. His rival insists they take Jodie into custody with the sobering argument: If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing? So, you're right about the rhetorical question thing. Nathan hates them as an opening line, but he finds them okay elsewhere in the query...so I think you're good here. Plus, it makes an nice hook.

The thriller, A GLASS HALF FULL, is complete at 106,000 words. I would be happy to provide further information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Ghost in the Machine

I hope the following points from my critiques have been resolved:

1. Jodie does not know the FBI is watching her. Jodie does not know exactly why she is afraid to take Melody home. Jodie is all about following her intuitions. Each criminal act she commits is done as a ‘leap of faith’. So far, the outcome has been greater than the crime. Yes, you have cleared this up nicely and made Jodie's actions and involvement more understandable.

2. Main Character/Point of View. This is tricky—like watching The Big Chill and trying to pick out the main character. I chose to center the query around Jodie because she is the catalyst behind the major events in the book. But the police and FBI characters have just as many chapters as Jodie. This query seems to bounce the POV between Jodie (1st line of 1st paragraph, 2nd and 4th paragraphs) and the FBI (2nd line of 1st paragraph, 3rd and 5th paragraph). Still too confusing? No, I don't think so. I was able to follow it just fine. I don't think your switching POV's in the query, you're just giving aspect of the story outside of the Jodie's involvement. I think it was well done.

3. I added more info connecting Jodie, Melody’s kidnapping, and the missing explosives. Hopefully the right amount. I love it when everything comes together!!
Nice work Ghost! I only wish I was able to clean up my query as well as you cleaned up yours. You plugged in a lot of good information that really helped me understand the story better without bogging down the query as whole.

~JD

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

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

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Kirril
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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - 2nd try

Post by Kirril » February 3rd, 2010, 2:22 pm

When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent secretly watching Jodie.

Jodie possesses an odd form of ESP. An eerie hum fills her ears and she is overcome by criminal urges. Two years ago, she smashed into another car at the post office. The other driver fled, abandoning several anthrax-laden envelopes on his passenger seat. For Jodie, misbehavior comes with a life-saving reward.

Hah, interesting. This definitely is better than the first version. I often have criminal urges too, but they're not encouraged by any form of ESP. My main change to this would be moving the last sentence to the start of the 'graf.

For Jodie, misbehavior comes with a life-saving reward.


This brush with bio-terrorism gets the attention of the FBI’s Guardian Project—a group that secretly monitors people with the uncanny ability to prevent large-scale disasters. Jodie’s inclusion into the project sets off a power struggle between two agents with a longhistory of mutual hatred. One looks at Jodie’s past and sees a hero. The other declares her a menace after she kidnaps Melody Miller.

If you're going to name Melody here, you might as well name her in the first 'graf.

Melody isn’t the only thing missing. Several hundred pounds of explosives have vanished from the chemical company where her father works. The thieves try to frame Melody’s father before eliminating him with a car bomb. Jodie knows she saved Melody from dying with her father. She doesn’t understand her reluctance to take the child home.

Ok, here's where I realized that you have a plot and sublot running in each paragraph. The plot is Jodie, the kidnapping of Melody to prevent the girl's death, and the terrorists absconding with explosives. The subplot revolves around the FBI agents. It seems you could weave this together more seamlessly instead of your query bouncing between the two trains of thought. Remember, we need the main plot encapsulated here.

Jodie’s failure to return Melody polarizes the Guardian Project. One agent begs for patience, believing Jodie will lead them to the missing explosives. His rival insists they take Jodie into custody with the sobering argument: If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?

I don't have anything against this question since it's more or less posed in proxy by a character, but this last paragraph doesn't say what Jodie has to do to overcome the main issue which, I assume, is an upcoming terrorist bombing.

The thriller, A GLASS HALF FULL, is complete at 106,000 words. I would be happy to provide further information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.


When twenty-year-old Jodie Belay kidnaps Melody Miller, she believes she is saving the child’s life. So does the FBI agent secretly watching Jodie.

For Jodie, misbehavior comes with a life-saving reward. She possesses an odd form of ESP. An eerie hum fills her ears and she is overcome by criminal urges. In this case the urge is to kidnap Melody as the girl waits on her father in his car. But while Jodie saves Melody, thieves abscond with several hundred pounds of explosives from the chemical plant where Melody's father worked.

Now the FBI wants Jodie for kidnapping and terrorist-related activities and the thieves want to silence her and the girl. Jodie will have to rely on her special abilities to survive, but at the risk the resulting criminal activities may dig her a deeper hole.

The thriller, A GLASS HALF FULL, is complete at 106,000 words. I would be happy to provide further information from a synopsis to the full manuscript. Thank you for your time.


I took great liberty and rewrote this leaving out the FBI subplots. This also means we can leave out the backstory about the anthrax as well. You might be able to weave it in, but I think you can safely leave that subplot out and get in the greater part of the story. Hope this helps, GIT'M.

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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - 2nd try

Post by Ghost in the Machine » February 4th, 2010, 10:18 am

Hi All,

Yoshima and Justine: Thank you for your insightful comments. I used every one and polished off the 2nd version to my satisfaction.

However, version two is almost 300 words long and for some agents, that won’t work. Below is a shorter version (238 words) in which I considered Kirril’s observations. On one hand, I would like to ditch the anthrax part, but on the other, it contains multipurpose information: First, it establishes Jodie’s ESP. That’s big. Second, it illustrates why the FBI would bother to watch Jodie. A major event, like the anthrax incident, gives credence to her surveillance. Third, it illustrates how Jodie’s ability works—she does something criminal and a life is saved. This puts more weight behind my ending line so I can finish with a stronger punch.

Note: I am hesitant to put Melody's name in the first paragraph, especially now that the FBI agent is named. I don't want to give the literary agent 'name overload' in the first two sentences.

Dear Agent X,

When twenty-year-old college student Jodie Belay kidnaps a young girl, FBI agent Joel DeAngelis lets it happen. He believes Jodie is saving the three-year-old’s life.

Jodie possesses an odd form of ESP. Her FBI surveillance started two years ago, after she purposefully smashed into another car at the post office. The other driver fled, abandoning several anthrax-laden envelopes on his passenger seat. For Jodie, misbehavior comes with a life-saving reward.

The kidnapping of young Melody Miller isn’t the only concern for DeAngelis’s Guardian Project—the agents who secretly monitor people with the uncanny ability to prevent disasters. Several hundred pounds of a potent explosive have vanished from the chemical company where Melody’s father works. After Melody’s father dies in a suspicious car bombing, DeAngelis expects Jodie to take Melody home. Melody’s kidnapping kept the child out of her father’s car the day it exploded; Jodie’s duty is fulfilled.

Jodie’s failure to return Melody polarizes the Guardian Project. DeAngelis begs for patience, believing Jodie’s ESP will lead them to the missing explosives. DeAngelis’s opinion has clout. Before he joined the FBI, he was the first extraordinary person watched under the Guardian Project. His long-time rival demands Jodie’s arrest with the sobering argument: If it takes a kidnapping to save a child, what crime will Jodie commit to stop a major bombing?

The thriller, A GLASS HALF FULL, is complete at 106,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

And thanks to you, fab forum friends. GIT'M

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Re: The Ghost Posts a Query - 3rd try

Post by christi » February 4th, 2010, 11:20 am

This is a lot better and more concise. Great job.
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