Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

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Sandy Shin
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Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by Sandy Shin » December 13th, 2009, 3:10 pm

I am still fiddling with my manuscript, but I'm working on my query in tandem so I wouldn't experience the urge to hurry the query because of impatience when the novel is ready. Any and all critiques/advice are greatly appreciated! :)

P.S. I've considered labeling this "YA steampunk re-telling of BatB" (since 'steampunk' is the general short term for 'Victorian era fantasy/SF'), but have been advised against that because there is very little SF elements in the novel and the query itself, which I believe is sound advice. However, do you think "YA fantasy re-telling of BatB set in late Victorian era" (which I have now) is too convoluted a categorization?


Dear Agent:

THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE is a YA fantasy re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast" set in late Victorian era.

Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion.

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement.

The arrangement slowly crumbles, however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed.

The synopsis and the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sandy

Joel Q
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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by Joel Q » December 13th, 2009, 3:47 pm

I like the concept.

There seems to be some contradictory statements, some thoughts that just don't flow.
But you present enough of the story to give a very good understanding of it.

Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, What does this have to do with the story, is this how she knows of the Beast? as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. She never imagined that one day, she would have to Why does she have to? seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. If given the choice,BUt doesn't she have to make this choice now? she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion.

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. She's dead now? If so, there needs to be some transition from the first paragraph when she was alive. Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement.

The arrangement slowly crumbles,IS it really crumling? Or is Faye just thinking differently? however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed. I like this line.It gives us a nice picture of the coming conflict.

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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by SmurfHead » December 13th, 2009, 4:25 pm

I don't think that your categorization is too convoluted--I really like it, actually. It's succinct and it tells you everything you need to know about the story, which I would certainly appreciate if I were reading queries all day.

I'm also really enamored with your last sentence. It made me want to read more and it let me know that this fairy-tale isn't necessarily going to end the same way as the story we already know. I really appreciate that. I love fairy-tale retellings, but they can be rather predictable. I was really, really pleased to see that your story would keep me guessing.

The only feedback I have concerns word-choice and a request for more information. This sounds like a really cool book, but sometimes the query left me feeling less than excited. Still, you can tell that the "bones" of the story are there, which is awesome.


Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. ("bedtime fairy tales" feels slightly redundant and could be shortened to a more common usage like, "bedtime story" or "fairy tales." Also, this sentence feels a little passive to me. I would go for something like, "On the cold, ruthless streets of London, Faye struggles to keep herself and her ailing mother alive." But, you know, better. I'm also wondering if the "fairy tales" part could be cut entirely, since you've stated that this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Unless Faye develops an interest in fairy tales during the story, I'm thinking this sentence could be stronger without it.) She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. (You've managed to give me an idea of the Beast's personality, all in the space of a short sentence. Bravo! It's also cool to see that your Beast seems different from the other interpretations of the Beast that I've seen. Again, bravo!) If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to (extraneous word, could be cut out) do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion. (On first reading, it sounded as if Faye just doesn't want to do menial work in shoddy surroundings, which seemed weird since I thought she would be used to that kind of thing, given her background. I'm thinking Faye's reluctance to join the Beast has more to do with a personality conflict, but it took a second reading for that to occur to me.)

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a (I'm wondering if the word "exact" or something similar could be used. "To stage" didn't feel dramatic enough to me) revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. (When did Mom die? Is that the catalyst for Faye joining the Beast?) Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. (This information about the artifacts and potions business feels abrupt. Maybe it might flow better a little earlier, like in Faye's intro paragraph? I feel like it would give me more insight into her character. It says something about her that she's not just groveling to Daddy, but instead facing a hard life on the streets. Also, what specifically does Faye need to do to topple the business? That might be cool to know.) It is the perfect arrangement. (Feels like telling, not showing.)

The seemingly perfectarrangement slowly ("Slowly" makes me think the pace is slow, too. I think you could just say "The arrangement crumbles, however, as...") crumbles, however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed. (When did Faye start liking the Beast? Why is Faye drawn to the Beast? What happens to make her entertain the thought of being the curse-breaker? I love knowing that she kissed him (and failed) but this information comes so suddenly that the last line doesn't have the kind of punch I think it could have.)


Your Beast seems different. Is he a rich guy who gets cursed? Sounds like he knows magic, so if he's a sorcerer, maybe you could mention that? It's a really cool angle, and not one that I've seen before.

I really like your "Beauty" in this story, too. It's nice to see that her goal is totally different from the other Beauties I've seen--not to SAVE her father, but to ruin him. Awesome!

Since you've stated this is for young adults, it might also be helpful to know the character's age. I assume she's young, but knowing her specific age would be useful, too.

But overall, I really cool idea. I'm excited to know more about it!
"Mind-bottling, isn't it? ...You know, when things are so crazy it gets your thoughts all trapped, like in a bottle?"

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Hillsy
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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by Hillsy » December 14th, 2009, 8:33 am

Sandy Shin wrote:
Dear Agent:

THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE is a YA fantasy re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast" set in late Victorian era (Your categorization, in this format, is fine. Just calling it YA fantasy, and then annotating it is the best way to do it.)

Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, (I don't think you need the fairy tales bit - it also sounds a bit wierd coming straight behind saying your work is a re-telling of a fairy tale already - just something like "Growing up all Faye's time was spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London") as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion.

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. (I'm with everyone else: I read this and went "When did she die?"....you can tie this in with how her father caused her mother's death and her plans for revenge....Then introduce the Beast") Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement. (Good, succinct set up)

The arrangement slowly crumbles (adverb you can replace easily. Decays?), however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed. (Nice little twist at the end. I'd like to know a little more about how she falls for him as it does seem a little, well, contrived that she hates him and simply by virtue of being around him she falls for him....something about how he's not as cold/prickly/arrogant/self-involved etc etc as he first appears. Or he gives to charity on the side....just...something)

The synopsis and the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sandy
It's fine - just needs a mild tweak and I'd say ti's good to go. I'd like to offer more but this really isn't my genre and I'm guessing I'm not your target audience...hehe

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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by c.ska » December 14th, 2009, 5:19 pm

sandy, let me have a go: )
Sandy Shin wrote:
Dear Agent:

THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE is a YA fantasy re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast" set in late Victorian era. (sounds good to me!)

Growing up, Faye (had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales,) SPENT ( as) all her time (were spent) trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. (WHY? what is their history etc...) If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion. (adds voice, I like it)

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. (I would simplify this sentence) Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement. (not sure you need this sentence)

The arrangement slowly crumbles, (however,) as / WHEN? Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed. (YES! I also love the grand finale. again, it adds voice)

The synopsis and the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sandy
I agree, this query is almost good to go. well done! I get some great imagery from reading it, which means it hit home. I'd love to read THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE. thanks for sharing!

ps I hope I didn't confuse you..I almost confused myself there cutting and pasting for a while ; )

c.ska

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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by Krista G. » December 15th, 2009, 1:36 am

I'm going to be completely honest: This query had me hooked within a few sentences, even though the initial concept sounded a little stale, and by the end, I wanted to be an agent so I could request the manuscript:) (That last paragraph is fabulous, by the way. I thought I had it all figured out, and then those last two words turned everything on its head.) My internal editor turned off, my eager reader turned on, and my brain completely blew by whatever hints or suggestions it might have made. I'm sure there are a few things you could improve/strengthen, so definitely take into account everyone else's comments. But you sold me.

Good luck with this. I'd really like to see this one on the shelves someday.
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by Alexandra Little » December 15th, 2009, 2:39 pm

I am going to take a different stance from Krista G., and this may seem a bit harsh but it's what I'm thinking when reading this query.

What is new here from the rest of the Beauty and the Beast adaptations?
Sandy Shin wrote: Dear Agent:

THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE is a YA fantasy re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast" set in late Victorian era.

Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion. If the Beast is supposedly a fairy tale, how does Faye know how and where seek help from him? If she's been on the streets of London, I'd think that menial work would be an upgrade.

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement. The father thread is new, but why does she think that her father caused her mother's death? I've read enough plots like this to wonder if she isn't mistaken in one of those "If we just talked for two minutes we could have had the whole thing cleared up" type of ways, which would make the plot seem contrived. As this seems to be one difference to the BatB tale, I'd expand on it in the query. You also have a contradiction here from your first paragraph: If the bargain is to find the Beast's true love, why would she be doing menial work?

In addition, is this alternate history fantasy, or is this one instance of magical difference? The father's business makes me wonder, and it would be good to clarify when discussing your setting as it is hard to see how changing the time period of the original tale makes BatB new or unique.

The arrangement slowly crumbles, however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed.How would the arrangement crumble? He presumably helping her get revenge, which you don't explain here, and she is somehow trying to find his true love (which I'm wondering how she is going to manage to do that, as she's lived on the streets of London and you don't say what her original social class is or what the Beast's social class is, both of which were highly important during that time). Her falling in love with him would almost make the arrangement seem stronger, as she wouldn't want him to die (which I am presuming is what would happen, though you don't mention that).

The synopsis and the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sandy
The query really needs to know what is new and unique about Beauty and the Beast, and right now it's technically correct in that it gets the essential details down, but it does not show where your version does anything different from what is already out there.
WIP #1: young adult fantasy, rewriting/editing
WIP #2: young adult fantasy, first draft
WIP #3: young adult fantasy, twinkle in the author's eye

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Sandy Shin
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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by Sandy Shin » December 15th, 2009, 5:33 pm

Thank you so much to all of you for all the wonderful suggestions and advice! I really appreciate them! :)

Joel Q - I didn't notice it before, knowing what I do about the characters' circumstances, but those do sound very much contradictory out-of-text. I'll definitely change and clarify them. Thank you!

SmurfHead - Thank you so much for the detailed critique! They are spot-on and very much helpful. On revisions, I will definitely clarify the mom's death in the first paragraph, and also give a view of a more gradual development between Faye and the Beast. :)

Hillsy - Thanks for the suggestions. I'll definitely introduce Faye's father earlier -- and also clarify why Faye's falling for the Beast.

c.ska - Thank you for the comments and advice! I'm glad to see where it works for you and where there could be improvements.

Krista G. - Your reply made me deliriously happy. Thank you! :)

Alexandra Little - No, it's not harsh at all. In fact, I really, really appreciate you pointing all those out, as they helped me not just with the query, but also with some aspects of the novel itself. Several of the points questioned are covered in the novel itself but did not make it to the query, which definitely make the query choppy and full of inconsistencies, now that I'm re-reading from the perspective of someone without inside knowledge about the novel. (For example, the father impregnated the mother without taking responsibility, causing the mother to be cast out of her aristocratic family and into poverty, etc.) When re-writing, I will definitely try to address all the confusing/contradicting problems you've pointed out. And I'll also look at the novel critically again and try to make it more original -- differentiate it from other BatB adaptations. Once again, thank you for the critiques! :)

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Re: Query: YA Victorian Fantasy

Post by skottk » December 15th, 2009, 5:51 pm

Sandy Shin wrote:I am still fiddling with my manuscript, but I'm working on my query in tandem so I wouldn't experience the urge to hurry the query because of impatience when the novel is ready. Any and all critiques/advice are greatly appreciated! :)

P.S. I've considered labeling this "YA steampunk re-telling of BatB" (since 'steampunk' is the general short term for 'Victorian era fantasy/SF'), but have been advised against that because there is very little SF elements in the novel and the query itself, which I believe is sound advice. However, do you think "YA fantasy re-telling of BatB set in late Victorian era" (which I have now) is too convoluted a categorization?
The BatB relevance may not be as important as you think. "YA fantasy set in a Victorian London where magic blossoms amid the grime," or something like that.


Dear Agent:

THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE is a YA fantasy re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast" set in late Victorian era. Word count? Your target, at least, so the agent can tell whether it's in the right ballpark. Also, "re-telling" feels like a turn-off, like it's more literal than you intend - maybe "inspired by" is better?

Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. Do they actually live on the streets? What's their actual living situation? She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. Is he literally a Beast, like in the Disney movie, or more like an ur-Darcy-Scrooge awful person? Why does she need help? What's he going to do for her? If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion. Why is this? Objectively, there's no way to understand her preference - at least, not from the information here. Death before dishwork?

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. If the mother's death is the reason she suddenly needs help, this detail belongs up above - When her father murders her mother, only the Beast can give her the power to work the vengeance that she seeks.Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement.

The arrangement slowly crumbles, however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed. Now there's a twist! That's a big difference from the original story you might want to tell more about.

The synopsis and the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sandy
I'd like to have a better feel for the setting, and you could make it easier for the reader to feel the tension in the story. I think this focuses a little much on the similarities to BatB and too little on the story itself - there's a time limit, a powerful father, and the interesting twist that she's apparently not the Beast's true love. How would you describe the story if there had been no BatB? That's what I would strive for.

SK

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