The Messiah Notebooks query (Updated!)

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lightelement94
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The Messiah Notebooks query (Updated!)

Post by lightelement94 » June 23rd, 2010, 11:29 am

I've gone over this query to a point of obsession, and I think it's best for my sanity I send it out for critique at long last. Thanks, everyone, all advice/criticism/witty comments/not so witty comments are hugely appreciated.

UPDATED VERSION:

It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy. It is the chronicle of the life of disgraced stage magician and inventor Christian Harking, Miss Trey’s eccentric mentor. Harking, who has stepped into the heart of a power struggle between the Venetian Church and a group of nefarious philosophers, has been murdered. Miss Trey, who refuses to accept her mentor’s death, is convinced that he can still be saved if she can unearth the secret behind his discoveries, hidden carefully in his guarded past.

Miss Trey turns to the notebook for answers, and relives the story behind Harking’s greatest invention, the powerful Morality Generator, the root of the conflict that still grips Venice. She learns of the terrible experiments that left Oxford in flames, the mysterious gentleman Warwell, who Harking hunted across Italy, and the one startling night that left Harking changed forever. But when revolution breaks out and Warwell returns, Miss Trey faces a choice: trust Harking, who is no longer the man she thought he was, or Harking’s dearest enemy, who promises a way to save the city-state, if she can abandon her hope of ever saving her beloved mentor.

Told through two successive timelines, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS in an 80,000 word alternative history and a devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era. [Insert reason for selecting agent here], and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Alyson -----

[Contact information]

ORIGINAL:

Dear ________________,

It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy. It belongs to the disgraced scientist-turned-illusionist Christian Harking: Miss Trey’s mentor, and co-creator of the Morality Generator, a device capable of wrenching apart the boundaries between Heaven and Hell.

The discovery is the catalyst for a conflict that threatens all of Europe. The Venetian Church, powerless since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, will do anything to harness the strange new energy promised by the magician and his protégé. The Republic of Lions, a nefarious philosophical society, will kill to keep this power out of the Church’s hands.

When Harking is murdered and the Morality Generator stolen, Miss Trey turns to Harking’s notebook for answers. But as revolution looms over Venice and old enemies from England resurface, Miss Trey must work quickly to unearth the secrets behind Harking’s discoveries, or watch as Venice is torn apart.

A devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS is an 80,000 word alternative history. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Alyson ---

[Contact information]
Last edited by lightelement94 on June 24th, 2010, 1:51 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query

Post by fivecats » June 23rd, 2010, 12:43 pm

lightelement94 wrote:I've gone over this query to a point of obsession, and I think it's best for my sanity I send it out for critique at long last.
You are so not alone in this. : )

lightelement94 wrote:It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy.
No comma between "1820" and "and".

Why refer to your MC as Miss Trey? I know it was proper naming convention for the time, but the use of "Miss" is a bit distancing. We want to be close to your character, involved with their emotions and problems. We can be involved with Emily's feelings and conflicts. I would feel we're intruding on Miss Trey's life.
lightelement94 wrote:It belongs to the disgraced scientist-turned-illusionist Christian Harking: Miss Trey’s mentor, and co-creator of the Morality Generator, a device capable of wrenching apart the boundaries between Heaven and Hell.


"Scientist-turned-illusionist" is a bit odd. He was a scientist and now he's a magician? Are you trying to hint at Black Magic?

And I'm guessing the notebook has the plans for the Morality Generator, right? If so, you should state it. (If not, clarify why the notebook is "the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy")

What are the implications of "wrenching apart the boundaries"? ("Morality Generator" suggests, to me, that the device would allow the person who possesses it to determine a person's morality -- what a person is willing to do or not do -- while under its influence. I don't think this is accurate to your story, though)
lightelement94 wrote:The discovery is the catalyst for a conflict that threatens all of Europe. The Venetian Church, powerless since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, will do anything to harness the strange new energy promised by the magician and his protégé. The Republic of Lions, a nefarious philosophical society, will kill to keep this power out of the Church’s hands.
What discovery? And how does the Church and the RoLions find out about the notebook/Morality Generator?
lightelement94 wrote:When Harking is murdered and the Morality Generator stolen, Miss Trey turns to Harking’s notebook for answers. But as revolution looms over Venice and old enemies from England resurface, Miss Trey must work quickly to unearth the secrets behind Harking’s discoveries, or watch as Venice is torn apart.
So, is the Mortality Generator isn't just a theoretical device (which is what I was thinking until you said it was stolen) why is the notebook so dangerous?

I dont' understand how/why Miss Trey came to have the notebook. If Harking gave it to her, he must have known he was placing her in danger.

Is Miss Trey trying to discover who killed her mentor? Or who stole the Mortality Generator? Or how to stop it?

What, exactly does "work quickly to unearth the secrets behind Harking’s discoveries" mean in terms of stopping the Morality Generator and restoring order to her world?

What is Miss Trey's stake in all of this? What is her personal connection with the events? What does she, personally, stand to lose if Venice is torn apart? Are the two Big, Faceless Groups trying to kill her to get the notebook for themselves?
lightelement94 wrote:A devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS is an 80,000 word alternative history. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.
"80,000-word"

You'll want to include a quick bit on why you've chosen this agent to send your query to, as well.
______________________________________
Tom M Franklin
Franklin, Ink: Writing about Writing & Reading
http://tommfranklin.blogspot.com/

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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query

Post by wilderness » June 23rd, 2010, 3:59 pm

Hi,

This sounds like a cool alternative history / steampunk story. The setting and motifs make it sound like a good read, but my advice is to clarify some points (mentioned below) and put more plot, less backstory into the query.

Unlike fivecats, I actually think the use of "Miss" adds a nice Victorian flavor. But fivecats' other questions are solid. :)
lightelement94 wrote: Dear ________________,

It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy. It belongs to the disgraced scientist-turned-illusionist Christian Harking: Miss Trey’s mentor, and co-creator of the Morality Generator, a device capable of wrenching apart the boundaries between Heaven and Hell. I'm not sure what this means. What could the device be used for?

The discovery is the catalyst for a conflict that threatens all of Europe. The Venetian Church, powerless since the end of the Napoleonic Wars, will do anything to harness the strange new energy promised by the magician and his protégé. "Strange new energy" doesn't immediately equate with what you wrote before. Again, more clarity on what the machine can do and the consequences. Why does the machine threaten Europe?The Republic of Lions, a nefarious philosophical society, will kill to keep this power out of the Church’s hands.

When Harking is murdered and the Morality Generator stolen, Miss Trey turns to Harking’s notebook for answers. But as revolution looms over Venice and old enemies from England resurface, Miss Trey must work quickly to unearth the secrets behind Harking’s discoveries, or watch as Venice is torn apart. What old enemeies? What will Miss Trey do to stop the device from falling into the wrong hands? You have a lot of set up about the state of Europe, but you should try to get into some of the plot details as well.

A devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS is an 80,000 word alternative history. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Alyson ---

[Contact information]

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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query

Post by lightelement94 » June 23rd, 2010, 4:39 pm

Brilliant suggestions, guys, thank you. My characters are referred to throughout the story by their last name or with "Miss," "Mr," etc. so I'll keep that in...but beyond that, I see what you mean about the plot. It seems that the main discrepancy is with the role of the Morality Generator and how it specifically affects Miss Trey.

Harking is actually a working stage magician--nothing supernatural (at first) with him. I know queries are rife with the more wizardly sort of magician; any suggestions about how to succinctly make that clear?

Again, thanks--I've been going over this things for so long I wasn't even sure what it was lacking anymore.
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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query

Post by wilderness » June 23rd, 2010, 7:25 pm

lightelement94 wrote: Harking is actually a working stage magician--nothing supernatural (at first) with him. I know queries are rife with the more wizardly sort of magician; any suggestions about how to succinctly make that clear?
I didn't really have a problem with scientist-turned-illusionist, but maybe you could write "scientist and stage magician" or "scientist who works as a stage magician by day" or "a stage magician who tinkers with machines". I was definitely already thinking along the lines of the movie The Prestige, not Dumbledore.

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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query

Post by lightelement94 » June 23rd, 2010, 8:49 pm

Ahhh, alright, my mistake, then. I know people have had some confusion with it before, because while there is an element of the supernatural in the novel, there is no magic, per say. But anything along the lines of The Prestige is brilliant--that movie is incredible! The book, by Christopher Priest, was one of the main inspirations for my novel.
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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query

Post by lightelement94 » June 24th, 2010, 1:45 pm

Alright, so, I ran over it again with the comments, and here's the newly revised one. I did my best to incorporate the information that best connects the reader with the protagonists...

How does this sound? It hasn't been as heavily edited as the first one for wording, so some bits may still sound awkward...

- - -

Dear __________________,

It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy. It is the chronicle of the life of disgraced stage magician and inventor Christian Harking, Miss Trey’s eccentric mentor. Harking, who has stepped into the heart of a power struggle between the Venetian Church and a group of nefarious philosophers, has been murdered. Miss Trey, who refuses to accept her mentor’s death, is convinced that he can still be saved if she can unearth the secret behind his discoveries, hidden carefully in his guarded past.

Miss Trey turns to the notebook for answers, and relives the story behind Harking’s greatest invention, the powerful Morality Generator, the root of the conflict that still grips Venice. She learns of the terrible experiments that left Oxford in flames, the mysterious gentleman Warwell, who Harking hunted across Italy, and the one startling night that left Harking changed forever. But when revolution breaks out and Warwell returns, Miss Trey faces a choice: trust Harking, who is no longer the man she thought he was, or Harking’s dearest enemy, who promises a way to save the city-state, if she can abandon her hope of ever saving her beloved mentor.

Told through two successive timelines, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS in an 80,000 word alternative history and a devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era. [Insert reason for selecting agent here], and I look forward to your response.
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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query

Post by Emily J » June 24th, 2010, 2:02 pm

lightelement94 wrote:Alright, so, I ran over it again with the comments, and here's the newly revised one. I did my best to incorporate the information that best connects the reader with the protagonists...

How does this sound? It hasn't been as heavily edited as the first one for wording, so some bits may still sound awkward...

- - -

Dear __________________,

It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy. I like the opening sentence, a notebook being an object not usually considered dangerous It is the a chronicle? perhaps? chronicle of the life of disgraced stage magician and inventor Christian Harking, Miss Trey’s eccentric mentor. Harking, who has stepped into the heart of a power struggle between the Venetian Church and a group of nefarious philosophers, has been murdered. Miss Trey, who refuses to accept her mentor’s death, i think this may be one too many embedded clauses, you seem to have an over-reliance on the structure X, who did y and z, did - not to mention here the "refuses to accept her mentor's death" is implied in the rest of the sentence I would suggest leaving out is convinced that he can still be saved if she can unearth the secret behind his discoveries, hidden carefully in his guarded past.

Miss Trey turns to the notebook for answers, and relives the story behind Harking’s greatest invention, the powerful Morality Generator, the root of the conflict that still grips Venice. another embedded clause here She learns of the terrible experiments that left Oxford in flames, the mysterious gentleman Warwell, who Harking hunted across Italy, and the one startling night that left Harking changed forever. But when revolution breaks out and Warwell returns, Miss Trey faces a choice: trust Harking, who is no longer the man she thought he was, or Harking’s dearest ? dearest? to whom? enemy, who promises a way to save the city-state, if she can abandon her hope of ever saving her beloved mentor.

Told through two successive timelines, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS in an 80,000 word alternative history and a devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era. i like this sentence "devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era" ooh sounds interesting [Insert reason for selecting agent here], and I look forward to your response.
My interest is piqued. Sounds like an interesting story. I would suggest thinking about losing a few dependent clauses and changing some of those long sentences into short declarative sentences. It would help in the flow.

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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query (Updated!)

Post by wilderness » June 24th, 2010, 2:44 pm

I think you've done a wonderful job of making the query more about Miss Trey. I agree with Emily J on the sentence structures; the flow would be improved with shorter sentences and less clauses.

There are still some parts that could use clarification:
* Why does Miss Trey think she can bring Harking back from the grave? Maybe hint at what in the notebook gives her this idea.
* You still haven't explicitly stated what the Morality Generator does, or why it is causing conflict in Venice. I can't tell if you're deliberately trying to be mysterious about it, but presumably people besides Miss Trey and Harking know something about it if it can cause conflict.
She learns of the terrible experiments that left Oxford in flames, the mysterious gentleman Warwell, who Harking hunted across Italy, and the one startling night that left Harking changed forever.
I liked that you gave us some insight into what is in the notebook. You might add a few small details about the startling night, even if you want to keep it mysterious. Also I would change it to say "Harking's hunt across Italy for the mysterious gentleman Warwell" to eliminate the "who" clause.

Hope that helps!

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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query (Updated!)

Post by lightelement94 » June 26th, 2010, 12:59 pm

Resurrecting the thread a bit, here, but after wrestling with wording (and trying not to lose the meaning in the process), this is what I've come up with to try to rectify the sentence structure issues and build in the few hints still needed. It might be completely off the mark the sentences are, at least, shorter. Thanks again to everyone whose helped get it to this point!

Dear ____________________,

It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy. It chronicles of the life of disgraced stage magician and inventor Christian Harking, Miss Trey’s eccentric mentor. Harking has stepped into the heart of a power struggle between the Venetian Church and a clandestine philosopher’s society, and been murdered for it. Convinced that Harking can still be saved, Miss Trey is determined to unearth the secrets behind his discoveries. Harking’s work questions the very mechanisms of life and death, and she is sure the key to it all is hidden in his past.

Miss Trey turns to the notebook for answers, and relives the story behind Harking’s greatest invention. She learns of the terrible experiments that left Oxford in flames, Harking's hunt across Italy for the mysterious gentleman Warwell, and the startling loss that changed Harking forever. But when revolution breaks out and Warwell returns, Miss Trey must decide whom to trust. Harking is no longer the man she thought he was, and Harking’s greatest enemy promises a way to restore order in the city-state⎯if she abandons her hope of ever saving her beloved mentor.

Told through two successive timelines, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS in an 80,000 word alternative history and a devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era. [Insert reason for selecting agent here], and I look forward to your response.
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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query (Updated!)

Post by wilderness » June 26th, 2010, 9:35 pm

lightelement94 wrote:
Dear ____________________,

It is 1820, and Miss Emily Trey, a twenty-year-old British expatriate, has just come to possess the most dangerous notebook in all of Italy. It chronicles of the life of disgraced stage magician and inventor Christian Harking, Miss Trey’s eccentric mentor. Harking has been murdered for stepping into the heart of a power struggle between the Venetian Church and a clandestine philosopher’s society, and been murdered for it. Convinced that Harking can still be saved, Miss Trey is determined to unearth the secrets behind his discoveries. Harking’s work questions the very mechanisms of life and death, and she is sure the key to it all is hidden in his past. This reads so much clearer than before.

Miss Trey turns to the notebook for answers, and relives the story behind Harking’s greatest invention. She learns of the terrible experiments that left Oxford in flames, Harking's hunt across Italy for the mysterious gentleman Warwell, and the startling loss that changed Harking forever. But when revolution breaks out and Warwell returns, Miss Trey must decide whom to trust. Harking is no longer the man she thought he was, and Harking’s greatest enemy promises a way to restore order in the city-state⎯if she abandons her hope of ever saving her beloved mentor. For me, there is an unreadable character after city-state -- is it supposed to be an m-dash?

Told through two successive timelines, THE MESSIAH NOTEBOOKS in an 80,000 word alternative history and a devilish turn on the post-Napoleonic Era. [Insert reason for selecting agent here], and I look forward to your response.
I think this looks great! Sounds like a fun, interesting read. All the best with it!

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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query (Updated!)

Post by lightelement94 » June 27th, 2010, 8:56 pm

-Fixed- =D

Thanks so much for your patience and advice--I'm so much more confident in the query, now! The unreadable character is an em-dash--trust Microsoft Word to scramble whatever I copy and paste.
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Re: The Messiah Notebooks query (Updated!)

Post by clara_w » June 30th, 2010, 11:01 am

Ok, you have done an EXCELLENT job here. This query screams bestseller to me, I would buy this book. And that's really rare for me, swear.

So send it.

Send it right now. =)

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