Query: Untitled Contemporary Fiction

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piers
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Query: Untitled Contemporary Fiction

Post by piers » August 4th, 2011, 11:11 am

I really appreciate all the good advice, it made me realize I need to go back and work on my manuscript. : ) Thanks again.
Last edited by piers on August 21st, 2011, 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Sleeping Beauty
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Re: Query: 'Barbarian' (WT): Contemporary Fiction

Post by Sleeping Beauty » August 4th, 2011, 11:54 am

Hi Piers. I'm by no means an expert, but I'll put in my two cents.

First off, this reads more than an excerpt from a synopsis rather than a query. You've only got a short page to hook the agent's attention - use it wisely!

As I read the first paragraph, I thought this was a non-fiction title - one of those 'Behind the News'-style books. It's a very clinical description of a girl's death, which presumedle sets off a chain of events. It's too detached. Make me feel for Izzie, or Roan, or even Casey.
The language continues in this odd vein. I don't understand why Casey being a member of a politically powerful family is important, and why the family would have to alleviate their guilt, unless there's a suggestion that they had a hand in her death.

If Izzie is your MC, which seems to be the case, she needs to be introduced as a person seperate to her step-brother. So far, I don't know anything about her.

In the second paragraph, you mention charges of unlawful sex and possession being successfully brought against Roan. I don't know what 'unlawful sex' means, or where drugs come into the picture. Is the charge something to do with supplying alcohol to a minor, perhaps? But didn't the tequila come from the party?

I have a real problem with this line: 'Izzie finds herself becoming increasingly perverted, forming a borderline sexual relationship with Casey's best friend, Abby.' The circumstances around Izzie's 'pervesion' is not explained; only that she's almost involved with Abby, who I presume is female. To label a lesbian relationship as perverted is offensive. Perhaps you didn't mean it that way, but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.

Don't forget the word count, the genre, the title. (I only know it's 'Barbarian' because of the title of this thread.)

From my understand, this sounds like a tale of media corruption (which is extremely topical right now, thanks to a certain Mr Murdoch) entwined with a sexual coming-of-age story, which is eternally popular (see: Catcher In The Rye). They sound like a fantastic genre mesh!

So take a deep breath. Find your hook, then read your query aloud to find the rhythm. Try again. Find the query template and ask yourself - who is my MC? What does he/she want? What is getting in the way of achieving this goal?

Keep trying! And take everything I say with a truckload of salt - but listen well to the seasoned hands 'round these forums!

piers
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Re: Query: 'Barbarian' (WT): Contemporary Fiction

Post by piers » August 5th, 2011, 11:12 am

Sleeping Beauty wrote:Hi Piers. I'm by no means an expert, but I'll put in my two cents.

First off, this reads more than an excerpt from a synopsis rather than a query. You've only got a short page to hook the agent's attention - use it wisely!

As I read the first paragraph, I thought this was a non-fiction title - one of those 'Behind the News'-style books. It's a very clinical description of a girl's death, which presumedle sets off a chain of events. It's too detached. Make me feel for Izzie, or Roan, or even Casey.
The language continues in this odd vein. I don't understand why Casey being a member of a politically powerful family is important, and why the family would have to alleviate their guilt, unless there's a suggestion that they had a hand in her death.

If Izzie is your MC, which seems to be the case, she needs to be introduced as a person seperate to her step-brother. So far, I don't know anything about her.

In the second paragraph, you mention charges of unlawful sex and possession being successfully brought against Roan. I don't know what 'unlawful sex' means, or where drugs come into the picture. Is the charge something to do with supplying alcohol to a minor, perhaps? But didn't the tequila come from the party?

I have a real problem with this line: 'Izzie finds herself becoming increasingly perverted, forming a borderline sexual relationship with Casey's best friend, Abby.' The circumstances around Izzie's 'pervesion' is not explained; only that she's almost involved with Abby, who I presume is female. To label a lesbian relationship as perverted is offensive. Perhaps you didn't mean it that way, but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth.

Don't forget the word count, the genre, the title. (I only know it's 'Barbarian' because of the title of this thread.)

From my understand, this sounds like a tale of media corruption (which is extremely topical right now, thanks to a certain Mr Murdoch) entwined with a sexual coming-of-age story, which is eternally popular (see: Catcher In The Rye). They sound like a fantastic genre mesh!

So take a deep breath. Find your hook, then read your query aloud to find the rhythm. Try again. Find the query template and ask yourself - who is my MC? What does he/she want? What is getting in the way of achieving this goal?

Keep trying! And take everything I say with a truckload of salt - but listen well to the seasoned hands 'round these forums!
Thanks so much Sleeping Beauty; that is super helpful.

TomLysander
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Re: Query: 'Barbarian' (WT): Contemporary Fiction

Post by TomLysander » August 5th, 2011, 12:44 pm

piers wrote:
QUERY:

In September of 2005, 13-year-old Casey Burbank died of drug overdose in her suburban home. At a party the night before, Izzie’s stepbrother Roan careful with name drops like this -- we don't know Izzie yet, and it's hard to keep a new name in mind when it's introducing a relationship met Casey by chance and the two disappear with a bottle of tequila. Casey was the granddaughter of an ex- Senator and her family are determined to create a scapegoat to alleviate their guilt over her death. is it important to know that Casey's death was accidental? is it possible to keep this a mystery for the query?

With no evidence to murder, the Burbank family pushes prosecution on possession and unlawful sex. They use their influence in the press to weave a story of seduction and corruption. Roan is convicted and serves two years in Juvenile Hall. I think these first two paragraphs could pop more: you could open with something like: "Izzie's stepbrother has been wrongly accused of murder" or more provocatively, "Izzie's stepbrother Roan would have been accused of murder if there were any evidence of it. Instead, he's sent to juvenile hall for..." etc. etc. Center on the narrator's relationship to the problem, rather than simply introducing the facts of the story.

The perversion of the court system affects the step-siblings in different ways. Narrator Izzie, who is knee deep in a confused sexual blossoming, watches Roan transform into a carnal and self-destructive being. Izzie finds herself becoming increasingly perverted,tricky to use the word "perverted," especially for the main character -- "perverted" carries with it too much judgment and lack of sympathy forming a borderline sexual relationship with Casey's best friend, Abby, and becoming increasingly enmeshed in an alternative life where she pretends to be her stepbrother. better to turn those last two clauses into active verbs: Izzie forms a borderline sexual relationship ... and becomes increasingly enmeshed in an alternative... etc.

When Abby uses Izzie to get closer to Roan, she sets off a chain of events that shows “that a mind, it confuses, and the things that have happened there keep happening. In a mind things can go on forever.” a quote from your book? I'm okay with showcasing some quotes from your novel in a query, but plenty of people find it dangerous. But I really like the idea of a complicated love triangle happening in the wake of a disaster. Better to give us a bit of this complication, rather than ducking behind the vague suggestion of a "chain of events."
Overall, you've got a good first draft. I think the first two paragraphs are too clinical -- bring them into Izzie's POV a little more. The second two paragraphs should foreground the complications that arise from love triangles, twisted psychology, and trauma. Good luck! Kudos, Tom

trirae
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Re: Query: 'Barbarian' (WT): Contemporary Fiction

Post by trirae » August 6th, 2011, 9:03 pm

In September of 2005, 13-year-old Casey Burbank died of drug overdose in her suburban home. At a party the night before, Izzie’s stepbrother Roan met Casey by chance and the two disappearED? with a bottle of tequila. Casey was the granddaughter of an ex- Senator and her family are determined to create a scapegoat to alleviate their guilt over her death. I like the simplicity of the first line. The second might be better off leading with the last part. Her powerful family wants a scapegoat and they find it Izzie's (last name?) stepbrother. Something like that.

With no evidence to murder, the Burbank family pushes prosecution on possession and unlawful sex. They use their influence in the press to weave a story of seduction and corruption. Roan is convicted and serves two years in Juvenile Hall.

The perversion of the court system affects the step-siblings in different ways. Narrator Izzie, who is knee deep in a confused sexual blossoming, watches Roan transform into a carnal and self-destructive being. Izzie finds herself becoming increasingly perverted, forming a borderline sexual relationship with Casey's best friend, Abby, and becoming increasingly enmeshed in an alternative life where she pretends to be her stepbrother. Wow, this seems interesting. I think you may need to move up something on Izzie though. It's hard to tell where the center of the story is. If all of the other part is said and done at the beginning and the focus is on the impact, you might want to re-organize to deal with that more.

When Abby uses Izzie to get closer to Roan, she sets off a chain of events that shows “that a mind, it confuses, and the things that have happened there keep happening. In a mind things can go on forever.”

I'm definitely not an expert. I do think that you need to focus a bit more on the current conflict to bring the reader ina bit more. Good luck!

L-live
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Re: Query: 'Barbarian' (WT): Contemporary Fiction

Post by L-live » August 9th, 2011, 2:50 pm

The premise of the book is pretty interesting to me (ahaha), but when you started with "Izzie becomes increasingly perverted" - watching her stepbrother? Then she begins to pretend that she's him? This to me is confusing, since at the beginning I thought the book was going to to be about how an affluent family "pushes prosecution on unlawful sex," etc. etc. (This sentence is also where I got sold.) If the main plot is about how Roan and his step-sister unravels because of his sentence to juvie, then perhaps you may want to clean the last two paragraphs up and tie it to the main plot.
Anyway that's just my two cents. Gotta go and mull over my query letter now -_-

jmn
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Re: Query: 'Barbarian' (WT): Contemporary Fiction

Post by jmn » August 20th, 2011, 12:02 am

You seem to have some interesting "hot topic" themes here, but they are presented in a very clinical tone that held me at a distance; it didn't jump up and grab me. The way it started made me think I was reading about a political drama, but by the end, that doesn't seem to be what this is about at all.

Since Izzie is the narrator, I think it would be good to have her be the focus from the start. She is the one you want the reader/agent to connect with. Maybe you could show some of the things she is struggling with and from there give some of the back story and explanation. That way the focus isn't on Casey but Izzie and her issues.

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