Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

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madmcgee
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Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by madmcgee » January 16th, 2012, 10:57 pm

I am new to this blog and forum. I promise I will be active in posting to others' query drafts if I can get a little feedback here. :D

Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared. Honor prepares as the pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander through burned out cities. The media lies about the rising death rate. Governments institute massive cover-ups. People vanish; some disappear into quarantine and some die. Even worse, some won’t stay dead.

Honor will not let her family be victims, easy prey for the government’s lies and the zombie’s jaws. Led by bow-wielding vixen Honor, these urban survivors fight their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers with nothing but determination to pull them through.

When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that now the worst is over. But survival costs them, dearly. Forced to confront opportunistic bandits and the panic of isolation, Honor and her family fight for their humanity as they learn what real terror is.

HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE is a finished 100,000 word horror novel which proves that a working human mind is much scarier than any monsters that bump in the night.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by Quill » January 17th, 2012, 12:07 am

Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared.

The pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander burned out cities. The media lies about it. Governments institute cover-ups. Millions vanish into quarantine or die. Worse, many won’t stay dead.

One family refuses to be victims, easy prey for government subterfuge or zombie jaws. Led by bow-wielding vixen Honor, these urban survivors fight their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers with little but determination to pull them through.

When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that the worst is over. They couldn't be further from the truth. Forced to confront opportunistic bandits and the panic of isolation, Honor and her family fight for their lives and their humanity. Then they learn what real terror is.

HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE is a 100,000-word horror novel about how the human mind is scarier than any monster that goes bump in the night.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by madmcgee » January 18th, 2012, 4:59 am

Quill,

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! May I ask for just a bit more of your time? My query is pretty short to begin with (around 250 words total), so can you explain why I need to remove more words? Is the flow wrong? Word choices off-putting? Am I not creating enough tension (you know, to make it... well, scary)?

I'm struggling a bit with being objective and, although I do like some of your suggestions (especially for the word count paragraph) I can't figure out why some of them are suggested.

Thank you!

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by Quill » January 18th, 2012, 9:29 am

It's not about your query length. It's about tightness and maximizing tension.
madmcgee wrote:Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared.
A decent opening that deserves its own paragraph.
Honor prepares as the pandemic creeps across the globe.
Prepares is not an action verb and doesn't convey much info here; it's vague.
Infected souls wander through burned out cities. The media lies about the rising death rate. Governments institute massive cover-ups. People vanish; some disappear into quarantine and some die. Even worse, some won’t stay dead.
I deleted what I felt were extra words, mostly qualifiers that seemed to reduce tension: "through, rising, massive, some, even."
Honor will not let her family be victims, easy prey for the government’s lies and the zombie’s jaws. Led by bow-wielding vixen Honor,
This is not quite coherent: "Honor will not let...Led by Honor." More coherent would "Honor will not let...She leads"

By the way, what is a "vixen"? I know it as a fox or a pretty girl. Neither seems to fit. Do you intend something else?
these urban survivors fight their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers with nothing but determination to pull them through.
Okay, but obviously they have SOMETHING other than determination, i.e. Honor's bow.
When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that now the worst is over.
Okay, but the word "now" adds nothing. I'd delete it.
But survival costs them, dearly.
Besides being cliche (costs them dearly) the word "dearly" here adds nothing, and seems self-conscious (the writer intruding).
Forced to confront opportunistic bandits and the panic of isolation, Honor and her family fight for their humanity as they learn what real terror is.
Seems a little off as the main climax or crux. You're sounding like confronting bandits and panic is a much greater terror than fighting their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers. I can't picture this as the case.

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by Walker » January 18th, 2012, 10:55 am

Hi Madmcgee, like you, I am also new to the board, and I am working on writing a query. So I don't have a lot of experience with this but I can offer my opinion just as a reader.


madmcgee wrote:I am new to this blog and forum. I promise I will be active in posting to others' query drafts if I can get a little feedback here. :D

Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared.
I think your first sentence grabs the reader's attention, and as Quill suggested, I would let it stand alone.
Honor prepares as the pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander through burned out cities. The media lies about the rising death rate. Governments institute massive cover-ups. People vanish; some disappear into quarantine and some die. Even worse, some won’t stay dead.
How does Honor prepare? What plans does she make? I don't need to know the whole story but maybe a little more idea of what your main character is doing would be informative.
Honor will not let her family be victims, easy prey for the government’s lies and the zombie’s jaws. Led by bow-wielding vixen Honor, these urban survivors fight their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers with nothing but determination to pull them through.
'Vixen' might be a bit much...we don't know much about Honor. Is she a hunter?
When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that now the worst is over. But survival costs them, dearly. Forced to confront opportunistic bandits and the panic of isolation, Honor and her family fight for their humanity as they learn what real terror is.
I think I get what you're saying here -that they have to face not only zombies but some nasty people as well, but it's not 100% clear.
HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE is a finished 100,000 word horror novel which proves that a working human mind is much scarier than any monsters that bump in the night.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
I'm not sure what a 'working human mind' means -are you referring to the bandits? or Honor? Maybe just clear this up a bit.

You have a nice concept. Hope my comments are helpful, and best of luck with your query!

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by madmcgee » January 18th, 2012, 3:33 pm

Thank you, thank you! This makes so much sense. So, if we are down to word choice, I am thinking that means the structure and pacing were good enough to begin with. Yay, me! And yay, you for helping me tighten it up so much! This is my first query letter and I am extremely grateful for your expertise, Quill.
Quill wrote:It's not about your query length. It's about tightness and maximizing tension.
madmcgee wrote:Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared.
A decent opening that deserves its own paragraph.
I see this now. I just didn't want to seem guilty of having one of those cheesy, gratuitous one liner openers and I didn't know if this was strong enough for a tag line.
Honor prepares as the pandemic creeps across the globe.
Prepares is not an action verb and doesn't convey much info here; it's vague.
Yes, I agonized over this word choice. Actually, this one sentence took me longer to write than the whole rest of the query, because she does spend time preparing, which is a big part of the plot. Most zombie novels open with an MC who is totally unprepared, ignorant of what is happening and in a mad dash for simple survival. My girl Honor, on the other hand, is smart and resourceful; she knows what's happening and has a plan. Of course, that doesn't stop her plan from falling apart. Because this is so essential to the plot, I did want to include it in some way. Without using this extremely poor and lazy word choice, I'm not sure how to convey this.
Infected souls wander through burned out cities. The media lies about the rising death rate. Governments institute massive cover-ups. People vanish; some disappear into quarantine and some die. Even worse, some won’t stay dead.
I deleted what I felt were extra words, mostly qualifiers that seemed to reduce tension: "through, rising, massive, some, even."
Yes, this definitely flows better. Thank you!
Honor will not let her family be victims, easy prey for the government’s lies and the zombie’s jaws. Led by bow-wielding vixen Honor,
This is not quite coherent: "Honor will not let...Led by Honor." More coherent would "Honor will not let...She leads"

By the way, what is a "vixen"? I know it as a fox or a pretty girl. Neither seems to fit. Do you intend something else?
I had always heard of vixen as a smart, strong, pretty female. But if it is that distracting, I'll just dump it. I tend to overuse adjectives, but I think her strength is showing through her actions here. Do you get the sense that Honor is a strong female?
these urban survivors fight their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers with nothing but determination to pull them through.
Okay, but obviously they have SOMETHING other than determination, i.e. Honor's bow.
Tee, hee, I cliche dropped and didn't even realize it. Thanks for the catch, Quill!
But survival costs them, dearly.
Besides being cliche (costs them dearly) the word "dearly" here adds nothing, and seems self-conscious (the writer intruding).
You are so right. Another lazy-writer gimmick to add tension. So not needed.
Forced to confront opportunistic bandits and the panic of isolation, Honor and her family fight for their humanity as they learn what real terror is.
Seems a little off as the main climax or crux. You're sounding like confronting bandits and panic is a much greater terror than fighting their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers. I can't picture this as the case.
Again, I was trying to squeeze plot points in and took the lazy-writer way out. Yes, the bandits are more terrifying than the soldiers or the zombies. that's actually the theme of my novel, but I didn't want to come right out and say: here's my theme, Mr./Ms. Agent." The zombies are scary, but ultimately they are mindless. The soldiers are scary, but they at least have the redeeming quality of thinking they are doing the right thing. The bandits have no redeeming intent for good and they are fully aware of what they are doing; they just choose to opportunistically prey upon others in the worst excesses of depravity *for fun*. To me, one human torturing or hurting another and enjoying it is the most terrifying thing of all. Give me zombies any day! So, I need to work on how I can show this in the query without massively overwriting or going "themey"?

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by madmcgee » January 18th, 2012, 4:37 pm

Thank you, Walker! it's nice to know I'm not the only newbie. I'm not much for lurking, I always prefer to just dive right in, but it can be a bit intimidating when so many people have been here for years.
Walker wrote:
Honor prepares as the pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander through burned out cities. The media lies about the rising death rate. Governments institute massive cover-ups. People vanish; some disappear into quarantine and some die. Even worse, some won’t stay dead.
How does Honor prepare? What plans does she make? I don't need to know the whole story but maybe a little more idea of what your main character is doing would be informative.
I'm not really sure how to work this into the query, especially since her preparations all take place before the story starts.
Honor will not let her family be victims, easy prey for the government’s lies and the zombie’s jaws. Led by bow-wielding vixen Honor, these urban survivors fight their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers with nothing but determination to pull them through.
'Vixen' might be a bit much...we don't know much about Honor. Is she a hunter?
Ack, definitely need to make my MC more fleshed out.
When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that now the worst is over. But survival costs them, dearly. Forced to confront opportunistic bandits and the panic of isolation, Honor and her family fight for their humanity as they learn what real terror is.
I think I get what you're saying here -that they have to face not only zombies but some nasty people as well, but it's not 100% clear.
I'll try to clarify this part. Thanks for pointing that out!
I'm not sure what a 'working human mind' means -are you referring to the bandits? or Honor? Maybe just clear this up a bit.
I'm referring to the bandits. To me, greedy or cruel people are far scarier than monsters. I want to show this without becoming too "themey."
You have a nice concept. Hope my comments are helpful, and best of luck with your query![/quote]

Thank you! Your comments were very helpful; I'm glad you pointed out the places where my writing became confusing. I of course knew what I was trying to say, so thank you for pointing out from the reader's perspective where I fell short of my ideal.

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by madmcgee » January 18th, 2012, 4:38 pm

Thank you Walker and Quill. Here is my updated version. Is it any better?

Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared.

The pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander through burned out cities. Governments institute massive cover-ups. Across the globe millions vanish into quarantine or die. Worse, some won’t stay dead.

One family refuses to be victims, easy prey for government subterfuge or zombie jaws. With her ingenuity and advanced warning, rookie narcotics detective Honor leads these urban survivors through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers.

When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that the worst is over, until opportunistic bandits attack their hard-won sense of security. Surrounded on all sides by hostile forces, Honor and her family fight for their lives, their new home, and their understanding of what it means to be human.

HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE is a 100,000-word horror novel in which the cruelty of humans is scarier than any monster that goes bump in the night.

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by Walker » January 19th, 2012, 1:02 pm

madmcgee wrote:Thank you Walker and Quill. Here is my updated version. Is it any better?

Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak.Outbreak of what? viral outbreak? just realized that this might be something the agent wonders about. He then promptly disappeared.

The pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander through burned out cities. Governments institute massive cover-ups. Across the globe millions vanish into quarantine or die. Worse, some won’t stay dead.

One family refuses to be victims, easy prey for government subterfuge or zombie jaws. With her ingenuity and advanced warning, rookie narcotics detective Honor last name? leads these urban survivors through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers.

When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that the worst is over, until opportunistic bandits attack their hard-won sense of security.Maybe a slight change of phrase, as you can't actually physically attack a sense of security. Maybe something like " ...bandits attack their home, shattering their hard-won sense of security"? Surrounded on all sides by hostile forces, Honor and her family fight for their lives, their new home, and their understanding of what it means to be human.

HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE is a 100,000-word horror novel in which the cruelty of humans is scarier than any monster that goes bump in the night.
I think this one is tighter and the inclusion of Honor's job (Narcotics cop) is very helpful, as now I understand how she could be leading a group in a fight. Definitely better and I hope my follow up comments are helpful.

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by theWallflower » January 19th, 2012, 3:55 pm

Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared.
-How old is Honor?
-I think you need to define who these people are, because if they're CDC doctors, this is not unusual. But if they're college students, this seems strange to do.
The pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander through burned out cities. Governments institute massive cover-ups. Across the globe millions vanish into quarantine or die. Worse, some won’t stay dead.
-"Governments institute massive cover-ups" This seems cliche to mention. I'd more like to know what Honor does. What is her story?
One family refuses to be victims, easy prey for government subterfuge or zombie jaws. With her ingenuity and advanced warning, rookie narcotics detective Honor leads these urban survivors through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers.
-Wait, now is this a story about the family or about Honor?
-Also, that's a very transparent and ridiculous name. Consider changing it.
-I don't think you need "ingenuity and advanced warning", that's implied with her armed forces background.
-Also, why does Honor help these people? What's in it for her? And is she betraying her duty by doing so?
When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that the worst is over, until opportunistic bandits attack their hard-won sense of security. Surrounded on all sides by hostile forces, Honor and her family fight for their lives, their new home, and their understanding of what it means to be human.
-"opportunistic bandits attack their hard-won sense of security" this is wordy. All you need to say is bandits attack them. Then say what the consequences are of that. What changes?
-The last sentence means nothing, especially the "what does it mean to be human" part because you haven't demonstrated that theme at all throughtout the query.
-What are the stakes if Honor can't lead them to safety, or the family dies? It has to be more than "they die", you've got to give them something bigger to work for
-Also, where is safety? Is it some cabin in the wilderness, cause man, you haven't seen Evil Dead.
HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE is a 100,000-word horror novel in which the cruelty of humans is scarier than any monster that goes bump in the night.
-That's actually pretty typical of zombie stories -- the human threat turns out to be more dangerous than the zombies.
-I suggest you watch Extra Credits' Zombies at http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/zombies editorial for some more information that might help distinguish your query.
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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by madmcgee » January 19th, 2012, 8:01 pm

Wallflower,

Thanks so much for your response. You know, based on your comments, I think that my query has been really missing the mark. It is essentially a story following one family's survival of the approaching zombie apocalypse. Honor leads her family (and no, I will not change the name. It is essential to the plot.).

At first, Honor tries to warn the world about the outbreak, but world governments will not listen in a short-sighted attempt to contain the threat without inciting panic. Her friend, a journalist investigating the first reported outbreaks, disappears into quarantine when he tries to blow the whistle.

After two years of careful planning, their escape should have been easy. Except half of the family gets left behind and Honor has to go back to rescue them, leading them through the burned out city of Santa Barbara. They escape after being captured by over zealous soldiers trying to quarantine the area and must battle through zombie-infested territory that the military has not reached. So much for advanced preparation, huh? Along the way, she meets and rescues several characters who become adopted members of the family.

Honor gets them to their sanctuary in the mountains of northern Washington. The family, comprised of a few dozen thought it would be isolated and safe. They start to rebuild a happy little society. The worst threats in their new life are learning to live off the land and even establishing a token economy and a simple government. They keep in touch with other pockets of civilization via ham radio. They think they are safe again.

But they didn't get far enough away. First a few straggling survivors looking for a haven find them. The zombies start to find them. Then Honor and her family must fight off brigands intent on stealing their food/supplies and destroying their new way of life.

I am actually a zombie buff and have read/watched pretty much everything zombie I can get my hands on. This story is unique because of the advanced preparation the family has. They aren't just intent on surviving short term, scavenging whatever they can find. They are trying to protect the fruits of the human species in the event of global infestation. Zombies are a trope, and the biggest fear of humans living in this comfortable era isn't dying, it's losing our cultural identities. You can see this in all the people of today bemoaning the loss of literature in the age of tweeting. That's why Honor and her family stockpile the best classical literature before they flee. They refuse to become barbarians; they'll read Shakespeare even if they have to wipe their butts with pine cones. (tee, hee!)

Anyway, yes, I think I missed the thread of my own story in this first query. It isn't about the massive global apocalypse or the government/media response. It's about a single family recreating and preserving the best of what it is do be human as society is wiped away.

Now I just need to figure out how to write that into a query! Thank you!

Sincerely,
Tamara

PS. That link was great. It reminded me of Zero Punctuation. I've seen (and loved) Evil Dead. Are you, by any chance, a fellow nerd?

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by Walker » January 20th, 2012, 2:30 pm

madmcgee wrote:Anyway, yes, I think I missed the thread of my own story in this first query. It isn't about the massive global apocalypse or the government/media response. It's about a single family recreating and preserving the best of what it is do be human as society is wiped away.
I'm finding this too when I work on my query for my own book. Sort of a forest for the trees thing. I know what happens in my story, so I think I make assumptions that the reader will too. I bet it's not uncommon. Now I see the value in having other folks read and critique it before it goes out.

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Re: Horror Query HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE

Post by amirsdaddy » January 29th, 2012, 7:23 pm

madmcgee wrote:
Two years ago, Honor’s best friend sent her an e-mail warning of a suspected outbreak. He then promptly disappeared. Honor prepares as the pandemic creeps across the globe. Infected souls wander through burned out cities. The media lies about the rising death rate. Governments institute massive cover-ups. People vanish; some disappear into quarantine and some die. Even worse, some won’t stay dead.
I actually kinda like the beginning paragraph. I would put a brief description of Honor in the second sentence so we know who this Honor is (besides just the main character). It doesn't have to be expansive and can be broad but we want to know something about Honor to get invested in him/her.
madmcgee wrote:Honor will not let her family be victims, easy prey for the government’s lies and the zombie’s jaws. Led by bow-wielding vixen Honor, these urban survivors fight their way through hordes of zombies and platoons of soldiers with nothing but determination to pull them through.
madmcgee wrote:When they reach their new wilderness home, they feel optimistic that now the worst is over. But survival costs them, dearly.
So here's where the stakes are raised and the story gets even more interesting, right? Show it. You say survival costs them. Now give us a little sample of what it costs them (without giving away too much, of course). Also, if you're going to put a line like But survival costs them, dearly, I would write it like this "But survival costs them... dearly." I know the ellipsis is frowned upon for the most part, but it's still correct to use. The more generally accepted form would be "But survival costs them--dearly." Either way, the end result is the same: a pause for dramatic effect (dun dun DUN!) which is much more effectual than a simple comma.
madmcgee wrote:Forced to confront opportunistic bandits and the panic of isolation, Honor and her family fight for their humanity as they learn what real terror is.
That's not a bad ending in truth. It could be better, though. A sort of 'cliffhanger' is usually effective at making the reader want to pick up the book and read to find out exactly what happens as opposed to reading into the theme of the story.
madmcgee wrote:HONOR: A ZOMBIE TALE is a finished 100,000 word horror novel which proves that a working human mind is much scarier than any monsters that bump in the night.
Perhaps the theme is more appropriately suited for this paragraph. Although, maybe not use such a cliched phrase. You're original and talented. You're a writer for God's sake! You can come up with a simile, metaphor, expression or other appropriate description than one that's been used over and over again ad nauseum.

It truly does sound like a book well worth the read. Now you just have to convince an agent of that with this one page letter. That's the trickiest part I've found of this whole writing process. Best of luck to you.

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