Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXXII

February 19th, 2010 • Kate

todieforSome shoes to die for for J.G., who brings us today’s About My Query post. (Apparently, the shoes “were created by Louise Goldin for Topshop Spring Summer 2010.” via)You all know how this works by now, right? I post a query, give my thoughts, and then you chime in with your comments on other ways to improve it. Let’s do this thang!

Dear Ms. Unfeasible,

I am seeking representation for THE RESURRECTED, my completed 118,000 word paranormal novel with romance and suspense elements.

If she can’t stay with the family she loves, what good is cheating death?

As a reformed con-artist, Collette (35) knows she doesn’t really deserve her adoring husband and young son, but she’s devastated at losing them both when she’s murdered – and resurrected. Ripped from her perfect life, on Mother’s Day no less, she’s trapped in the schemes of a 600-year-old tyrant who intends to overthrow the Lord of immortals. Held hostage by the traitor’s mind control, she struggles to reclaim her freedom before he carries out his threat to slaughter her family. With the free will of all humanity at stake in the showdown between the men, she must decide whom to betray. Should she endanger the world by helping the tyrant destroy the Lord she trusts and admires, or will she sacrifice her family’s safety and her only chance to return home?

After more than a decade of experience in technical writing, I have focused my efforts on creative writing projects for the past three years. I graduated with High Honor from [redacted] with a B.A. from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
J.G.

Thanks for sharing, J.G.! I think there’s some good stuff here, but I have a few comments. First of all, I know how often I talk about a one-line hook, and how important they are, but this one feels like it’s in the wrong place. I think you might be better served to go right from “I am seeking representation…” to the paragraph describing your book, and save the hook for a real punch after the longer summary.

Within the description itself, I think throwing Collette’s age into a parenthetical is unnecessary. The fact that she’s reformed at something, and that she has a young son, gives enough of a hint that we’re not dealing with a teenager. If you want to include her age, I’d find a way to include it more organically, rather than just including the digits.

Nice irony with Mother’s Day, but here’s where I start getting a little confused. Collette is “trapped in the schemes” — can you explain why? I assume the 600-year old tyrant is the one who resurrected her, but does he do it for a specific reason? What makes Collette the perfect tool for his schemes? Does she already know the Lord of Immortals? It seems like she might, or that she at least has some connection with him. Otherwise, I can posit a situation where a captive prisoner like Collette would be happy to do something horrible to a person she’s never met in order to save her family. But why does the tyrant need her help anyway?

Giving us that information in the query would help remove the prose from the vaguely threatening “free will of all humanity at stake” and “sacrifice her family’s safety” for something more definitive, and therefore, hopefully, more compelling.

As I said, I’d throw the hook after the longer description of the book, and then close with your background. Readers, your thoughts?

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10 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query XXXXII”

  1. Corinne Says:

    I'd pick a firm genre: paranormal suspense sounds like it fits best. Most books have an element of romance, and the query itself also alludes to that aspect, so I don't think you need to state it outright.

    The bit about Mother's Day kind of took me out of the flow. I'd snip it, but that may be a very subjective thing.

    As for the rest, I agree with Daphne's comments. I got fairly confused about the actual plot, the characters and their relations to each other. Maybe try to be more specific? It's tough to do in so little space, but without it, we don't know much of what's actually going on.

    Good luck!

  2. Irene Says:

    I quite liked the query although I have to agree with Daphne's comments; the thing that made me wonder was the credentials. I wasn't quite sure they worked for me, both the writer's technical writing experience and three years' worth of creative writing projects. I'd think it would probably be better to omit the technical-writing bit entirely (we know it's two different professions demanding different sets of skills) but instead of the vague "creative writing projects" thing, include actual credentials, like short stories that appeared in relevant publications, etc. Personally, I wouldn't include the education, either (so many great writers never even finished high school, so it's hardly relevant) and let the writer's skills speak for itself.

    I quite liked the story itself! Good luck with it!

  3. Lindsay F Says:

    So I don't really have a comment for the query. But I do have a link to some shoes for Kate to check out!

    http://www.dezeen.com/2009/09/23/mojito-shoe-by-j

    Mojito Shoes!

  4. Murphy Says:

    Okay, I liked the query and looking at the suggestions – I agree with the age thing – (35) not necessary in my books but hey, it didn't bug me too much. I really liked the suggestion to move the hook. I do however, have a question about the mention of Mother's Day irony? How is that ironic? That she's killed on Mother's Day? Does it matter when she's killed? Hmm…I'm not seeing it. Now, if it was her BIRTHday and she was killed and subsequently resurrected and therefore reborn so to speak, maybe. Mother's Day? Nope.

    I see a strong voice, great technical skills and interesting premise.

    Good luck with this one, Jami – and Daphine, I’m glad I found this blog. From one shoe lover to another? I may kick up my heels (they'd be gorgeous black and white stilettoes 😉 ) and stay awhile.

    Murphy

  5. Murphy Says:

    Oops! Maybe I'll stay freaking long enough to spell check next time. That would be: Daphne – not Daphine – Sheesh! And I haven't even had my dirty martini yet. 😀

  6. Adam Heine Says:

    Held hostage by the traitor's mind control…

    I assume the traitor is the 600-year-old tyrant, but it's not clear. I'd recommend using as few identifiers as possible. Assuming the tyrant is an immortal, it's clear from context ('Lord of immortals') that he's acting as a traitor.

    Why is Lord capitalized, but not immortals? Lord of Immortals sounds like a title.

    "the Lord she trusts and admires" threw me. It implied a relationship sort of out of the blue (up until then, I assumed Collette was being dragged into a conflict that had nothing to do with her). That relationship is important, otherwise Collette's choice is an easy one like Daphne said. It should be shown in the query somehow.

    Those are my thoughts. There's some cool stuff in here. Don't give up!

  7. DeAnna Says:

    1)Ripped from her perfect life. Really? Who has a perfect life? There's more drama in imperfection.

    2)It sounds like a comedy (Scarecrow and Mrs. King), and then it doesn't. Make sure the tone of the book is clear.

    3)Why her? (Either she has backstory with these guys or she doesn't; it sounds like you want it both ways right now.)

    Plus, what everyone else said 🙂

    The best way to get me to pick it up would be to write it as a comedy, change the name to "The Resurrection of a Con-Mom" and pitch a clear romantic subplot (Lord of Immortals is an ex-boyfriend. Who knew?) – But that's what I'd like. Because I'm not sure what the tone of the book is, I don't know whether that's your book. Tell me what kind of book I'm picking up, eh?

  8. Mechelle Fogelsong Says:

    J.G. I loved the Mother's Day quirk! That was the one spot in the query that made me go, "Ooh!" I see the irony, definitely.

    The part where "she struggles to reclaim her freedom before he carries out his threat to slaughter her family" is what got me. I had to backtrack. Do you mean the family that was lost in the first sentence? When you said, "losing them both", I thought they had been killed too. My mind tried to conjure up a second family, when you talked about the threat of slaughter. So I agree with Daphne as far as the confusion thing goes. A change in wording may do the trick.

  9. j & K, Newbie Au Says:

    JG-Are you going to post a new draft of The Resurrection query? The names, titles and the past/present relationships between all the principals was quite confusing. And I wondered whether Colette's past has been kept a secret from her husband/son.

    If Colette is resurrected, does she see what is happening to her family but they can't see her–do they just think she is dead? Or is she back living among them and they never knew she died in the first place? What do you mean she is held hostage by mind control–is she wandering the earth doing the bad guys bidding or is she a prisoner is some special place like Limbo where people who are brought back from the dead hang out.

    Don't despair. The author knows her own novel so well that she assumes that what she writes in a short summary like this will make sense to the recipient. But remember, we know nothing about your story or the world that you have created. Everything has to be spelled out. That is why the Daphne About My Query blog is such a valuable resource!

  10. Jami G. Says:

    Thank you so much, everyone! I greatly appreciate all your help and suggestions. As has been noted, it's very difficult to know how much detail 'should be' and 'needs to be' in a query to make it concise, clear, and interesting.

    There were many wonderful comments, and I haven't gotten a chance to incorporate all of them yet, but here's what I have so far for an updated descriptive paragraph(s):

    As a reformed con-artist, Collette (35) knows she doesn’t deserve her adoring husband and young son, but she’s devastated at losing them both when she’s murdered – and resurrected. Ripped from her perfect life, on Mother’s Day no less, she’s trapped in the schemes of a 600-year-old traitor who intends to overthrow the Lord of the immortals. He forces her into the Lord’s life, convinced her resemblance to the man’s lost love will expose his weaknesses. But the traitor didn’t anticipate that she’d rebel against his mind control as she grows to admire the Lord for his commitment to protecting humanity’s free will.

    Her free will is only the first of many at stake when she struggles to reclaim her freedom before the traitor can carry out his punishment for her defiance: slaughtering her family. Caught in the showdown between the men, she must decide whom to betray. Should she endanger the world by helping the traitor destroy the Lord who shields them, or should she sacrifice her family for the sake of all humanity?