Ask Daphne! About My Query LXIV

July 16th, 2010 • Kate

dior-couture-shoesIf it’s Friday, it must be time for Another About My Query post! And it is, so it is, so there. Going to take this query paragraph by paragraph, which is to say I’m stopping after each paragraph to make comments, and not reading the whole thing at once. You can chose to do the same if you’d like, by following the links after each paragraph in the query, or read it all at once, and see if I missed anything by critiquing as I go, as opposed to after the fact.

Dear Daphne Unfeasible,

Ronnie Casate controls people’s minds to do little things, like nab a spot on student council or pass chemistry. She’d never abuse the psychic channels connecting everything (and everyone), and besides, in high school, Ronnie doesn’t need special powers to know what’s on most people’s minds. Then the Agency keeping tabs on channelers asks for her help. Someone is selling out channelers around the city to the People United Against Channelers, or Pukers, and the Agency needs her to find out whom. She agrees only after they threaten her family. My Comments

But someone at the Agency doesn’t want Ronnie snooping. When Ronnie acts on conflicting orders, she’s forced to flee the Agency before they kill her for ruining the mission. Ronnie runs straight into the one place they won’t look: Adrian Latham’s arms. Adrian is smart, handsome, and a Puker. He doesn’t know what she is, and Ronnie’s determined he won’t find out. But her powers are becoming harder to hide when they strengthen with every use. My Comments

If Ronnie doesn’t return to the Agency, they’ll hurt her parents. If she stays with Adrian, he’ll discover she’s a channeler. And if she doesn’t show up at school sometime soon, she’s going to fail three months before graduation. With time and options running out, Ronnie must trust the little things she can do (and the big things she’s learning) to save everyone she cares about by uncovering and stopping the spies. My Comments

CHANNELING TROUBLE, my YA urban fantasy, is complete at 60,000 words. I have a BA in English/Creative Writing from Eastern University, and [Small Press] included my YA fantasy short story, “Story,” in its recent anthology [ANTHOLOGY].

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you. My Comments

Best,
Jess T.

First of all, I’m not certain I buy that nabbing a spot on student council or passing chemistry are “little things”, but I’m going to go with it as indicative of how Ronnie feels about how she uses her powers. In the next sentence, I think you can simply things by just talking about the “psychic channels connecting everyone” — saying “everything” makes me think about the psychic thoughts of chairs. I love the “besides,” though. The next three sentences are where I get confused though. Is Ronnie already aware of the Agency when they contact her? What about the Pukers? Did she already know they exist? Why does the Agency target Ronnie? What’s special about her, specifically? It can’t just be her ability to control people’s mind, not in a world where there’s an Agency that oversees people like her. And how do they threaten her family? Physically? With exposure of Ronnie’s powers? I feel like a government agency has a lot of pull on people, beyond just physical violence. Back to the Query!

So here you’re setting up even more double-crossing. There’s at least two different factions within the Agency, it seems, plus now we’re hearing about the more personal side of the Pukers. Unfortunately, what can read as exciting action and worries about double-crosses in a novel can just seem confusing in a query letter. How can you simply this? I get that there are two groups at the Agency, one who does want her to snoop, and one that doesn’t. But I guess both are high enough that she follows their orders even when they conflict. And how does she know they conflict? Did she get one set of orders, and then another, and had to choose which set to follow? Did she only get one set, but those were contrary to what everyone else on the mission got? Maybe you can just say “When Ronnie follows the wrong set of orders”. Moving on, it would seem to be that an Agency task force investigating the Pukers would see her pretty quickly when she runs straight to one. Why is Adrian the “one place they won’t look”? And what’s Ronnie and Adrian’s connection — I assume they had one prior to this point? Also, the last sentence here is nice, but I wonder if you want to mention previously that she’s been hiding her powers — maybe that’s why she’s surprised when the Agency contacts her i the first place? Because she thought she was doing so well hiding her abilities? Back to the Query!

I love the three options here! They’re expressed very well. That said, I think we need more about the spies. Because isn’t Ronnie, and everyone at the Agency a spy? (In the CIA sense of the word. Or the Alias sense.) So what you really mean is double-agent. Or some kind of spy on the spies. I also wonder if there’s a way that we can learn more about WHO Ronnie is, instead of just concentrating on WHAT she can do. There’s a line from The Incredibles: “When everyone is special, then no one is.” So if Ronnie is working with a group of channelers, what else is it about her that will help her win the day? Back to the Query!

In general, I think there’s lots here to like (despite my copious comments), but also a lot that can be tweaked to be made even stronger. I think the Alias-meets-mind-control (in high school!) aspect of this is very strong, very high-concept, but I want to know more about the characters than just the situation.

Readers, what do you think? Is Ronnie the next Sydney Bristow? How would you improve on this, or do you think it needs improving? And who’s your favorite TV, book, or movie spy?

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5 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LXIV”

  1. Jess Says:

    Yay! That's really helpful, and of course, the mss answers all those questions, but that means it's not presented well enough in the query. I'll be tweaking it for sure. 🙂

    I would love Ronnie to be the next Sydney Bristow! Looking forward to reader comments, too.

  2. Krista V. Says:

    Jess, you're definitely on the right track. Like Daphne, I wonder about the prior relationship between Ronnie and Adrian Latham (great name, by the way). And I wish I knew a more about the differing factions within the Agency. You might try telling us what their conflicting orders are – and how she acts on both of them at once.

    On the whole, though, I think these are just little tweaks. (When Daphne gives you as many compliments as suggestions, you know you're not too far off:) ) Best of luck.

  3. Rowenna Says:

    This is a fun concept! Ronnie sounds like an exciting character to tag along with–I do agree with Daphne that I'd like to know a little more about her, not just what she does. I have to react to one thing, though–Pukers? I'm not sure about it–maybe it's my tender tummy that reacts against it, or that throw-up jokes feel more like chapter-book or middle-grade humor, but I just didn't feel like it fit here. Maybe that's my lack of breakfast talking, though, so don't pay it too much mind!

    Favorite movie spy? James Bond all the way 🙂 Favorite real-life spy? Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale: "I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." Spies are dashing to the end 🙂

  4. Rissa Watkins Says:

    I agree with Daphne that mind control to win student council or pass chemistry isn’t a little thing.

    Why do they have to threaten her family before she will help? These are her own people that are being sold out- she doesn’t want to help them?

    The story sounds like a good one. I like that she followed orders and tried to do the right thing, but gets in trouble for it because of the spy. A good twist on top of the conflict with Adrian (want to know more about him too).

    I don’t see her as the next Sydney, I am picturing her a little more bumbling and funny. Kinda like the sisters in Charmed (though I know they aren’t spies). I would definitely read this book.

    As for my favorite spy, hmmm, Sydney was kick butt, other than her Jason Bourne. Never was a fan of 007 though.

  5. Jill Elizabeth Says:

    I don't think this query needs much more than a little tweaking. Maybe simplify some things up front–but I feel like the problems & consequences are laid out very clearly here.

    Like some of the comments above, there are aspects I want to know more about, but not in an "I'm confused, can you clarify?" kind of way. Rather, in a "wow, I'd love to dig into that manuscript" kind of way. Which is a good thing!

    Also love the twist on the acronym–Pukers–sounds kind of Scott Westerfield-ish.