Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXII

September 10th, 2010 • Kate

puccipurpleFashion Week is underway in NYC as we speak, and so I expect more images of gorgeous shoes (like these Pucci heels) to start popping up soon on my internet searches. Swoon! But we’re way late on today’s About My Query post, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

Dear Daphne,

Shy Lizzie Thompson has grown up believing she killed her mom on the day she was born, and not the diagnosed medical condition her mother suffered from. Her dad worked tirelessly to give her everything she needed, so when the day came for her to give back, by going on an innocent date with the boss’s son, college guy Nathan, she willingly agreed. How was she supposed to know the boy would violently beat and rape her on the night of her seventeenth birthday?

Good thing Josh Rayburn was spying on Lizzie, his crush; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to incapacitate her attacker, take her home to his house, and heal her wounds. Through Josh’s undying support and protection, an unbreakable bond of trust forms. Just as Lizzie realizes the conscience altering love between them, Josh is arrested for assaulting her attacker. The rich slime actually twisted the story and claimed he was the one trying to save Lizzie!

Now it’s up to Lizzie to find her voice and tell the truth about what happened, despite the deep emotional pain it will cause her father. She must battle against the gossiping towns’ people and police, who are in the pocket of Nathan’s wealthy father. Not to mention Nathan’s longtime buddy, Officer Dunston who will have her killed before the truth comes out.

My YA romance, THE FLOWER GARDEN, is complete at 86,000 words. I am prepared to send a partial or full manuscript upon your request. Thank you for your time and consideration of my novel.

Sincerely,
Melanie

First line — do you mean “despite that she’s been told her mother had a diagnosed medical condition,” or that the fact of the medical condition was kept from her? It’s a big difference, and totally changes what I think about Lizzie. I also don’t love the sense that Lizzie only goes out with Nathan as a way of paying back her father — not because that may not be what she does or why, but because the way it’s worded, it seems as if that’s the first and only thing she’s done to pay her father back for raising her alone. And I’m sure that’s not the case. I want to picture their family relationship like Veronica and Keith in Veronica Mars, and well, when you bring in rape and a wealthy father who bankrolls the police force, the Veronica Mars comparison seems particularly apt.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Veronica Mars, but I want to make sure this is different enough to appeal to those agents and editors, like me, who are also big fans, and want something to hang the comparison on without it seeming like a rip-off.

And that may be Josh’s role in this — although the language you use to describe his actions around Lizzie do keep me guessing if maybe she’s not seeing things clearly. “Conscience altering love” is a wee bit heavy handed, and it would be a really interesting twist if “the rich slime” isn’t entirely the bad guy here. If that’s so, I think you need to hint a bit more that Josh isn’t quite the knight in shining armor the emotionally bruised Lizzie thinks he is. If not — if it is as straightforward as it seems on the surface — I think you need to lighten up on the relationship that develops between Josh and Lizzie.

Moving on to Lizzie having to “tell the truth” despite the pain it will cause her father — do you mean going public, or telling him what happened in the first place? Again, I want that Veronica Mars-esque connection between father and daughter, and I hate the idea of Lizzie keeping a secret like her rape by her father’s boss’ son from her dad. Hate.

Nitpicky: how many towns are we talking about? Or is that a misplaced apostrophe in the penultimate paragraph?

I’m also really jolted by the idea that teenage Nathan is longtime buddies with a cop that’s prepared to kill Lizzie. That’s huge, and really ups the stakes in a YA novel. It may be something that develops more naturally in the book, but in the short form of a query, it’s almost too much.

On the whole, though, I like this, and I’d be interested in reading more. I’d definitely look at the sample pages if this came across my desk — although the title gives me a bit of pause. But titles can easily be changed.

What do you think, my wise and wonderful readers?

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13 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXII”

  1. Alicia Says:

    I have a huge problem with the fact that her crush is spying on her, and that he's the one who saves her. I want her to be able to save herself, and I definitely don't want her to get saved from a rapist by a stalker.

  2. Karen Says:

    I don’t really have a problem with the crush saving her, as Alicia said. Sometimes people need help. Sometimes bad things happen and just because she couldn’t, “save herself,” doesn’t necessarily make her a victim. What she does afterward or how you have written her character will be the true mark of whether she has saved herself or not.

    At first I was turned off by the rape because I thought I didn’t want to read a story where the mc is raped, but then I remembered that I love J.D. Robb’s In Death series and the mc was raped by her father—something that recurs in just about every novel. Not to mention, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which has a very violent rape scene and I loved that book.

    Still, there was something that made me think I’d put this book down if I read the back of it in a store. I didn’t get the feel of a YA romance from this query. Nothing really romantic has happened, with the exception of Josh’s trust and support forming a bond between them. I think you try to add a bit of epic romance with, “conscience altering love,” but I think it seems a bit dramatic. The sentence would be stronger if it read: Just as Lizzie realizes the love between them…

    I agree with Kate that it would be good if Josh isn’t a complete white knight. Flaws are good and real and as he was already watching/stalking her—hope there’s a good explanation for that—then there is already a foundation for a workable flaw for him. It would also be good if Nathan isn’t all bad. Stories are always much stronger when the antagonist has something you can relate to, something people can empathize with.

    I’m not saying you don’t have these elements in your novel, just that it’s not coming across in the query. I would be more inclined to walk to the counter and purchase this book if I had a hint that there might be a bit of good in Nathan and a bit of bad in Josh.

    Also, is there a supernatural element in this? I ask because you say Josh takes Lizzie to his house and HEALS her wounds. Unless he has a power to do that (with vampire blood-hee-hee), then I think you should probably say something like treat her wounds.

    Hope that helps! 🙂

  3. allreb Says:

    Hmm. Unlike Kate, I'm actually intrigued by the idea of her not telling her dad — I think it's set up well in the beginning where she feels like she owes him. If she feels so strongly about that to begin with, then it works for me that she'd be afraid to come clean and risk (presumably) getting him fired. I feel like that's a really interesting internal struggle.

    The thing that throws me is Josh taking her home and nursing her back to health. It seems like that would take… days? weeks? depending on how badly she's hurt, and wouldn't her dad wonder where she is? I know that's a minor point, but it definitely pulled me out of the query.

    I also agree with Alicia above that it comes off like Josh is stalking her, which is creepy and puts me off of him as a love interest — but that's something I feel could potentially be fine in the story itself (though it also could be hugely problematic). I can't tell from the query itself, and would probably give it the benefit of a doubt.

    Overall, this isn't my genre (being a total sf/f girl myself) but it's got enough elements that intrigue me that I'd probably skim the first page or two if I saw it sitting in a friend's apartment.

  4. Krista V. Says:

    The impreciseness of the language was what stuck out to me about this query. In the first sentence, everything after the comma tripped me up. For some reason, I read it as "she killed this, and not that" instead of "this [she] killed her mom, and not that," which I'm pretty sure is how you meant it (if that makes sense). Actually, I don't think we even need the after-comma clause, because the her mother's illness doesn't come up again.

    Also, I got hung up on the phrase "conscience altering love" not because I thought it was over the top (although I can see where Kate and the others are getting that), but because I wasn't sure what "conscience altering love" even is. How does love alter conscience, in general or in this case?

    Finally, the comma Kate pointed out in the second-to-last paragraph is problematic. As she said, I'm pretty sure you meant "town's people," but "townspeople" is a word, so you might just go with "the gossiping townspeople and police" and eliminate the problem altogether.

    Good luck!

    P.S. Since everybody else is chiming in on the stalker issue, I guess I'll chime in, too:) I DIDN'T read it that way, but then, I'm usually the last one to pick up on that stalker vibe. Maybe it's because I think the best of these boys and assume they're all just naturally shy and not sure how to express their interest in a more socially acceptable way? Still, I can see where they're coming from, so you should probably address it.

  5. Jess Says:

    The things that struck me:

    – Josh does seem stalkerish

    – the policeman willing to kill is way over the top, I'd cut that line completely

    – reading the pitch I wouldn't have called this a romance

    – everyone but Lizzie feels flat and I didn't connect to Lizzie (despite the gratuitous backstory) though she's depicted more roundly

    – I agree with Krista about the impreciseness of the language. I think the story could be a good one but I'd wonder how the actual *writing* holds together

    I have one specific qualm, too. The first paragraph is set-up, which is fine, but it's all so blase expositiony that when you get to the last sentence you have to read it a couple times and say, wait did that just happen? … not sure what would fix that, transition-wise. I think the problem is less that the last sentence is disconnected and more that the former sentences ARE expositionally bland.

    Good luck!

  6. Red Boot Pearl Says:

    Queries are so tough, I think you could make this sell-able if you clean it up.

    My problem is: 'take her home to his house, and heal her wounds'

    I'm thinking if she just got raped by one guy, going to some other strange guy's house (even if he saved her) would be the last place she'd want to go…

    Does she know him? Are they friends? What's the history here?

    Maybe it's just the wordage that made me pause, but something didn't flow.

    Keep working at it 🙂

  7. Belle Whittington Says:

    I agree with Krista V. (that rhymes! ha!). The first sentence sounds as if she's killed her mother instead of killing the disease that could have killed her mother. It's a loop that makes one dizzy! 😛

    On a side note, I'm really glad to have found your blog! Creating my own query has me wracking my brain!

    🙂 ~Belle

  8. Rissa Watkins Says:

    The tone of the query at the begining threw me off when I read the rape part. It kinda has a fun, light feel to it even when you mentioned the rape. Maybe that's just me, since no one else noticed it.

    I also struggled with her finding her voice to say what happened. I get not telling her dad, but letting the one who saved her go to jail should make it a lot easier to stand up.

    It sounds like the story is good. It has the potential to show major growth for the main character.

  9. Elena Says:

    This sentence gave me pause most of all:

    Her dad worked tirelessly to give her everything she needed, so when the day came for her to give back, by going on an innocent date with the boss’s son, college guy Nathan, she willingly agreed.

    All of those commas in there are wave after wave of pauses.

    I totally agree with Krista V. that I'm not entirely sure what 'conscience-altering love' means.

    I also think that saying the Cop "will" kill her takes some of the edge out of it. Instead of "might" kill her, or "will try" to kill her, it's "will kill her" – meaning he succeeds, the way I read it. So why would we want to read the book if we know he kills her? Maybe that's just me.

  10. Suzannah Says:

    I agree with pretty much everything the others have said so far, but I don't think anybody has yet mentioned the phrase, "violently beat and rape." The word 'violently' is redundant because you can't beat or rape someone in a non-violent manner. Minor, maybe, but something that stuck out at me.

    Good luck with your revisions 🙂

  11. Melanie Says:

    Thank you all for your comments! Here's the new query… would love to hear your suggestions.

    BTW, some of your questions are answered in book 🙂

    -Mel

    Despite the medical diagnosis, shy Lizzie Thompson grew up owning the responsibility that she was the cause of her mom’s death. Her dad worked tirelessly to give her everything she needed, so when he asked her to go on a harmless date with his boss’s son, college guy Nathan, of course Lizzie agreed. How was she supposed to know Nathan would beat and rape her on the night of her seventeenth birthday?

    Good thing brooding outsider Josh Rayburn was watching from the darkness; otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to incapacitate her attacker, take Lizzie home to his house, and treat her wounds. Through Josh’s support and undying protection, an unbreakable bond of trust forms. Just when Lizzie realizes the love between them, Josh is arrested for assaulting her attacker. Whether from fear of his father’s wrath or personal cowardice, the rich slime Nathan actually twisted the story and claimed he was the one trying to save Lizzie!

    Now, Lizzie must find both the courage to tell her father and the voice to stand up against the police, who are in the pocket of one of the most influential families in Spring Hill.

  12. Rissa Says:

    Melanie- I really like the changes you've made. The first sentence still made me stumble a bit. What about something like…

    The doctors may say her mom's (insert name of medical diagnosis)killed her in childbirth, but Lizzie Thompson will always believe she was the cause of her mom's death.

  13. Melanie Says:

    Rissa… thank you!