About My Query 9

October 28th, 2016 • Hannah Fergesen

Thanks for dropping in to read today’s About My Query! Without further ado, here it is:

Dear ktliterary,

 Eighteen-year-old Caparina didn’t ask to be Captain; but three years ago the crew elected her and now it’s her duty to protect them from starvation, infection, and enslavement by the vindictive President Graelick. But Cap’s primary concerns are protecting her little brother and trying not to explode the precarious relationship she has with her best-friend/boyfriend who also happens to be her second-in-command. 

Following an apocalyptic cyber-attack in the not-too-distant future, noxious smog has crept over the nation, bringing with it the deadly Indigo Infection. Only Cap and her crew of orphans have retained their freedom from the corrupt government, GraeliCorp, by seeking refuge in an abandoned military bunker hidden beneath the Rocky Mountains. But when a curious stow-away sets into action a course of events that Cap can’t control, she is forced to leave the safety of their base to search for answers on the Upper Deck—GraeliCorp’s caste ruled metropolis above the smog. The last thing Cap expected to find there was her mother, whom she long believed was killed by the Indigo Infection. Now Cap must risk the safety of herself and her crew for a chance to reunite her family. Torn between betraying the man she loves and upholding her responsibilities as Captain, sister, and daughter, Cap must decide whom to protect and whom she is willing to sacrifice.

The Plains Above, complete at 78,000-words, would appeal to readers of other post-apocalyptic YA novels with strong female leaders such as Marie Lu’s Legend and Veronica Roth’s Divergent… or anyone who knows what it’s like to be an overprotective sibling.

I graduated from Valparaiso University majoring in Creative Writing and Digital Media Art. My work has been published in literary and commercial magazines.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, Author

 

I think this query is a great start! There are a lot of fascinating elements to play with, especially the Upper Deck versus the bunker in the Rockies. I’m definitely intrigued, but I do have some thoughts.

Generally, I think the best queries start with a short hook, an inciting incident, conflict, stakes, and worldbuilding throughout as you introduce each element. When the query opened, you had me hooked with a paragraph about Cap and her crew. I was on board – until I realized Cap was not captaining a ship (a space ship, a sea ship, what-have-you), and that the setting was very different from what you generally imagine when talking about a captain and her crew. The length of the first paragraph also forced you to condense other actions within your second paragraph.

As much as I do like the first paragraph, I think it’s a bit misleading. You might want to consider reworking it a bit to mix it into the set-up of the second paragraph and give us a better sense of what she’s actually captaining. For example:

 

            Eighteen-year-old Caparina didn’t ask to Captain a group of misfits and orphans. But after an apocalyptic cyber-attack, noxious smog crept over the nation, bringing with it the deadly Indigo Infection. The only safe place to be found was deep in an abandoned military bunker hidden beneath the Rocky Mountains, where three years ago the survivors there elected Cap to lead them. Now it’s her duty to protect them from starvation, infection, and enslavement by the vindictive, surface bound President Graelick.

            But when a stowaway is discovered….

 

This isn’t perfect, but it combines much of your first and second paragraph, and gives you more space to explain to us how and why the stowaway showed up, how long and how far she explores the Upper Deck, and what she learns about her mother (because this is missing and I’d really like to understand!).

I do think it’s probably smart that you have not categorized this as dystopian in your query, since we all know that that is a tough category to try and enter right now. If there are additional ways to show that this stands out from the others, definitely use them! I like the idea that the core group of teens here are treated as a captain and her crew – I’d love more insight into where that comes from and how it plays into all facets of the book. And if you’re going to take the time to mention her boyfriend/second mate, you might talk a bit about the conflict facing their relationship within this story as well, to up the stakes overall.

So, to sum up: I’d try and combine more of your first and second paragraph to give yourself space to talk about the inciting incident, ultimate conflict, and the stakes for all involved when dealing with that conflict. You’ve touched on all of these, which is great! Now give us just a bit more insight into what’s going to happen – to her, to her second mate, to her crew – if she chooses to get involved in the conflict.

Thanks so much for submitting your query! I hope this has been helpful.

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