if it’s too difficult for grown-ups, write for children

Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXIX

blacklouboutinsClassic black Louboutins for Black Friday, and today’s (late) About My Query post. From J.Z.P.:

Dear Daphne Unfeasible,

One year ago, aspiring detective Nick Chance came within a hair’s length of exposing his high school’s most infamous thief. But before he could collect enough evidence, the suspect abruptly left the school. Now, he’s reappeared in New York City, and Nick’s one summer vacation goal is to track him down and prove what he couldn’t back then. There’s only one problem: the thief is charming, slippery, and none other than his very own brother.

Quentin Chance may be a rogue with impeccable manners and a killer smile, but one year and three countries later, the unsolved murder of his best friend Arthur still haunts him. Now, an e-mail from an anonymous source pulls him back to New York with a mysterious claim: I have new information on the circumstances of Arthur’s death.

As Quentin digs to uncover the source of the e-mail, Nick is hot on his trail, waiting for the perfect opportunity to catch him in a legally compromising position. But when the e-mails begin to take on a more sinister tone, and when another student connected to Arthur is found in a coma, the brothers have no choice but to put aside their personal feud and pool their talents together. Somebody among their circle of friends is harboring a dark secret, and the Chances must figure out who it is before tragedy strikes again.

THE CHANCES is a 60,000-word mystery for young adults (think Agatha Christie meets Gossip Girl). The first five pages are included below. An op-ed of mine was recently accepted for publication by the New York Times.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.

J. Z. P.

Oooh, this is exciting! I like the hook — that the thief is Nick’s brother. It sounds like you’re playing with dual narrators, too. If I were you, I would play that up a bit more, and say so in your query. Nitpicky things: you say there’s only ONE problem, but then you list three things, that he’s charming, slippery, and Nick’s brother. I’d also emphasize that the high school is also in NYC, maybe by saying “exposing his New York City high school’s most infamous thief” and then “now he’s reappeared in Manhattan.”

The tense is also a bit confusing. Suggestions on how to fix it? I don’t also love the introduction or the wording of the email Quentin receives — it’s just a little awkward to my eyes. (Ears?)

Finally, though I see where you’re going with the title comparisons, if I were you, I’d play up the male protagonist perspective. Maybe go with “Hercule Poirot meets Gossip Girl” or pick another detective — Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, or Spenser, perhaps. Or play up the NYC setting with a mention of David Levithan. Just a thought.

I’d definitely read more, though, in any case. J.Z., I’d love to see the first five chapters and a full synopsis as attachments to my usual query email address.

What do you guys think? What would you change or fix?

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