Sunday, July 11, 2010

Query Revision 17: Redux

Original critique here.

The author offered up more insight into what the story is about in the comment section of the original post and requests further feedback about ways to go with the query.

In my version, I play up the allegorical nature of the story, but it feels a little synops-y to me. There are surely other ways this can go. Your help is requested, please!

My Version

When the brother she idolizes slays their mother in a deluded plan to gain immortality then comes after her next, 12-year-old Minette is rescued by a thief with betrayal issues of her own. At first Minette clings to her rescuer, Ilona, merely to survive, but when she realizes Ilona harbours dark secrets and an old rage that turn Ilona into an angry, paranoid monster capable of murder, she sets out to redeem Ilona's soul.

From a mystic, Minette is given three magical items: a key to unlock Ilona's past, a potion to suppress the monster inside, and a box to summon her heart's desire. The key reveals Ilona to have been a gentle priestess loved by a wizard whose love she couldn't return. The spurned wizard betrayed her, giving her into the hands of a demon who tortured her. When she escaped the demon's clutches, she tracked the wizard down and put a sword through his heart. Then she turned her back on religion and the world -- until Minette's plight recalled her to her duty of healing those in need.

Determined to change Ilona back into the priestess healer she once was, Minette slips her the potion, unaware that it's lethal when change is forced. When a desperate Minette turns to the box to restore Ilona, what it offers up is not life but a symbol of deepest friendship and love free of all betrayal.

Armed with her new understanding and ability to accept people for who they are and not what she would make them be, Minette can now summon the one power in the world greater than magic that can resurrect Ilona and defeat the ghosts of the past threatening to tear them apart.

TITLE is an allegorical fantasy, standalone at 54,000 words but with series potential. I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.

19 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Laurenson said...

Slight change:

The brother 12-year-old Minette idolizes slays their mother in a deluded plan to gain immortality. He, in turn, is killed by a thief, Ilona, with betrayal issues of her own. Shattered by this experience, Minette clings to Ilona – a precarious lifeline who harbors dark secrets and an old rage that spills out sideways. Desperate to end the unpredictable cruelty, Minette sets out to redeem Ilona's soul.

From a mystic, Minette is given three magical items: a key to unlock the past, a potion to suppress the monster inside, and a box to summon the heart's desire. The key shows that Ilona, once a gentle priestess, had been betrayed by a wizard who claimed to love her and then had her tortured by demons. She escaped the demon's clutches, tracked the wizard down and put a sword through his heart. Then she turned her back on religion and the world.

Determined to change Ilona back into the priestess healer she once was, Minette slips her the potion, unaware that it's lethal when change is forced. A desperate Minette turns to the box to restore Ilona, but what it offers up is not life.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I'm not too happy with the wizard line though.

And are there little details that can be added to give the flavor, the voice?

It's a great story line and seems quite different from what's out there, but I want to hear your voice.

Ellie said...

Tweaking Phoenix's excellent version:

Dear Agent,

When 12-year-old Minette's power-crazed brother kills her mother, Minette makes a promise to her mother's memory: she will survive by any means necessary. That means sticking with Ilona, the thief who rescued her from her brother. And Ilona doesn't make it easy. While she tries to care for Minette, her dark past causes her to lash out at the girl unpredictably.

In one of her rages, Ilona breaks a special gift she gave to Minette. Believing fixing the gift will fix their troubled relationship, Minette sets out on a quest that leads her to buy three gifts from a mystic: a key, a potion, and a box. The key allows Minette to see Ilona's past and the betrayal and torture that turned her from a naive priestess to a hardened, angry thief. Minette becomes determined to turn Ilona back into the gentle healer she once was.

But the potion and box are not what they seem, and when Minette tries to save Ilona's soul, she risks Ilona's life. Minette and Ilona must both learn the difficult lessons of how to love and trust if Minette's going to summon the one power in the world greater than magic and defeat the ghosts of the past threatening to tear the two young women apart.

TITLE is an allegorical fantasy, standalone at 54,000 words but with series potential. I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Phoenix said...

I woke up remembering the author who this type of story reminds me of: Jane Yolen.

In fact, because it's such a specific type of story, you might even say something like:
TITLE is an allegorical fantasy in the vein of Jane Yolen's works, standalone at...

Mike L. said...

Wow. These new versions are FANTASTIC. They make me want to reread my story, haha! Goes to show how much difference a good query makes.

I do like how the new version is structured, how it tells the story without giving away too much, minus all the vagueness that plagued my own query. Most importantly, it succeeds in conveying the message of the story...

I'll be fixing my query based on this structure, and with your versions in mind...

Thanks everyone!



In answer to your previous question... part 2 does have more action, and a lot more plot. This time around Ilona is the main character, and I delve even deeper into her history and psyche. I introduce several new characters and explore the world and its myths further. I do retain the allegorical nature of the first book, though. I want to treat the entire series this way.

I should probably make a quick trip to the bookstore and look for Jane Yolen's books... Thanks for the tip. :)

Sarah Laurenson said...

The closest Jane Yolen to your book might be Sister Light, Sister Dark but it's been soooo long since I read that one. Haven't read enough of her more recent stuff either.

Michelle Massaro said...

Wow, I love this! It makes the whole plot sound so much deeper and more meaningful. I agree it sounds a bit synopsy though. I think during the second paragraph is where we start to get into too much plot detail for a query. I haven't taken the time to come up with a suggestion on stripping it down a bit. But I think we should perhaps not be told the details of each of the three magical items' effects. If I have time later today I'll take a closer look at it. =)

Mike L. said...

Hello! I've revised the query, based on your comments and suggestions... I've shortened it by cutting down on the details regarding the last two magical items. Please tell me if this needs more work! Thank you...



Dear Agent X,

After the brother she idolizes slays their mother in a delusional plan to gain immortality, 12-year-old Minette makes a promise in her memory: she will survive by any means necessary. This means clinging to her rescuer, the thief Ilona. But Ilona harbors dark secrets of her own, and an old rage that turns her into an angry, paranoid monster capable of great cruelty.

When Ilona accidentally breaks the only token of their friendship, Minette sets out to find a way to salvage what is left of their relationship. Her desperation leads her to a mystic, from whom she receives three arcane artifacts: a key to unlock the past, a potion to suppress the monster inside, and a box to summon the heart’s desire. The key reveals Ilona to have once been a gentle priestess, until betrayal and torture transformed her into a hardened, angry rogue.

In light of this revelation, Minette attempts to save Ilona’s soul. But the potion and the box are not what they seem, and Minette ends up risking Ilona’s life.

With the ghosts of their past threatening to tear them apart, Minette must learn one of life’s greatest lessons, of friendship that is free of selfish coercion and betrayal. Only then will Minette be able to unlock the secrets of a power greater than any magic, the only power that can save them: love.

TITLE is an allegorical fantasy, standalone at 54,000 words but with series potential; and for which I wish to seek representation. I would be glad to send you the complete manuscript should you require. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Mike L. said...

Dear Agent X,

After the brother she idolizes slays their mother in a delusional plan to gain immortality, 12-year-old Minette makes a promise in her memory: she will survive by any means necessary. This means clinging to her rescuer, the thief Ilona. But Ilona harbors dark secrets of her own, and an old rage that turns her into an angry, paranoid monster capable of great cruelty.

When Ilona accidentally breaks the only token of their friendship, Minette sets out to find a way to salvage what is left of their relationship. Her desperation leads her to a mystic, from whom she receives three arcane artifacts: a key to unlock the past, a potion to suppress the monster inside, and a box to summon the heart’s desire. The key reveals Ilona to have once been a gentle priestess, until betrayal and torture transformed her into a hardened, angry rogue.

In light of this revelation, Minette attempts to save Ilona’s soul. But the potion and the box are not what they seem, and Minette ends up risking Ilona’s life.

With the ghosts of their past threatening to tear them apart, Minette must learn one of life’s greatest lessons, of friendship that is free of selfish coercion and betrayal. Only then will Minette be able to unlock the secrets of a power greater than any magic, the only power that can save them: love.

TITLE is an allegorical fantasy, standalone at 54,000 words but with series potential; and for which I wish to seek representation. I would be glad to send you the complete manuscript should you require. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Phoenix said...

Sorry, Mike. I had the blog set to moderate comments on posts over 2 weeks old, which is why your comment wasn't showing up. I've changed the setting to 'never.' I'll be back in a bit to comment. Hopefully others will jump in meanwhile.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I think the fact that Ilona kills Minette's brother to save her is strong. Is it necessary? Maybe not, but it does show that Ilona is capable of killing (rather than tell it).

This feels like the whole story because you reveal the important end - the power of love.

Generally in queries, you want to leave them wanting to read more. That doesn't mean yours will stop an agent/editor from reading pages. It's just not compelling because it provides a completion. It may well be compelling for what the story is by itself.

I suggest stopping here:

In light of this revelation, Minette attempts to save Ilona’s soul. But the potion and the box are not what they seem.

Don't know that I feel that strongly about it though. Yours is just a different kind of query.


As for the last paragraph. There's a bit too much here. Of course you're seeking representation. You wouldn't be querying otherwise. Cut that.

"I would be glad to send you the complete manuscript should you require."
This line bothers me. They know you'd be ecstatic. And "require" isn't quite the right word.

My suggestion:
TITLE is an allegorical fantasy, standalone at 54,000 words but with series potential. The complete manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


It's stock, but that doesn't really matter. Which is why I'll say these changes don't really matter, too. It's the top part of the query that makes the difference - unless you hit a pet peeve in who you are querying. That's why a stock last paragraph is safer.

Unless you can write one that is very funny or somehow in keeping with your story, but not be gimmicky.

Sarah Laurenson said...

And this line:
"When Ilona accidentally breaks the only token of their friendship"

loses the impact of Ilona breaking it in anger. You're leaving out an important dimension of the relationship.

Maybe:
Ilona's dark past causes her to lash out unpredictably. In a rage, she breaks the only token of their friendship. Believing fixing the gift will fix their troubled relationship, Minette sets out to find a way to salvage it.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I played with it some more just inc ase you needed yet another version to muddy the waters.


Dear Agent X,

After the brother she idolizes slays their mother in a delusional plan to gain immortality, 12-year-old Minette vows she will survive by any means necessary. That means clinging to her rescuer, the thief Ilona, an angry, paranoid monster capable of great cruelty.

When Ilona lashes out and breaks a special gift, the only token of their friendship, Minette decides that salvaging it will fix their troubled relationship. Her desperation leads her to a mystic, from whom she receives three arcane artifacts: a key to unlock the past, a potion to suppress the monster inside, and a box to summon the heart’s desire. The key reveals Ilona was once a gentle priestess, until betrayal and torture transformed her into this hardened, angry rogue.

In ignorance, Minette uses all of the magic. But the potion and the box are not what they seem and saving Ilona’s soul risks her life.

TITLE is an allegorical fantasy, standalone at 54,000 words but with series potential. The complete manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Anonymous said...

Sarah,
Like where does this expertise/feeling/ability spring from? Can I have a sip from your well? Mannnnnn. You are hot this day.
Those nuances are STARTLING,
Bibi

Sarah Laurenson said...

Too much time spent in the Shark Tank.

Anonymous said...

Well Mike, congrats - you stirred a lot of comments. Sometimes a query touches and the comments run like rain. Best to you, keep going.
Bibi

Anonymous said...

Dear Sarah,
So chum, it is chum. Cleary you rose to shark fin soup. Went to your blog. Enjoyed,
Bibi

Mike L. said...

Again, thanks so much for the help! I really appreciate it. I think I know what to do now... Time to start sending again. :)