Monday, November 8, 2010

Query 35

Trial of the Heart

Dear (Specific Agent),

Emily Hennas has the power to ease one man’s painful suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. Shadowed by the intimidating memory of her abusive husband, she retreats to New York in seek of solace from her only family.

Driven by grief, survivor’s guilt, and fears for her surviving child, Emily engages in the legal fight. As she begins pulling together the fragments of her life, she forges an unlikely friendship with her neighbor. As their connection deepens, so does an attraction. But Emily still grapples with the past, and doesn’t want any more complications in her life. She declares "rules" for their friendship. Even though she’s tempted to break them.

After eighteen agonizing months of postponements, the trial date is set. But when Conway Duke staggers into the room, pale and drawn, the case changes course in one explosive moment, leaving Emily with the most difficult decision of her life: continue fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the man responsible for causing their deaths.

TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice. The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words. I am querying you because (insert reason).

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Comments

As insight into how a reader who's read a lot of queries might read this, here is where my head went immediately: Oh, Conway must be the neighbor Emily way too coincidentally meets up with (and doesn't name). From the way this query is set up, what other thing could that "explosive moment" be but that realization? (Did you other readers think this, too?)

However, the author sent me a couple of versions of this query, so I know that's not the secret of "the moment." I think it will help commenters give advice to know that by the time the trial ensues, Conway is seriously ill and may not live to face justice.

The main issue, though is that the query focuses a bit too much on the will she/won't she of the possible romance with the neighbor, giving us two distinct storylines: the romance and the trial.

Emily Hennas has the power to ease one man’s painful suffering--the man responsible for murdering her family.

This is an intriguing hook. The bit I don't see carried through, though, is the man's "painful suffering." We get nothing in the query to help us sympathize with Conway. Is he repentent? Does he try to make contact with Emily? Did he get drunk just that one night after catching his wife with another man, or is he a habitual drunk who continues getting smashed at the local bar every night on the way home from work while waiting for his trial to start? If it doesn't matter what kind of man Conway is, then we need to see more of Emily's moral dilemma here, I think.

After a drunk driver kills her husband, eldest son and daughter, Emily is left alone to raise her youngest son. Shadowed by the intimidating memory of her abusive husband,

This is a good place to maybe foreshadow the decision Emily has to make. Did she love her children but was she secretly glad to be rid of hubby? Did that gladness eat at her heart?

she retreats to New York in seek of solace from her only family.

I don't think we need the family aspect as we don't know who they are and they don't play a part in the query.

Driven by grief, survivor’s guilt, and fears for her surviving child, Emily engages in the legal fight.

I'm not sure guilt and fear (unless you mean Emily being afraid she can't financially support her child) would "drive" someone to legal action. Probably just a word choice matter here.

As she begins pulling together the fragments of her life, she forges an unlikely friendship with her neighbor.

I'm not clear why this is an "unlikely" friendship. From a cold read, a reader could easily jump to the conclusion her neighbor is female. From the other query versions, I know this isn't the case, but as gender isn't mentioned in THIS query, I'm at a loss as to what's "unlikely" about it otherwise.

As their connection deepens, so does an attraction. But Emily still grapples with the past, and doesn’t want any more complications in her life. She declares "rules" for their friendship. Even though she’s tempted to break them.

After eighteen agonizing months of postponements, (good!) the trial date is set arrives. But when Conway Duke staggers into the room, pale and drawn,

You're hinting too much as to what's afflicting Conway. I'm thinking first that he's the neighbor, second that he's maybe been living life on the streets and is hungry or strung out. In any case, I don't have any sympathy for the man right now.

the case changes course in one explosive moment, leaving Emily with the most difficult decision of her life: continue fighting for the justice her children deserve, or forgive the man responsible for causing their deaths.

Is this a civil or a criminal trial? I'm not a lawyer, so if one of our readers is, please jump in! My limited understanding is that only a criminal trial would result in incarceration, and that a criminal trial is against the State, so it doesn't matter whether Emily forgives or not, the guy's going through the trial and punishment anyway. Generally, a wrongful death civil suit happens after the criminal trial is over. A civil trial is where Emily would recover any damages and monies for her family's deaths and she would have the ability to drop that suit.

TRIAL OF THE HEART explores the depth of a mother’s love, a woman’s heart and the obsession for justice.

I really love your title and this tag line!

The work of women’s fiction is complete at 87,000 words. I am querying you because (insert reason).

Overall, acceding benefit of doubt around the criminal/civil trial issue, I think this would be a stronger query if you concentrated a bit more on Emily's feelings about her abusive husband and her pre-trial feelings about the man who killed her family. Certainly mention that she's unexpectedly opening her heart to a relationship with her next-door neighbor, but I think that can be downplayed a bit. We want to be completely invested in Emily's decision as to whether she pursues justice or not and to see the clear arc of character growth.

2 comments:

vkw said...

"Shadowed by intimidating memory of her abusive husband." Are you sure you need this in the query? If so, tell us more about this. Is she feeling guilty that he is gone or it just impacting her ability to start new relationship. Either way, it's distracting and not relevant to the query.

"fears for her surviving child." What does Emily fear?

Tell us why Conway's appearance is so important. At first I thought it was the neighbor.

I think Phoenix is right. I think all the justice that Emily can extract is civil justice. (Which may be part of your story, prehaps Conway doesn't go to jail because of his illness and Emily is ragefully confused why until she sees him.) Anyway, Conway must have money. No fun suing a homeless dude. If he's dying or something, then better that Emily gets the money than his heirs. (I think.) But if suing him deprives him of medical care that gives the reader some reason to sympathize.

vkw

Matt said...

Since this is women's fiction, the most important aspect is the MC's growth. PHX's final line of advice is spot on.