Monday, January 3, 2011

Query 51: Redux

The Family Grim

Dear Agent:

Seventeen-year-old Jude Grim is a reaper, one of Death’s most feared servants. He’s also a high school student in a small Wyoming community, buried in the shadow of his psychopathic twin brother Drew, the local golden boy.

Two hundred years ago Death’s executioner, the infamous Grim Reaper, sacrificed his immortality for the woman he loved, entrusting his eternal duty to his future descendants: the Family Grim. Jude and Drew are his great-grandsons, but just because they share the same bloodline doesn’t mean that they’re friends. In reality, Drew’s hidden psychopathic nature and his lust for blood have turned the twins into bitter enemies. Adding to their rivalry is the fact that they’re both in love with the same girl, the beautiful and talented Skylar Petersen.

When Skylar eventually picks Jude, Drew spirals out of control. First he murders a classmate who embarrassed him at school, hiding the body in a nearby river. He then misuses his power to end Skylar’s life before disappearing into the woods.

On the verge of despair, Jude brings Skylar’s lifeless body to his family, begging for help. Together they track down an eccentric recluse who knows everything there is to know about the Family Grim. He tells them of a long-forgotten legend: reaper’s victims can be saved with seeds from the ancient Tree of Tenere, also known as the Tree of Life. There’s only one problem, the seeds only work for a short time following the victim’s death. With Drew hot on his trail and Father Death watching their every move, Jude has twenty four hours to find the tree and bring Skylar back.

THE FAMILY GRIM, a young adult fantasy novel, is complete at 72,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Comments

This was tricky. The author sent three revisions and asked me to critique the one I thought best. But you know, there were bits and pieces from each that I thought were compelling in the way they were told. So I'm going to pull what I think are the best bits together in my version below.

The author's main concern is different advice given about what to lead off the query with: backstory about the Grim Reaper or the intro of Jude. Mine is only an opinion like everyone else's, but because the story deals with such a famous legacy, I think the lead-off with the Grim Reaper works better. If Jude's ancestor had been a less-famous guy, I would probably opt for leading off with who Jude is, but frankly, it's his ancestry that gives this story its unique spin.

I posted the revision that leads with Jude to give a counter-balance to my version.

You'll note I excised both the anonymous classmate that was murdered and the eccentric recluse whose only function here is to reveal the legend. I also think using "Father" as Death's title is a little misleading given all the other familial relationships here.

I tacked on a final sentence that may or may not be true of the story. Just as Skylar's death is a disruption of the natural order, seems bringing her back may potentialy have consequences, so I extrapolated a bit to raise the stakes, add a little more torment to Jude's predicament, and give Death a reason to be watching. If it isn't true, maybe there's something else you can bring out. The version posted last week has Jude vowing to never lose her again. Maybe if he's intending his own misuse of power to keep her alive that can be mentioned.

I do have a couple of redundancies in my version that could probably be smoothed a bit:
Doesn't mean they're friends implies they're enemies.
They're both in love with Skylar and Drew murders the girl Jude loves.

My Revision

Two hundred years ago Death’s executioner, the infamous Grim Reaper, sacrificed his immortality for the woman he loved, entrusting his eternal duty to his descendants: the Family Grim. Three generations later, his great-grandson Jude is a high school student in a small Wyoming community, living in the shadow of his twin brother Drew, the local golden boy.

Just because they share the same bloodline, though, doesn’t mean they’re friends. Drew’s psychopathic tendencies and his lust for blood have turned the twins into bitter enemies. Adding to their rivalry is Skylar Petersen, the girl they're both in love with. When Skylar chooses Jude, Drew snaps. In an abuse of power so heinous that even Death notices, Drew murders the girl Jude loves.

Torn by grief and guilt, Jude grasps at a long-forgotten legend: reapers' victims can be saved with seeds from the ancient Tree of Life. But there’s a problem -- the seeds only work during a short time following the victim’s death. With Drew hot on his tail and Death watching their every move, Jude has twenty-four hours to find the tree and bring Skylar back.

But restoring Skylar to life could well upset Death even more than her mistimed murder and make Jude Death's next target.

THE FAMILY GRIM, a young adult fantasy novel, is complete at 72,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

5 comments:

chelsea said...

I like the rewrite a lot, and I agree with Phoenix's decision to cut out the bit about the recluse. It seemed a little too convenient in the query, though that probably isn't the case in the book.

The big issue that remains for me is that I'm getting a better sense of Drew than Jude. Drew is the golden boy. Drew is a blood-lusting psychopath. And Jude is . . . in love with Skylar. I think I need just a bit more about Jude. The query hints that he's the opposite of Drew, but it doesn't say it.

Also, I don't get the impression that Drew is in love with Skylar if he murders her. I think you could change the line to, "the girl they're both after," and then the murder wouldn't necessarily be contrary to Drew's desire for her.

This sounds like a really interesting story. I would definitely flip open the book if I saw it in a store.

Phoenix said...

I like Chelsea's switch to "the girl they're both after."

Anonymous said...

What if I change it to this

Adding to the rivalry is Skylar Petersen, Drew’s girlfriend and Jude’s lifelong crush.

Thanks for the ideas, and I can see your point about Jude. I'll try to characterize him a little better.

chelsea said...

Hmmm. It does add tension to the query: Drew is the golden boy, but Jude finally manages to get Skylar's attention. However, it also opens up a whole can of questions for me:

Why is Skylar going out with Drew? Is she not clever enough to realize he's a psychopath, or is he simply really good at hiding it? Why does she leave him? Does she find out about his family secret? Does she find out he's a psychopath? Or does she just decide she likes Jude better?

The story will answer these questions but the query likely can't. So this might be an instance of inciting more questions than necessary. Just my opinion though :)

AA said...

Yeah, I think death should do something, rather than just sit back watching everything. Death is a great character to mention but not if he isn't going to do anything.