Thursday, January 27, 2011

Query 55: Redux

The City in the Bottle

Sometimes Jacob Cohen's wishes come true, but always in the worst possible way. After an argument with his father, and an impetuous wish, he has to live with the guilt of causing the accident that left him an orphan. Now, he has moved in with his grandfather and has to rebuild his life at fourteen. There are only two rules at grandpa's house: don't touch the stones in the garden and never, ever, go into the attic. Jacob breaks both by the second day.

Jacob's new neighbour, Samantha Steinbach, was crippled six years ago by what she thought was a Rottweiler. At home, her father terrorizes her and her mother is too scared to help.

When Sam tells Jacob about what her father does to her, he can't resist wishing to help her. The price, however, is more than either of them is willing to pay. It unleashes a demon from a bottle in grandpa's attic and it has had millennia to plan its revenge. It turns Jacob's grandfather to stone.

It then traps Jacob and Sam in the bottle. Inside, Jacob's power grows stronger and infects his every thought. Sam also starts to change, but she is turning into a demon. They're only hope is to learn to control the changes affecting them.

The City in the Bottle is a YA fantasy, complete at 74,000 words, about two teens cursed with powers that they don't know how to control.

Comments

This version is moving in the right direction. By introducing the attic and the garden stones, you're helping to tie some of the plot points together. There are still some loose ends here, though, that are probably clear to you but not to someone who doesn't know your story. You're at Stage 2 in my patented revision process. I'm betting you can skip Stage 3 and go right to Stage 4 with your next revision.

The setup in the first paragraph is fine, I think.

Jacob's new neighbour, Samantha Steinbach, was crippled six years ago by what she thought was a Rottweiler. At home, her father terrorizes her and her mother is too scared to help.

Since this paragraph isn't in Jacob or Sam's POV, withholding the identity of what the thing was that crippled Sam doesn't work. The reader doesn't know if Sam just got the breed wrong (it was actually a Doberman/Mastiff cross) or if it was something supernatural. If the latter, then we probably need a hint of what it was if it has bearing on the demon Sam starts to become.

When Sam tells Jacob about what her father does to her, he can't resist wishing to help her.

I think you can combine this sentence with the one before and gain a little space to go into more detail later: When Sam confides that her father terrorizes her and her mom is too scared to confront him, Jacob can't resist wishing to help.

The price, however, is more than either of them is willing to pay.

Had they bartered the price beforehand, this sentence would be OK. Since they have no choice in paying the price, you either need to rephrase entirely or change to a weaker "would have been willing to pay." I'd rephrase to lose the cliche.

It unleashes a demon from a bottle in grandpa's attic and it has had millennia to plan its revenge. It turns Jacob's grandfather to stone.

Watch your pronouns here. The first "It" grammatically refers back to the price, although I think you mean the wish unleashes. Because of the independent clauses set up in parallel, the second "it" grammatically should be referring to the same noun the first "it" does. But the second "it" -- and subsequent ones -- refers to the demon.

I like that this version ties back the bottle in the attic to the admonishment to never go into the attic. Good. However, turning gramps to stone still seems a rather random act of revenge if the demon's been locked up for thousands of years. I'm assuming that there's also some connection between the stones in the garden and gramps becoming stone. Are the other stones Jacob's ancestors? Help the reader start to figure it out here.

It then traps Jacob and Sam in the bottle. Inside, Jacob's power grows stronger and infects his every thought.

As far as the reader knows at this point, Jacob's only power is that certain things he wishes for happen. How does this wishing power grow stronger? Is he able to wish them out of the bottle? No. Is he able to wish the demon away? No. Is he able to wish none of this had ever happened? No. So what IS he now able to do and how is it infecting his thoughts?

Sam also starts to change, but she is turning into a demon.

If this is foreshadowed earlier, it won't come as such a "what the heck?" moment here. Think cause and effect.

They're only hope is to learn to control the changes affecting them.

Their (sp) only hope for what? To get out of the bottle? To defeat the demon (is that even on the agenda?)? To live a quiet life within the bottle for millenia? The query needs to spell out what their specific goal is.

The City in the Bottle is a YA fantasy, complete at 74,000 words, about two teens cursed with powers that they don't know how to control.

Cap the title of the book. Also, with the title coming right after saying the two are trapped in the bottle, I'm thinking there's more to the bottle story than is being hinted at here. The word "city" implies that.

The second part of this sentence simply repeats what you've already told us. Either give us something more of the theme here or just delete.

6 comments:

fairyhedgehog said...

This is coming together well and the story sounds much more exciting now with the extra details.

I can't improve on any of Phoenix's suggestions.

Matt said...

I'm having some logic issues with this piece -- hopefully it's because of some errors in writing that don't accurately reflect the plot.

Why does Grandpa keep a bottled demon in his attic? Since the demon has been planning his revenge for a millennium, I'm guessing Grandpa is part of a long line of bottle guardians, so I find it odd that no one thought of, say, encasing it in cement and dropping it in the Marianas Trench or throwing it in a volcano.

Also, this demon planned its revenge for thousands of years...and the most heinous thing it can think of is to turn someone to stone? It makes me think this demon isn't a big deal.

The above issues aside, what makes this query incomplete is that you tell nothing of the city in the bottle. Is it an actual miniature of a city with people shrunken to scale or is it more like Narnia? Is it industrial? Medieval? What kind of culture does it have?

Maybe take away two of the sentences explaining their powers so that you have room to describe the city.

Joe G said...

I was on board until the end of the query, where I think things sort of fell apart. I thought Phoenix's query below was very succinct and really got everything across. I'm curious why the main character doesn't simply wish for obvious solutions to their problems :P

Orlando said...

Is the main plot about life in the bottle, or prior to being trapped in the bottle? The only reason I'm asking is because of the last statement on your query "Their only hope is to control the changes affecting them" does that means they can never get out? If that's the case I would like to hear more about life in the bottle.

Oh and by the way it should be "their" not "they're" which means "they are." That's my grammar critique.

What is causing Sam to become a demon? Is that just something that happens if you're trapped in the bottle?

Those are my questions, other than that it is coming along really good.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Two unhappy kids escape into a new world setting a demon free.

Jacob's thoughts are infected, Sam's going bad with demon changes (not uncommon in girls). Puberty ran across the pages of my mind.

What is the demon up to outside? Where is the conflict between the demon and the kids?

The query evaporated IMHO and didn't tell me what I need/want to know about the story. Left me with questions.

My 2 bits: cut down the set up, develop the story further in the query. Where/when/how does the story peak?

I hope that is helpful. I concur with the comments. Look forward to your revision. Good luck.

AA said...

This query brings up a lot of questions.

First of all, Grandpa sounds too stupid to live if he keeps a powerful demon in a bottle in the attic and keeps people away from it by saying, "Don't go in the attic."

Second, was it a Rottweiler or wasn't it? If the dog's attack left her crippled, you'd think the image would be seared into her memory.

Third, why can't Jacob wish himself out of the bottle? And I'm confused how his desire to help Sam led to involvement with the demon.

If the demon has had millenia to plan its revenge, is Jacob's grandfather millenia old? You'd think he'd be smarter.

How does the bottle work? There can't be a city in it unless the people are microscopic, or even sub-atomic. I'm assuming it's more like a Tardis.

Sam turning into a demon suggests to me that the demon wasn't a demon when it was put in the bottle. But why would Jacob's grandfather trap an ordinary person in a bottle?

I've been confused by queries before, so this is nothing new. I point these things out so you can see how this looks to a person who hasn't read your story. It looks confusing and illogical.

Try it again and I will look for your repost.