Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Query 58

Orion: The Reunion

Aaly Bennett, a twenty two year old novice from Cubes - the Magical Council of San Francisco, loves her regular human life. But Aaly along with everything normal in her life head out the window, quite literally, when a dead man - also a frequent participant in her recurring nightmares, steps in front of her car.

Blamed for the resulting ten car pile-up, Aaly is determined to find out who are the people in her nightmares and why are they after her. On this seemingly simple quest, Aaly is aided by a runaway blue blooded Ven, a helpful but ‘I am superior than thou’ Dak officer and her best friend. The public library and the magical sand, Kalp, lead them to a local coroner’s office where the Fallen emerge as the obvious culprits.

But Aaly isn't the only one interested in the exceptionally powerful magical beings brutally massacred nearly 25 year ago. Ygorr, the faceless leader of the Dark Army, knows the collective powers of The Fallen did not die with their owners and are vested in the Arc of Fallen who is yet to step forward. The Arc could provide Ygorr with control of seven billion human souls who have yet to consciously unlock their own magic, a most potent weapon to take over the Ministry of Magic.

When Ygorr learns Aaly's father was the one who betrayed The Fallen, Aaly scrambles to save the person responsible for her dislike of magic and everything that goes along with it as well as understand what being the Arc of the Fallen really means for her.

Orion: The Reunion, a 95,000 word fantasy, tracks Aaly and her friends across borders and cultures both human and magical as they fight the Dark Army from running over the hereto happily coexisting magical and human worlds on Earth.

Comments

I think this query is one where the author is still a little too close to their story. Coming into it cold, I was not clear on many things the query assumes I know, such as: what a Ven is, what a Dak is, what Kalp does, and what the Arc is. The query can certainly invite an air of mystery, but it still needs to ground the reader in the story. Describing something by using unfamiliar terms doesn't succeed in making that thing come alive for the reader.

Aaly Bennett, a twenty two year old novice from Cubes - the Magical Council of San Francisco, loves her regular human life.

You want to impress with a command of grammar as well as word choice in a query. A lapse or two shouldn't be an auto-reject, especially if it's a lapse in a gray area of grammar. But a lot of errors will be a red flag. "twenty-two-year-old" needs hyphens and "the Magical Council of SF" needs to be set off by either a pair of dashes or a pair of commas.

I'm assuming Cubes is an organization. If so, then your MC wouldn't be "from" an organization.

But Aaly along with everything normal in her life head out the window, quite literally, when a dead man - also a frequent participant in her recurring nightmares, steps in front of her car.

The construction here is off. Does Aaly really head out the window? The grammar indicates she does. Then "quite literally" underscores that. The phrase "also a frequent..." also needs to be set off by the same pair of punctuation.

Blamed for the resulting ten car pile-up, Aaly is determined to find out who are the people in her nightmares and why are they after her.

Think cause and effect. Aaly doesn't become determined to explore her nightmare because she's blamed for the accident, but that's how this reads. The placement of the "ares" in both instances is normal for a question but not for a statement.

The reveal that there are several people in her nightmares and that they are after her is confusing. The reader needs it set up before the reveal that these people start showing up in the real world.

On this seemingly simple quest,

Is it simple because she recognizes these people or something gives her a clue where to begin her hunt?

Aaly is aided by a runaway blue blooded Ven, a helpful but ‘I am superior than thou’ Dak officer and her best friend.

Since the reader has no idea what a Ven is and whether "blue-blooded" might mean nobility or that a Ven really has blue-colored blood, what a Dak is or what the Dak is an officer of, or anything at all about the best friend, that Aaly has help can probably be safely left out of the query.

The public library and the magical sand, Kalp, lead them to a local coroner’s office where the Fallen emerge as the obvious culprits.

Again, we're getting references to things -- such as the magical sand -- that don't help build the world for the reader, but make it confusing. I'm also not sure "obvious culprits" are the words you want.

But Aaly isn't the only one interested in the exceptionally powerful magical beings brutally massacred nearly 25 year ago.

Does this statement refer to what The Fallen are?

Ygorr, the faceless leader of the Dark Army, knows the collective powers of The Fallen did not die with their owners and are vested in the Arc of Fallen who is yet to step forward.

Does Ygorr really not have a face and is that important for the query? What's the Dark Army?

"Arc" seems to be an odd word. I get that the "Arc of the Fallen" is a being, but why "Arc"? "Ark" would seem to make more sense, but that's a niggle since it's your world.

The Arc could provide Ygorr with control of seven billion human souls who have yet to consciously unlock their own magic, a most potent weapon to take over the Ministry of Magic.

I'm not clear what the weapon is: Is it the Arc or is it the magic of the 7 billion? What's the Ministry of Magic (and I would avoid that term in the query since a reader will go straight to the Harry Potter books on that)? Is taking over the M of M Ygorr's goal?

When Ygorr learns Aaly's father was the one who betrayed The Fallen, Aaly scrambles to save the person responsible for her dislike of magic and everything that goes along with it as well as understand what being the Arc of the Fallen really means for her.

This sentence should really be letting the reader know what Aaly's ultimate goal is and what's trying to prevent her from reaching that goal. Here, there is no apparent connection between The Fallen, Ygorr, and the mysterious person Aaly needs to save. Is it her father?

Your word choices are working against you. Aaly "scrambling" doesn't evoke much excitement, and "dislike" is a really tepid word as well.

This is also the first indication we have that Aaly dislikes magic. Why is that?

Knowing about the Arc is a personal goal, but I think your stakes are higher. The Arc pretty much holds the fate of the supernatural in her hands, right?

Orion: The Reunion, a 95,000 word fantasy, tracks Aaly and her friends across borders and cultures both human and magical as they fight the Dark Army from running over the hereto happily coexisting magical and human worlds on Earth.

Cap the title of your book. Also, the title and the story usually have some connection. From the query and story description, I have no idea why this title was chosen.

The last half of your sentence dilutes the setup in the rest of your query. The word choices aren't really hard-hitting enough, making the tone and voice of the query not seem to fit the circumstances of the story.

My Version
 
Twenty-two-year-old Aaly Bennet may be a novice in the Magical Council of San Francisco but she still loves her regular human life. She'd love it even more if not for the nightmares where a horde of dead people chase her nightly through some dark realm. Still, she manages -- until one of the dead steps out of her dreams and in front of her car.
 
When her insurance rates skyrocket because of the resulting ten-car pile-up, Aaly knows she has to get to the bottom of her dreams before something more disastrous happens. The public library and a consultation with a magical divination tool provide the clues she needs. The dead in her dreams are The Fallen: exceptionally powerful magical beings massacred nearly 25 years ago.

Her investigation doesn't go unnoticed. Ygorr, leader of a splinter group engaged in a power bid with the rest of the magical world, has been waiting a generation for the Arc of The Fallen to make itself known. The Arc contains the collective magic of the The Fallen, and with it, Ygorr will have the power to control the unlocked magic of 7 billion human souls. Together, Arc and souls will provide the weapon needed to crush every magical council on Earth.

When Aaly discovers it was her own father who betrayed The Fallen and that Ygorr is now hot on his trail, she races to save him -- only to learn that in a desperate act to keep the power hidden, he dumped it into his unborn child. Now Aaly must figure out how to use the power of the Arc to save her father, save herself, and save the worlds.

ORION: THE REUNION is a 95,000-word fantasy that teeters on the cusp between the world of humans and the world of magic.

6 comments:

Orlando said...

I was completely lost with the original query. Like Phoenix said there was too much info that I did not know and understand.

Phoenix: I'm not sure how you got all that detail from that query, but yes your version is much clearer.

Matt said...

It's not good enough to say "twenty-two-year-old Aaly has a normal life."

It would be better to omit her age and state her occupation or field of study (non-magical). When describing a person or place, you have to build an image for the reader. Vague statements like "regular human life" do not accomplish this.

There's a lot going on here. Even after Phoenix sorted through it I'm still not sure what the plot is and how this world works. That's the problem with fantasy, though.

Kay said...

Hey Phoenix

Thanks for the great edit.

All the points you mentioned seem so obvious in hindsight but that is usually the case, isn't it? :-)

The story is actually the first in a trilogy where the nine people who get together to find the Fallen are actually the nine human points of constellation Orion and must fulfill the prophecy associated with the constellation of the wise man. The subsequent novels deal with the training and eventual war in the age of constellations.

I guess I will have to scrap this QL 'cos probably trying to make it a standalone novel instead of first of a trilogy kinda takes away from the plot.

Thank you so much for your insight and great tips on the query letter! I am gonna keep a copy and get back to you with the new version taking in all your points and the real storyline. Relevant details only and grammar check will top my list!

Your edit made me think twice about not pitching it as a trilogy and foregoing main points of the story that actually got me writing this story in the first place.

Thanks once again for your time and effort. :-)

Phoenix said...

Hi Kay:

That's the beauty of online critiques. They give you that sideways, outsider view that more often than not is quite different than what you thought you wrote. We've all done it, scrapped it, and rewritten it. Some of us several times ;o)

We'll be looking forward to your revision!

Orlando: Sometimes I do have to make up some things for the rewrite.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

How do you get CUBES out of the Magical Council of San Francisco? Wouldn't that be MCSF?

Aaly Bennett, a novice fresh from her meeting at the Magical Council of San Francisco, knew her life went out the window when a dead man, the subject of her recurring dreams, stepped in front of her car and she creamed him good.

Trying to help. Good luck.

Orlando said...

I didn't realize your query was for a trilogy. I'm not an expert on this but I believe you should start with your first book as a standalone. If picked up then mention you're able to make a trilogy.