Friday, February 4, 2011

Query Revision 60

Face-Lift 863: The Forest's Paw

Fifteen year old Bess is collecting water when she finds a half-dead wolf cub. She names it Shamrock and takes him home to recover; unaware he was being followed.

The ones chasing Shamrock are assassins named the Givers. They can control mortals through their beauty, and soon Bess’s entire village is eager to help them find her. By aiding Shamrock, Bess has unintentionally become his accomplice. She is forced to flee for her life.

She finds an ally in Grack, an immature goat-boy who wants revenge after the Givers destroyed his village. Shamrock reveals himself as an earth spirit, a being that enables plants to grow, trapped as a wolf by the Givers. They plan to capture earth spirits to harness the magic for themselves, despite knowing this would destroy the world’s plant life.

The trio decide to free the captured earth spirits, hopefully destroying the Givers in the process. The further Bess travels from her human village, the stranger the people and monsters become and the bigger Shamrock grows. Having finally reached their destination, a mansion on worm-infested sands, they are forced to split up.

The enemy was expecting them. Grack lies unconscious below ground as Shamrock spars with a fiery woman above him. Bess stares at the creatures she came to rescue. A beautiful stranger watches her.

THE FOREST’S PAW is a completed 67,000 YA, fantasy novel. It is a stand-alone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Comments

Why, yes, as Evil Editor so accurately noted in his comments, I do in fact have conflicting advice. If you haven't noticed, it's our passion to drive writers insane. But as the creator of the story, the author is ultimately responsible to figure out what pieces of advice resonate best -- if at all -- with the world they've envisioned. In this case, EE suggests downplaying the romance. I see his point, given the direction of the story. I think one of two thing need to happen with this query: either the world-building and the plot need to be made more visceral or the love story needs to be played up. From the attempts I've seen, I think playing up the romance is the easier -- even if it may not be the wiser -- choice.

However, the tone feels off for me. The storyline and the characters -- they don't seem YA. But a love triangle also isn't right for MG. So I'm going to suggest that maybe this is a tween book?

Fifteen year old Bess is collecting water when she finds a half-dead wolf cub. She names it Shamrock and takes him home to recover; unaware he was being followed.

Pay close attention to the grammar, especially in those impression-making first sentences. "fifteen-year-old" takes hyphens, mixing pronouns by calling Shamrock both "it" and "him" in the same clause is awkward, and that semi-colon doesn't belong there.

Others may disagree, but the name "Shamrock" in this query is one of the clues I got for this not being a true YA. I get the symbolism with the vegetation and it may all work great in the novel, but in my rewrite below, I didn't give the wolf a name at all.

The ones chasing Shamrock are assassins named the Givers.

Who names them the Givers and why? The title doesn't seem consistent with their actions. A hint of what their function in this world is would be helpful. In my rewrite, they come across pretty awkwardly still because I don't know enough about them. They coerce humans, they destroy satyr villages, and they chase down earth spirits. Do they destroy Grack's village in search of spirits or simply because they don't like goat-people? Flesh the Givers out for us a bit more. Bad guys aren't 100% bad.

They can control mortals through their beauty, and soon Bess’s entire village is eager to help them find her. By aiding Shamrock, Bess has unintentionally become his accomplice. She is forced to flee for her life.

She finds an ally in Grack, an immature goat-boy who wants revenge after the Givers destroyed his village. Shamrock reveals himself as an earth spirit, a being that enables plants to grow, trapped as a wolf by the Givers. They plan to capture earth spirits to harness the magic for themselves, despite knowing this would destroy the world’s plant life.

I think a little more logical explanation is needed here. Why would any entity knowingly allow all the plant life to be destroyed? There's the whole food chain and cause-and-effect thing. What purpose does a barren world serve the Givers?

The trio decide to free the captured earth spirits, hopefully destroying the Givers in the process.

Do they hope the freed earth spirits destroy the Givers? Or do they somehow think that they can destroy the Givers themselves. I'm thinking a race of Givers, but perhaps there are only 3 or 4 Givers in the world instead.

The further Bess travels from her human village, the stranger the people and monsters become and the bigger Shamrock grows. Having finally reached their destination, a mansion on worm-infested sands, they are forced to split up.

I left the "worm-infested sands" in my rewrite, but really it isn't that evocative. Are we talking Dune-like worms here? Grubworms that eat away at roots? Roundworms that control insects by eating larvae? Or earthworms? Because the more earthworms in my soil, the happier I am. Infest away. And "mansion" doesn't seem appropriate for the feudal feel of the rest of the query.

The enemy was expecting them.

You've switched to past tense here.

Grack lies unconscious below ground as Shamrock spars with a fiery woman above him. Bess stares at the creatures she came to rescue. A beautiful stranger watches her.

OK, this as a wrap-up is really, really not working. First, what exactly is a fiery woman? I'm assuming you mean literally a woman of fire, but it could be interpreted otherwise. And "above him" grammatically indicates the woman is above Shamrock, so I'm picturing her airborne and Shamrock on the ground. What I think you mean is that BOTH Shamrock and the woman are on the ground above Grack.

Bess staring at the creatures doesn't tell the reader anything. Honestly, it's pretty useless here. As is the beautiful stranger watching her. You've built to a climax where the MC is doing nothing but looking at things and something is looking at her. This doesn't make my heart pound or invite me to know what happens next. The ending I chose for my rewrite is a bit cliche, but at least it gives the reader something to latch onto, an active dilemma the MC faces.

THE FOREST’S PAW is a completed 67,000 YA, fantasy novel. It is a stand-alone with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

My Version

When 15-year-old Bess tries to protect a half-dead wolf cub in the forest, she unwittingly becomes his accomplice. Now she, too, is the target of immortal assassins -- four Givers who control the earth-bound through their soul-wrenching beauty -- and soon Bess's entire village is after her. Forced to flee for her life, she and the cub find an ally in Grack, an immature goat-boy who wants revenge after the Givers destroy his home.

The cub soon reveals himself as an earth spirit, trapped in wolf form by the Givers who are systematically capturing the spirits to harness their magic. Without earth spirit magic, the plants of the world will die, providing the Givers with their ultimate bargaining power for dominion. To free the spirits, Bess and her companions must survive a journey across strange lands inhabited by even stranger beasts. To complicate matters, the further they go the bigger the wolf cub grows. But that's not all. Both the trapped earth spirit and the goat-boy who's learning how to shoulder responsibility fall hard for Bess's natural kindness, her own earthy charms, and the magic that subtly blossoms within.

The Givers, though, have anticipated them, forcing the trio to split up once they've crossed a moat of worm-infested sands to reach the citadel where the spirits have been jailed. Now, with Grack fighting enemies below ground and the wolf battling elementals above, Bess is forced to choose: Help the spirits she's come to save or the comrades she's come to love.

Complete at 67,000 words, THE FOREST’S PAW is a stand-alone romantic fantasy for tweens with series potential.

1 comment:

Author said...

Wow Phoenix your version flows so much better than mine does. And I love how immature goat-boy manages to survive no matter how many rewrites it gets.

Yeah I had real difficulty in trying to end the query but I think I can build on your suggestion and make it sound good (and if it doesn't change tense half way through all the better).

The Givers were actually called The Agents before I knew anything about how writing works and I changed it because I didn't think the name would be appreciated when querying, but it does mean I have to rethink why they were called that. They are working for the elements and I can see from your query how I can include those rather than the Givers. That also means I can give a bit more reasoning for their dastardly actions!

I will rework it with your helpful comments in mind.

Thank you!