Friday, February 18, 2011

Query Revision 63

Face-Lift 869: World Book

Seth was good at following the rules. He obeyed his parents, performed his nightly vows, and observed the laws in the World Book with pride – until he met Kinessa.

Seth’s family shelters Kinessa when they find her wandering naked in their backyard. Her blatant disregard for the World Book initially frightens Seth, but he is intrigued by her rebellious ideas. Eventually they go to the beach and Kinessa steps into the water, entering the Kingdom of the Sea – a crime punishable by death. Seth is terrified when she breaks one of the high laws, but he is astonished when she changes into a sea serpent and reveals that she is from another Kingdom. She tells Seth that she has come to the Kingdom of the Land to fight the laws of the World Book, and she confronts Seth with a choice – go back to your previous life, or come with me.

Seth follows Kinessa as she spies on a secret meeting on the land held between the Kings of the three Kingdoms. They follow the Crown Prince back to the Kingdom of the Air, but Kinessa’s plan fails and they barely escape with their lives with help from a hawk named Nilbee. Kinessa decides to start a revolution in the King’s City of the land with Seth and Nilbees help, but when that plan also fails Seth finds that he must rely on his own intelligence and courage to save them all.

World Book is a completed 32,000 word fantasy for middle grade readers. I have one published short story in Byline Magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration. If you are interested feel free to contact me by phone or email.

Comments

This version does give the reader more details and helps to flesh out the world more. Now we know that people can become other creatures depending on which kingdom they're in. At least I think that's the case, though that assumption isn't made entirely clear: Just because Kinessa changes form, does that mean Seth can too, or that the hawk who helps them later is really a person from the Kingdom of the Air?

I think how the details are presented needs to be tweaked, and we need more in the way of motivations and obstacles. For instance, what's the Big Bad here? Kinessa's plans fail twice, which is great for not making things too easy for the MCs, but why are the plans failing? Is it because some outside force is thwarting them? Because they are simply really bad plans? Or because the MCs don't have the heart to see them through?

As it's MG, ages of the characters would be good to know.

Seth was good at following the rules. He obeyed his parents, performed his nightly vows, and observed the laws in the World Book with pride – until he met Kinessa.

I think this is a good opening. It establishes Seth as a clean-cut kid who isn't interested in making waves, then teases us that something's about to change that.

Seth’s family shelters Kinessa when they find her wandering naked in their backyard. Her blatant disregard for the World Book initially frightens Seth, but he is intrigued by her rebellious ideas.

The juxtaposition of these two sentences has me confused. "Wandering naked" makes me think K is a vulnerable girl. But then that idea is turned on its head with the word choices "blatant disregard". At this point I don't know what to make of K.

We do need to see, I think, what those rebellious ideas are. And we need to know whether she's just telling him the World Book laws suck and THIS is how she'd run the world, or is she actually going around breaking those laws in front of him? I realize you got comments before when you included some of the laws she encourages Seth to break (going into the woods, playing on the beach, etc). It wasn't that they were included that raised questions, though; it was that they were included without sufficient context for the reader to understand why the rules were in place and what the consequences of breaking them are.

Eventually they go to the beach and Kinessa steps into the water, entering the Kingdom of the Sea – a crime punishable by death. Seth is terrified when she breaks one of the high laws, but he is astonished when she changes into a sea serpent and reveals that she is from another Kingdom.

"Eventually" is not your best word choice when so far nothing much has happened and the whole book is only 32,000 words.

At this point, I think you want the reader to be filled with wonder at this transformation. But the reader doesn't know what's going on. I'm thinking maybe that's a pretty good law to have if entering the water changes everyone (does it?) into sea serpents. Does the act of her changing reveal she's from the Sea Kingdom, or does she tell Seth that?

She tells Seth that she has come to the Kingdom of the Land to fight the laws of the World Book, and she confronts Seth with a choice – go back to your previous life, or come with me.

The motivation here escapes me. Are the people of the Sea bound by the laws of the Book, too? If so, why does she come on Land to fight them? Why not fight them at home? If not, why does she care?

What is Seth's previous life? Not hanging out with Kinessa? We haven't seen Seth breaking any laws or becoming anything he wasn't before. More questioning, yes, but nothing to indicate the need for "previous life".

Seth follows Kinessa as she spies on a secret meeting on the land held between the Kings of the three Kingdoms. They follow the Crown Prince back to the Kingdom of the Air, but Kinessa’s plan fails and they barely escape with their lives with help from a hawk named Nilbee.

This paragraph is what happens when an author is too close to their work. It leaves the reader utterly lost. I'll go with you on the secret meeting, but then where did the Crown Prince come from if it's a meeting between kings? What's K's plan other than to follow the prince home? Does something threaten them if they barely escape with their lives? Why would a hawk help? And do we really need to know its name?

Kinessa decides to start a revolution in the King’s City of the land with Seth and Nilbees help, but when that plan also fails Seth finds that he must rely on his own intelligence and courage to save them all.

"Decides" is probably not your best word choice here. What is K hoping to accomplish by a revolution? I'm assuming it has something to do with the laws, but what's harder: convincing people the laws they've blindly followed are wrong or convincing people to revolt? Seth seemed to not see anything wrong with the laws at first, so is demonstrating how the laws are wrong an obstacle to their success? Why does the plan fail?

The last sentence seems to indicate that the climax is that Seth has to save himself, K and the hawk from something to do with K's plan failing. But from the rest of the paragraph, it seems we have two equal and parallel climaxes in the book:

  • K and Seth go to the Air Kingdom, K's plan falls through putting them in life-threatening jeopardy from which they are saved by a hawk.
  • K, Seth and the hawk go the Land Kingdom, K's plan falls through putting them in life-threatening jeopardy from which Seth must save them.
 From this, I would conclude there's an issue with the story structure in the book itself. I'm assuming that's not the case, so I think you'll need to differentiate these two events better so as not to leave the reader with a reason to reject.

World Book is a completed 32,000 word fantasy for middle grade readers. I have one published short story in Byline Magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration. If you are interested feel free to contact me by phone or email.

Cap WORLD BOOK. Italicize Byline Magazine. I would delete "If you are interested..." completely. While I advocate "closing the sale" language, that isn't quite it. You're providing both forms of contact, so it's a given the agent will use one or the other to reach you.

12 comments:

no-bull-steve said...

wow author. WAY better job on this version!

Phoenix has some good points to consider. The part that stood out like a cat at a coyote party was "but he is astonished when she changes into a sea serpent"

Astonished? Flabbergasted? A flutter?

Don't TELL us how he's feeling. Show us, and more importantly, MAKE US FEEL THAT!

BuffySquirrel said...

Why do Seth's parents, who've apparently brought him up to be law-abiding, tolerate Kinessa with her disregard for the rules?

Ok, I suppose this may fly in middle grade books, but I'm having difficulty with the idea that a boy, a sea serpent, and a hawk can bring down a religion that's followed by so many people. The query doesn't address how come Seth and Kinessa are able to achieve this. Seth in particular seems to be involved purely by chance. What's his motivation?

vkw said...

This is better but there is still too much missing information.

My number one problem is this, and it was my number one problem before -

What is wrong with the Word Book? And, why is it so oppressive that two teenagers are convinced they need to start a rebellion.

The query is hinting at (I think but don't know) that the Word Book is keeping the kingdoms apart. Is this right? And why is this wrong?

We don't have clear idea of what the delimma is.

vkw

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I tried to simplify the query and couldn't.

I expected Kinessa to be a victim but she's a revolutionary.

Kinessa's disregard for the World Book scares and intrigues Seth. A walk on the beach changes her when she steps into the ocean. She has come to the Kingdom of the Land to fight the laws of the World Book. (Why?) Seth has a choice – keep walking down the beach or follow her. (He doesn't have a previous life just yet, he has a choice.)

She came to the Kingdom of Land to fight WB laws but goes to the Kingdom of Air to start a revolution. Why?

Why does Seth tag along? He was happy in his life in the first para.

Good luck, takes time to gel.

chelsea said...

Oh, I don't know. If I couldn't walk around naked or swim in the ocean, I'd be against the World Book too.

I'm guessing Kinessa is naked for the same reason Splash was naked - she's just come from the sea.

I think paragraphs one and two are on the right track. Three tries to fit in too much, IMO. In regards to Nilbee: I'm guessing the bond between creatures of air, land, and sea is necessary to take down the World Book, but it wouldn't hurt if you spelled it out.

Here are my questions: Who gains the most from the World Book remaining in tact? The Kings? Are the Kingdoms at war? Or are they just forbidden from contacting each other? For example, do the beings of the Sea think the Air creatures are icky? Does the World Book promote these ideas?

I didn't have a huge issue with the concept: a world where people obey laws they don't always agree with because they don't want to get in trouble. I think we live in a world like that. I'd just like to know a bit more about who benefits from the World Book and what would happen if it was destroyed.

Anonymous said...

Everyone always says they don't know about middle grades books, so I'm gonna hop in and say I do, cuz I write 'em.

There are no free passes for middle grades authors. Nothing that is unacceptable in professional fiction writing is acceptable in the middle grades market. There's nothing you can get away with in middle grades that you can't get away with in the adult or YA markets.

The middle grades market is very, very competitive. And getting moreso all the time.

This query is better than previous versions, but it's got a tense shift between the first paragraph and the rest of it. And the name "World Book" is still a problem. The writer needs to come up with something else. Walk it out. Write down 20 possible names and pick the 20th one.

Orlando said...

I only have two questions. How does the World Book affect Kinessa and her world? Why is she compelled to start a revolution that may put her life in danger?

I believe there has to be a worthwhile cause for the reader to cheer for the protagonist, and I don't see it.

Faraci said...

Revision:

Seth was good at following the rules. He obeyed his parents, performed his nightly vows, and observed the laws in the World Book with pride – until he met Kinessa.

The Kingdoms of the Land, Air, and Sea follow the World Book – a list of oppressive laws designed to keep peace throughout the Kingdoms. Kinessa, a thirteen-year-old stranger claiming to have amnesia, believes these laws need to change. When Seth’s family shelters Kinessa, her blatant disregard for the World Book initially frightens Seth, but he is intrigued by her rebellious ideas. For the first time he dares to explore the woods in his backyard and visit the ocean, but he faints from shock when Kinessa reveals she’s from the Kingdom of the Sea by changing into a sea serpent.

Kinessa tells Seth that she came to the land, a crime punishable by death, to spy on a secret meeting between the Kings and their heirs. Seth follows her to the meeting, but grows skeptical of her plan when she decides to convince the Crown Prince of the Air to join their side. The prince’s bloodthirsty nature leads to a deadly confrontation, and they barely escape with their lives. Kinessa comes up with another reckless plan and decides to start a revolution in the King’s City of the land. A few people begin to listen to their ideas, but when the Crown Prince catches up to them Seth must rely on his own intelligence and courage to save them all.

WORLD BOOK is a completed 32,000 word fantasy for middle grade readers. I have one published short story in Byline Magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I’m still having some problems, but I think this is a step in the right direction. I’m not sure if I’ve sufficiently explained their motivations – I’m having trouble squeezing them in with the plot while keeping the query short.

To be clear on the motivations:
Kinessa: She is reckless, rebellious, angry, and strong. She hates having to follow rules, and she thinks it is wrong that oppressive rules like these exist. She is the heir to the Sea Kingdom (which is only revealed at the very end), so she learns about shape shifting from her King father as he prepares her to rule. She uses the info to run away to the land. She is curious about the land, and she wants to spy on the secret meeting. Then she comes up with a lot of half-baked plans of revolution that don’t really work. She doesn’t have the intelligence or the commitment to come up with a good plan. In the revolution she hopes to change people’s minds about the World Book.

Seth: He was okay with his life, but never happy. Lots of rules he was raised to follow, and since he’s a goody-two-shoes he obeys his parents with pride. But he is very intelligent, and as soon as Kinessa starts putting idea’s in his head he finally begins to really think about the laws he always follows. He breaks them more and more, and starts to follow Kinessa’s orders instead of his parents. He starts to believe in her message of freedom, and joins her quest. He knows Kinessa’s first plan is bad, but he has trouble convincing her. He helps more with the second plan, and it almost works until the Crown Prince catches them. His intelligence and quick thinking are what make the final plan work – the final scene in the book. Basically he finally learns to think for himself.

Faraci said...

As for the other questions…I also had trouble fitting these into the query. The answers:

The first failed plan introduces us to the bad guy – the Crown Prince. The climax occurs when the Crown Prince finds them again in the King’s City and put’s them in life-threatening jeopardy from which Seth must save them.

Seth’s parents aren’t at home – they work all day. They are oblivious to what Kinessa is teaching Seth.

The Kings think that the World Book will keep peace between the Kingdoms. They are hoping to avoid another war like the one that ripped the Kingdoms apart centuries ago. Over the centuries the message got a little twisted, and now the laws don’t just forbid possible interactions with other Kingdoms – they forbid basic freedoms.

I could explain how Seth manages to stop the laws of the world book, etc, but that is the ending of the book. Queries aren't about telling the ending, they are about making you interested in the book.


And THANK YOU everyone! All your feedback is such a great help. Query writing is a lot harder than I thought.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Getting better. Sharper.

Seth was pretty good at following the WB until he met Kinessa. She was naked in his backyard when that happened.

Just playing with your opening.

Logic problem: Kinessa, a thirteen-year-old stranger claiming to have amnesia, believes these laws need to change.

No memory, no knowledge of the WB laws. Or is she a liar? I like fiction liars, they are quite interesting to me.

A few problems need to be fixed, putting new words on them isn't helping the query.

Needs more blood. (Yours, not the characters.) Take a break, a few days off from it, do something fun then when you're fresh have at it her. Plenty of fluids help flush away the stress toxins that build up from too much concentrated work.

You are making great progress. If you can try reading the query from an agent's pov, it may help you.

Anonymous said...

Hi,
Could be me, but Seth fainting made me dislike him. Milky/toasty.

Motivation and plot seem to be tripping up the query.

Seth meets a girl in his back yard who is naked. But that isn't the amazing thing. Her change into a sea creature on the beach a few evenings later gives him his first panic attack, one of many to come as this girl/sea creature takes him to different kingdoms trying to stamp out the book and the rules he has lived with his entire life. He loves his book and its rules.

Seth's trouble really begins when he wants to ____ but can't because ________ and to make matters extra terrible, he must ______ while she ______. And he's in these Kingdoms he can't seem to get out of. He wants his life the way it was but that will never happen now.

Just taking a stab. I like the story.

Faraci said...

Okay, I tried another spin on the query. Is this angle more exciting to read, or should I stay with the matter-of-fact plot description.

Dear Agent,

Everyone obeys the World Book. Everyone in the Kingdoms of the Land, Air, and Sea. If you don’t, you get thrown to the magistrate. And if you break the High Laws, you’re killed. Seth doesn’t mind, for the most part. As long as you follow the rules you stay safe and well fed with your family. It’s hard to miss freedom when you’ve never had it.

Kinessa doesn’t think so. She’s brave, rebellious, and angry with the World Book – everything Seth is not. She shows up in Seth’s backyard, claiming to have amnesia, but Seth is pretty sure she’s lying. Eventually, though, Kinessa’s crazy ideas about the World Book get him thinking. Why can’t he explore the woods and visit the beach? Why does he have to accept the World Book without questions? But when Kinessa changes into a sea serpent in front of him, Seth realizes that she has a broader plan then breaking a few rules.

Kinessa says she wants to start a revolution in the King’s City. Seth is hesitant to back her plan, but he knows he can’t go back to his previous life. A few people start to listen to her ideas, but when the authorities catch up to them Seth must rely on his own intelligence and courage to save them all.

WORLD BOOK is a completed 32,000 word fantasy for middle grade readers.