Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Query 38: Redux 2

Kindar's Cure

Dear Agent:

Soothsayers have long predicted an empress would produce three daughters, and one would rise as the savior of her people. For middle princess, Kindar Stefanous, that kind of vague drivel lags a distant second to her own troubles.

From childhood, the gods marked her as among the flawed by inflicting her with a wasting disease of cough and slow suffocation. Kindar’s choke lung has everyone, including the empress, speaking to bypass her for her healthy sisters, and the empress has a raw talent for stinging comments.

When her elder sister is murdered on her wedding night, the killer hides behind concealing magic and leaves a clue to implicate Kindar. In the space of a night, Kindar loses a sister and moves from insignificance to suspect. Her protests of innocence are drowned by the stigma of the choke lung.

Banishment looms over Kindar, but she’s no limp dishrag. A novice wizard approaches with his own prophecy and she seizes the opportunity. Maladonis Bin will help her search for a barren land where volcanic fumes might provide a cure, a cure which can make her credible in her hunt for the killer. The journey will take her slogging through territory overrun by rebels while trusting solely in Bin’s motives. With prophecy calling and the murderer at large, Kindar must rally her strength for a fight, not only for life and throne, but respect.

Kindar’s Cure is a 115,000 word fantasy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Comments

So, I'm going to send you back to your previous version as being, IMO, the better of the batch. The writing style in it was more natural. Here, it feels forced: "speaking to bypass her" (which I had to read a couple of times to understand and I'm still not a fan of), "raw talent for stinging comments," "protests of innocence drowned by the stigma of choke lung" (which, frankly, is a bit of a "huh?" for me -- isn't damning evidence enough on its own to drown out protests of innocence?).

And to be honest, I don't think this version is any clearer than the last one. I know how daunting pulling all the details into a such a short space can be. But take a look at the comments you've left for the previous versions to help explain the story. The writing there is straightforward and clear. I think you're a little intimidated by the query and your natural writing style goes out the window trying to make the query concise yet cover all the bases. Trust me, you aren't the first to get caught in this trap ;o) But just being yourself is what will give your query voice and make it stand out -- in that good way you want it to.

Also, in those comments, you leave a tidbit that's never made into your query versions, but that could be important to include. Note that in the versions we've seen, we get a prediction that a daughter will become a savior. Check. What we don't get is what that daughter will be saving her people from. I don't get a sense of urgency or even concern about what's going in the broader arena.

Don't get me wrong. I love that there is a focus on personal stakes here; so often that's what's missing from epic fantasy. Since the prophecy bit plants this in epic territory, I think we either need a follow-through on the prophecy or it needs to be droppped entirely. And honestly, even with the tidbit more you've given us in your comments -- that Kindar discovers the mines that provide the kingdom's wealth are played out -- I'm not at all clear on why all that is wrapped up in prophecy. Give some thought as to whether the prophecy needs to be mentioned here or whether you can safely oust it from the query, keep the story here small and focused, and have Kindar come through as a hero in her own right -- and leave the broader prophecy to the synopsis and book.

One more sentence to re-examine is "Maladonis Bin will help her search for a barren land where volcanic fumes might provide a cure, a cure which can make her credible in her hunt for the killer." The search isn't for the barren land, it's for the volcano, so think about narrowing it to just that. And I don't think it's actually the cure that will make her credible. It's being cured. A subtle difference but important.

7 comments:

Matt said...

Did you read this to yourself and out loud? It's a good way to identify clunky sentences and odd wording (in my experience).

I think I suggested this last time, but I strongly recommend removing the prophecy. It hurts the query.

I would sympathize with Kindar more if she were gunning for the throne -- if she had a vision for the country. But it reads like she only wants the throne to gain respect, and that makes me think she'll be a weak ruler. Ambition is a virtue.

Michelle4Laughs said...

Phoenix is trying to say in a kind way that it's overwritten. Ouch. I'm working on a more simple version.

Soothsayers have long predicted an empress would produce three daughters, and one would rise as the savior of her people. For middle princess, Kindar Stefanous, the nonsense of a savior isn’t in the realm of possibility. After all, the kingdom is healthy, unlike her.

From childhood, she wanted the throne, but the gods had other ideas. They marked her as among the flawed by sending her a wasting disease of cough and slow suffocation. Kindar’s choke lung has the court pushing her aside for her robust sisters. With her talent for stinging comments, the empress leads the way.

When her elder sister is murdered on her wedding night, the killer hides behind magic and leaves a clue to implicate Kindar. In the space of a night, she loses a sister and moves from insignificance to suspect.

Banishment and worse looms over Kindar, but she refused to surrender like a limp dishrag. A novice wizard, Maladonis Bin, approaches with his vision of a cure, and she seizes the opportunity. Along the way, they plod through territory overrun by rebels, discovering the kingdom isn’t as healthy as Kindar thought. Her sister’s death goes beyond royal jealousy to treason against the throne. With prophecy calling and the murderer at large, Kindar must rally her strength for a fight, not only for life and throne, but respect.

Matt, I'm also going to work on a version without the prophecy.

vkw said...

Try something like this:

Princess Kindar is second in line to the throne – or she would be, if the gods had not inflicted her with wasting lung disease. The empress, Kindar’s own mother, has made it known that because of this cursed condition she will not inherit any part of the kingdom and publically shames her with scarring ridicule.

When her elder sister is murdered, the killer uses magic to escape and leaves evidence to implicate Kindar. In the space of a night, Kindar loses a sister and moves from insignificance to suspect.

Banishment that means certain death looms over Kindar until a wizard offers her assistance. He will help her cross barren lands to a volcano whose fumes may provide a cure and then maybe, just maybe, Kindar will have the strength to find the really murderer and clear her name.

On their terrible journey they must face . . . . and this . . . . while discovering . . . this.

Kindar’s Cure is a 115,000 word fantasy.

I strongly suggest leaving out the prophesy altogether. It's seems like backstory and clutter. You're writing your entire query around these prophesies when in fact they are only plot devices and not really the plot.

Phoenix has a numbered system on what phase someone has in their query writing. In one of those steps there should be "author lets go of a phrase or idea that wasn't helping the query"

Anonymous said...

VKW
Great comment. We've all seen writers hang on to stuff they've been advised to drop by different critters through different versions.
This isn't directed at you Michelle, this is a general observation. Taking in comments and implementing positive change is difficult. Is more reflection required overall on the comments?

Maybe when grooving on the page we miss opportunities because we don't see them. Is there another level of conscious thought we need to get to in the revisions?

What a process.

Mac

Phoenix said...

VKW: I'll have to slip that stage in, for sure ;o)

@Michelle: Your version here in the comments is much better voice-wise, but I like how VKW condensed the beginning so it gets to the sister's murder a bit faster. So maybe combine her version with yours? Only see if you can come up with a better verb than "plodding" or "slogging," please.

Phoenix said...

And of course, do see how a version without the prophecy reads.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I'd like to read a version with out prophecy as well.(Hint.)

I have logic problems. Rules of succession for one. The death of the elder sister would cement Kindar's assension I would think. There isn't usually a choice in these matters.

If there was suspicion over elder's death I'd think jail would be a more reasonable fear than being banished. There's no need to mention that since she leaves anyway.

The wizard brings in a second prophecy.

There's a lot in here that is not needed and not enough that is.

"Limp dishrag" took me out of your world and put me in my kitchen.

Gods and soothsayers aren't needed since you didn't tell us what her people need saving from. That eliminates the need for the first prophecy.

Kindar wants respect? That surprised me. If it is respect she wants I'd get to that upfront. I was led to believe she's going to save her people from something.


Is the Empress going to abdicate or die btw? Or do ascension rules force her into retirement?

Fundamental problems need to be repaired (clarity, logic)in mhp. Hope that helps.