Thursday, April 7, 2011

Query 74

The Desmona Child

Dear Agent,

Marine Desmona knows that living in Adara could mean her death. With the use of magic outlawed and witches publicly burned, her secret is dangerous…Then influential Duke Sinclair offers his protection and things get worse.

After Marine learns that the duke wants to use her to create a child with god-like dominion over life and death, she refuses his protection and offer of marriage. Her defiance leads to an accident, proving that she has access to unlimited power – but no control – and she is left in the ashes of a firestorm she never meant to summon. In a show of cruelty and domination, Duke Sinclair murders Marine’s mother and threatens to kill her father if she doesn’t submit to his demands.

Marine abandons her home, compelled by her fear of being forced to mother an abomination and the shame of being responsible for tragedies she can’t undo. Fleeing across the known world to the island of Atlantis, where magic is considered divine, Marine is hard-pressed to conceal her uncontrollable magic and sidestep the interest of everyone she encounters.

Freedom awaits her… if she can outrun the duke and her own magic.

THE DESMONA CHILD is my 106,000 word fantasy novel. Although this is a stand-alone novel, a sequel is currently in the works.

Comments

This is a very good start; I just think we need to understand a little more about why Marine can't save herself with magic and what the ultimate stakes for her are.

Marine Desmona knows that living in Adara could mean her death.

Opening with this statement will likely have the reader immediately asking why she doesn't just leave Adara. What's keeping her here? Are things different elsewhere?

With the use of magic outlawed and witches publicly burned, her secret is dangerous… Then influential Duke Sinclair offers his protection and things get worse.

Just how secret is this secret if the duke knows it? How did the duke come about this knowledge?

After Marine learns that the duke wants to use her to create a child with god-like dominion over life and death,

After talk of witchcraft, the word "create" here did not immediately lead me to think procreation. I thought he wanted her to literally make a god-like person through magic. But then why a child? Looking at it from the "giving birth" perspective, it's not clear to me why the duke would believe that their love-child would inherit Marine's magical skills or that she was powerful. He seems to know a lot about her that even she doesn't know.

she refuses his protection and offer of marriage. Her defiance leads to an accident, proving that she has access to unlimited power – but no control – and she is left in the ashes of a firestorm she never meant to summon.

So he politely asks her to mother a god and wed him. She flies into a rage at the thought and when she shakes her head to tell him "no," she accidentally burns down a couple of city blocks? I think we need a little clearer picture as to what's going on. Is the duke pressuring her at this point? Is Marine's reaction appropriate?

In a show of cruelty and domination, Duke Sinclair murders Marine’s mother and threatens to kill her father if she doesn’t submit to his demands.

Marine abandons her home, compelled by her fear of being forced to mother an abomination and the shame of being responsible for tragedies she can’t undo. Fleeing across the known world

What protections does the duke have? He doesn't seem to be afraid of someone with scary limitless power. And Marine doesn't try to help her dad or take him with her when she flees? She just abandons him to his fate. Isn't his a tragedy she can prevent?

to the island of Atlantis, where magic is considered divine, Marine is hard-pressed to conceal her uncontrollable magic and sidestep the interest of everyone she encounters.

Does she know Atlanteans consider magic divine when she goes there? Why, then, is she trying to conceal her magic in such a culture? And isn't she afraid to be in a populated area after the last tragedy and the shame she's living with?

Freedom awaits her… if she can outrun the duke and her own magic.

Does the duke pursue her to Atlantis if she's trying to outrun him? I'm not clear what the stakes are for her here at the end. She's among folk ready to revere her as a god, apparently even if she causes untold grief if her magic gets out of hand. What's the down side?

Does she despise her magic and want to be rid of it? Does she want to learn to control it? Does she want to do more than simply run away? Freedom at the price of running away from problems doesn't feel like a way to solve problems in a novel like this.

THE DESMONA CHILD is my 106,000 word fantasy novel. Although this is a stand-alone novel, a sequel is currently in the works.

My Version

With a little creative license taken, of course.

When Marine Desmona breaks the law and uses magic to save a drowning child, she knows flouting her secret could mean the stake. The influential Duke Sinclair offers his protection -- but it comes with a price.

The duke knows the bloodline of every witch in Adara. That's because strong magic beats within him too, dormant and untouchable. In Marine, he's found the perfect match to fulfill his legacy -- to give birth to a daughter who will have god-like dominion over life and death. Grateful for the protection but unwilling to become his wife, Marine refuses the duke's offer of marriage. When he forces his advances, her power strikes out, uncontrollably, leaving her in the ashes of a firestorm she never meant to summon. A score of homes lie in ruin because of her, and the man she meant to punish stands unscathed, protected by ancient charms.

Retaliating, Duke Sinclair murders her mother and holds her father's life ransom in exchange for her compliance. Unable to save her father and unwilling to submit to the duke, Marine flees across the known world, finding haven on the island of Atlantis where magic is considered divine. But every day she loses more control of her seemingly limitless power, putting herself and the islanders at terrible risk.

Faced with abandoning her new home to protect its people, Marine prepares to run again. But the duke, having found her at last, has other plans -- and this time he's brought the means to carry them through.

THE DESMONA CHILD is my 106,000 word fantasy novel. Although this is a stand-alone novel, a sequel is currently in the works.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Phoenix, I loved your comments! Thank you so much for taking the time to give me feedback.

A.M.Supinger

Ryan Mueller said...

This sounds like an interesting story, but the query needs some work to convey that better.

For one, I have concerns over the likability of Marine as a character. In the query, you tell us she runs away and leaves her father to die (because running away implies she is not submitting to his demands). This might work in the context of the book, but from the query she sounds like a selfish character, and personally, I don't want to read about her from what you presented here.

"Then influential Duke Sinclair offers his protection and things get worse."

I really don't like this sentence. The "and then it gets worse" construction is overused. It's also unnecessary because you show us how it becomes worse in the next paragraph. That, and using the word "get" in a query will raise questions about your precision of verb choices.

Right now, the entire second paragraph is confusing.

How does the duke know he can use her to create such a child?

How exactly does her defiance lead to this accident? And by firestorm, are you indicating that she destroyed a city, a house, or what?

I can actually see why she would conceal her magic. If the Atlantians consider magic divine, they will probably bother/study/worship her to no end if she displays her powerful abilities.

Also, does the Duke follow her to Atlantis? I'm guessing he's the antagonist and that the book culminates in some kind of scene where she finally escapes and/or kills the Duke and learns to control her abilities.

Here's my attempt at rewriting this. Disclaimer: I am not a professional. I am another writer who has struggled with query writing, as evidenced by some earlier posts on here and Evil Editor.

When influential Duke Sinclair offers Marine Desmona protection, she finally feels safe from her country's witch hunts. That is, until she discovers the duke intends to impregnate her and use her immense latent powers to create a child with god-like dominion over life and death. She refuses his advances, and her anger unleashes a firestorm she never meant to summon, destroying everything around her except the duke.

An irate Duke Sinclair murders her mother as punishment for her disobedience and threatens to kill her father if she continues to resist. Though she loves her father, she fears the consequences of creating the duke's abominable child, so she flees to the island of Atlantis where magic is considered divine.

But she can't conceal her powers from the curious Atlantians, nor avoid Duke Sinclair forever. When the inevitable happens, Marine must learn to control her powers if she wants to protect not only the world, but her beloved father as well.

THE DESMONA CHILD is a standalone fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 106,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is only 181 words, so you can feel free to add details as you see fit. I'm also not guaranteeing it's any good, but there might be something in there that works.

I hope you find this critique helpful. If you clean up Marine's motivation especially, this sounds like something I might actually like to read.

Matt said...

When writing characters with god-like powers it's difficult not to make him/her a Mary Sue.

Here's a popular online test to see if your fantasy character is a Mary Sue:

http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm

Keep in mind that the test is not 100% accurate, but if you get a high score you might want to run it through a few more tests (a simple search will bring up dozens).

Anonymous said...

Ryan,
Thank you for your comments :) I have been working on correcting my misleading description of Marine. She is the opposite of cold and uncaring. I am going to post a revision if Phoenix is interested in critiquing another query of mine, and I will keep your suggestions in mind.

Good luck with whatever you are working on!

A.M.Supinger

Anonymous said...

As I'm writing a fantasy novel myself, I often find that there's a conundrum in making your MC's magic too powerful - why don't they use it?

Is there any reason Marine doesn't turn the Duke into a caterpillar, or transport her mother to another room just as the duke's about to kill her? I'm sure there is a reason, but as it's not spelt out in the query, so it leaves the reader dissatisfied.

Then again, when reading "HP and the The Goblet of Fire" I wondered why they didn't just use the time-turners to go back in time and stop Voldemort rising again, so maybe I'm too picky.

Matt said...

Ack. Blogger ate my comment again.

Long story short, go here:

http://www.springhole.net/quizzes/marysue.htm

Phoenix said...

Sorry, Matt: Blogger sent your original comment to the spam folder. And apparently when I tell it the commment isn't spam, it places it in the original place in the comment queue, so it's here now, just further up.

Phoenix said...

@Ryan: No need for disclaimers here! We ALL have something to add to the conversation.

Honestly, I saw a query today that snagged an agent that had me wondering what she saw in it. It's all subjective. So offer your suggestions without caveat. Others may disagree, but that doesn't make your comments wrong or your ideas any less valuable.

Matt said...

No need to apologize for Blogger. But why does it keep thinking I'm a spammer?

batgirl said...

Matt, if you include links that can activate the spam filter, because linking to sales sites is a popular spam tactic.

Author, this is a minor point, but if you're hoping to appeal to the historical fantasy audience with a semi-Regency setting, you might want to change Duke Sinclair's name or title. Duke means a ruler of a Duchy (or did), so he would be the Duke _of_ somewhere. Sinclair is just a surname, and using it with Duke makes it sound as if this is set in the modern USA, where Duke and Earl are common first names.
I know, this is geeky, but details count.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Hi AM,
Desmona's father could demand/plead/beg with her to leave knowing what will happen to her if she stays. She honors his last wish, and carries that dreadful guilt for the rest of her days, fuelling her determination and on it goes.
If she has a final confrontation with Duke Sinclair I'd write that in. Running away seems unbecoming in someone who has so much power. You gave us enough of the Duke to understand he won't be outrun by her.

The query kind of trailed off leaving me high and dry. At some point she needs to deal with him and her power (IMHO)doesn't she? Finally facing him could purge of of her guilt over her father's death.

Good luck, hope that helps.