Thursday, April 21, 2011

Query 78

Child God

Dear XXXX,

“Kids,” says Roy , “need their own god."

Ninth-grader Angela Dawn is concerned only with perfecting her baton-twirling skills during the summer so she can compete in upcoming competitions. However, her arrogant and hyper-intelligent classmate Roy Wiley couldn’t care less about such “pointless endeavors.” He’s far too busy working on his Master Plan to save all the world’s children from hunger, disease, war and abuse.

Angela is leery of Roy when their respective parents convince the Boy Genius to tutor Angela in math, but she has to admit Roy is nothing if not different. After all, most kids don’t own 955 radio-controlled helicopters, carry around a water pistol filled with lemon juice or call poison ivy “free weaponry- ripe for the picking!” While Roy enables her to see not only math but the whole world in a brand-new light, she tries to help him moderate his obsessions. But when Roy overreacts to a bullying incident, events begin to spiral out of control. Angela’s efforts to aid Roy only lead to her own life disintegrating, as friends abandon her and Roy ’s enemies become hers as well. Finally, Angela makes a terrifying discovery, and is forced to decide; is she the one who will help make Roy ’s dreams a reality, or is she the world’s only hope of stopping him?

CHILD GOD is my debut YA novel, complete at 90,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Author Name

(bio information follows)

Comments

Just to get it out of the way, one of the email programs may be responsible for the spacing issues in this query. I didn't remove the odd spaces, but they may not be due to the author's inattention.

I think this could be an interesting premise if I understood a little more about what the premise is. There are hints here that, if expanded upon, could give this story the unique twist everyone is looking for. As it is, though, its promises seem to be a bit too vague and character actions don't seem to be in line with what the query is almost trying to hint at.

“Kids,” says Roy , “need their own god.”

This and your title set me up to believe that Roy thinks he's that god. However, the promise of this opening line isn't really fully realized in the query. I'm also not sure how effective this line is in this context since we immediately move from Roy to Angela. As a reader trying to make a connection, the dots could well lead to me thinking Angela is that god. Then I'd have to do a reversal in thinking later on, which on a fast read usually leaves the reader feeling like the writing is confused rather than planned.

Ninth-grader Angela Dawn is concerned only with perfecting her baton-twirling skills during the summer so she can compete in upcoming competitions.

"compete in upcoming competitions" is redundant. Maybe: "compete in the fall" or "perfecting her competitive baton-twirling."

Be vigilant, too, about words like "only." Not *only* is it not quite accurate -- though it might be her main concern -- you also use "only" a couple of more times later on.

However, her arrogant and hyper-intelligent classmate Roy Wiley couldn’t care less about such “pointless endeavors.”

"However" as a conjunction doesn't work here. Her action isn't rebutted by what he thinks about it. I'm also not sure why we're being told now that Roy couldn't care less. Since he isn't tutoring her at this point in the query, why is he even thinking about her and baton-twirling? Or is this sentence supposed to be a generalization about Roy and that he doesn't care at all about anything that's a pointless behavior?

He’s far too busy working on his Master Plan to save all the world’s children from hunger, disease, war and abuse.

This is good, concise characterization.

Angela is leery of Roy when their respective parents convince the Boy Genius to tutor Angela in math, but she has to admit Roy is nothing if not different.

I'll just point out that this paragraph and the previous one both lead off basically with "Angela is..."

After all, most kids don’t own 955 radio-controlled helicopters, carry around a water pistol filled with lemon juice or call poison ivy “free weaponry- ripe for the picking!”

Is Roy also 14? These actions make his sound a lot younger than that. Is he the type of genius who is several grades ahead of his age? Agreed that some geniuses are emotionally backward, but those are a very, very small percentage.

While Roy enables her to see not only math but the whole world in a brand-new light, she tries to help him moderate his obsessions.

"brand-new light" is a bit vague. All I can get from that and from what you've told us about Roy is maybe she learns to be more like a mean-spirited little kid.

But when Roy overreacts to a bullying incident, events begin to spiral out of control.

This is really a very common problem in queries. The setup is concrete and interesting, but the end of the query just devolves into vague language that leaves the reader with little idea as to what the rest of the story is actually about.

Here we don't know whether Roy is the target of the bullying or if he sees another kid being bullied. How does he overreact? Does he put a handful of poison ivy in the bully's jock shorts when he's not looking or does he set up an "accident" that kills the bully? What events are spiraling out of control?

Angela’s efforts to aid Roy only lead to her own life disintegrating, as friends abandon her and Roy ’s enemies become hers as well.

You set up earlier that the "only" thing Angela cares about is her baton skill. Why does she care now that her friends are abandoning her? And what does it mean that she now has Roy's enemies too? Does "disintegrating" mean typical school stuff, as in cliques and ostracization? Or is it something more serious? Are Roy's enemies physically harming her?

Finally, Angela makes a terrifying discovery, and is forced to decide; is she the one who will help make Roy ’s dreams a reality, or is she the world’s only hope of stopping him?

You don't want to give it all away in a query, of course. But if you're going to leave the reader with a question like this, we really need to have some idea of what's happening.

The events seem to move from Roy acting like an out-of-control 8-year-old to overreacting in some way to a bully to now doing something that for some reason the world needs to stop him from doing. We don't have enough in the query to figure out what or why, so all we can do is shrug our shoulders over whether Angela should help him or not. The reader is not invested in the outcome because the stakes aren't clear. If it has something to do with the Master Plan or Roy's the anti-Christ or he's a mad little boy who needs to be locked up to protect himself and others, give us a hint here at the end. Or tell us that Angela is forced to choose: (note it's a colon, not a semi-colon) to help Roy become the god he thinks he can be or to let the authorities know what really happened to the bully so they can lock Roy up in a mental institute where he can get the help he needs.

CHILD GOD is my debut YA novel, complete at 90,000 words.

I don't think you need to mention it's your "debut" novel. I would include what genre it is. YA isn't a genre. It's like saying this is my adult-audience novel. Depending on where this is going in the last paragraph will help determine where it belongs on the shelf. Maybe it's simply mainstream or contemporary YA? Or suspense?

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Author Name

(bio information follows)

Conventionally, bio info is included before the closing, and is included in the critique (with stuff redacted at need). Critters like to see the bio paragraph mostly because "debut" writers often go overboard with non-relevant info trying to impress when they only wind up making themselves look a bit desperate. I'm not saying this is what you've done or not; I'm just including this advice for anybody reading.

5 comments:

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Start with the mc. Your opening line sets up what isn't there. There is no relationship from the first line and first paragraph. I don't like to be mislead.
The boy sounds like he has Aspergers. Boy Genius, no caps unless he's a super hero.

"is nothing if not different"? Meaningless to me.

Cliches.

Finally, Angela makes a terrifying discovery, and is forced to decide; is she the one who will help make Roy ’s dreams a reality, or is she the world’s only hope of stopping him?
What is the terrifying discovery? Come on, it is a query, you are supposed to tell us something.

You've got 2 kids who don't care about each other. How does that work? Except for a terrifying discovery.

Sorry, I think you can do this better. Don't leave out the story. See last guest post please.

vkw said...

Just a few comments:

There are a lot of extremes in this query:

1. Only Concerned
2. "sees the whole-world in a brand new light" Really? In one summer? a 14 year old?
3. Own life disintergrates. Really? Maybe her social life, her popularity at school?


Angela is leery of Roy when their respective parents convince the Boy Genius to tutor Angela in math, but she has to admit Roy is nothing but different.

First the sentence is LONG. Second, it's not logical. How does being tutored in math convince the MC that Roy is nothing but different.

Angela's parents hire Roy to be her math tutor, something she abhors. It turns even uglier when she discovers how odd the boy genius really is.

I think we need more details in this query to help.

I'm not thrilled with the title and I don't see how it corresponds to the book.

The first sentence is odd and doesn't fit with the query.

Jo-Ann said...

At the start, I thought it was going to be an opposites-attract, coming-of-age novel, with both characters learning the limitations of their egocentric world view and appreciating the value of compromise. And, yes, despite Roy's end-child-hunger stance, his master-plan sounds like he sees himself as the Messiah (ok, resisting the urge to place a Monty Python reference here!), and he therefore comes across as more ego-centric than the vacuous Angela.

Then the tone changes, and I was then wondering if it was a thriller: Roy has a plan to blow something up in an attempt to terrorise the West and its baton-twirlers into giving up wealth to save the children, using nothing more than lemon juice, poison ivy and remote controlled helicopters.

As the others suggested: more specificity needed!
Word ver: damit

AA said...

This does need more specifics, as others have said. I don't have trouble with the extremes, though, since kids that age see everything in terms of extremes. Everything is life and death, even when it isn't. So that's probably a little bit of the mc coming through.

I like the concept that kids need their own god. And a lot of extremely intelligent kids are emotionally backward, so that doesn't bother me as a believability factor. In fact, a lot of otherwise normal kids have sociopathic behaviors nowadays. It's called "attachment disorder" and will probably only get worse in the future for various reasons I won't get into now.

With more specifics about what the stakes are and the cliches cut out, this should read well.

vkw said...

I like AA's post and I want to comment on it.

My comment concerned I didn't like the extremes in the query. I realize that teenagers are extreme in their behavior and their thoughts.

However, when writing a query do you try to sound like the main character or do you try to sound like the author writing about the novel?

Do your write "Sarah knows the world will end when her classmates discover she's dating the nerd."

Or do you write, "Sarah thinks she'll be ostercized for the rest of her life for dating the nerd."

vkw