Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Query 79

Partition

Dear [Agent]:

Maya knows it's a terrible idea to sneak into the Glass City. Firstly, there's about a 50% chance she'll fall to her death climbing up. Secondly, the police there don't hold back when they punish trespassers. And thirdly, the wealthy City-livers hate the lower classes and don't ever hesitate to call the police.

The case is pretty good to just stay at home in the Sprawl, hope it doesn't get bombed again, and wait to be drafted. But Maya hates waiting around, so she sneaks up anyway.

Some jackass City boy about her age catches her. He shows off his full pretentious title - Aser General, of the line of Opimen, 5th generation - and doesn't even blink before turning her in. The police beat her to within an inch of her life. Maya knows that Aser's face isn't one she'll forget, and she sure isn't going to forget his stupid-ass name.

Three days later, Maya sees Aser in the Sprawl. She acts on vengeful impulse, but her attempt to knife him gets interrupted by a bombing. Somehow, she finds herself trying to get him to shelter.

She fails. He gets in the way of a blast, and when he wakes up, he doesn't remember his name. Or where he's from. Or who Maya is.

Maya has to keep Aser close. If he ever remembers, he'll turn her in, so, improvising wildly, she tells him his name is Samuel and he's her brother. But she finds she can't see any of Aser General in the kind, passionate Samuel. When she gets drafted, he follows her into the fray, and she finds herself wishing he weren't her so-called brother, because there's only so much lying she can do before her feelings tear it apart.

PARTITION is a YA war romance, complete at 75,000 words. Thank you for your time and your consideration.

Comments

Overall, I think there are three things about this query that need a bit of strengthening:

The world-building: I'm not sure I'm in love with the name "Glass City" (mind you, that's an entirely personal observation), but I do love the term "the Sprawl"! I get there's a war, but I don't know who's fighting. I don't get why the Sprawl gets bombed and the City doesn't. Other than the army pawns coming out of the Sprawl, what military advantage is there to striking them rather than the funders and decision-makers in the City? Is this a war that's being used merely to keep the Sprawlers busy? What is the fray exactly? Are the infantry fighting in trenches behind barbed wire, marching behind tanks with machine guns, or decked out in night-vision goggles and bazookas? What's the level of sophistication we should be thinking: WW1, WW2 or today?

Maya's motivations: I don't know why Maya is going into the City to begin with. She's apparently risking a lot, but for what? Motivation helps define character, so knowing why she's so determined to get into the City will help us get to know Maya better right off. And will help us accept her abrupt about-face between trying to murder him and trying to save him. "Somehow" is never a good reason -- not even in a query. You CAN probably get away with the Maya needing to keep Aser close thing, though would she kill him if he wakes up one morning with his memory back?

The stakes: The romantic stakes are clear, I think, and the predicament good. What we don't get a sense of is how the characters can influence the outcome or what around them might change to force a different outcome. We're left simply with the question of whether Aser's memory will ever come back. There's tension there because we know the possible consequence of that happening, but we aren't given any indication that it will.

Maya knows it's a terrible idea to sneak into the Glass City. Firstly, there's about a 50% chance she'll fall to her death climbing up. Secondly, the police there don't hold back when they punish trespassers. And thirdly, the wealthy City-livers hate the lower classes and don't ever hesitate to call the police.

Because this is Glass City and there's a good chance Maya will fall climbing up, I'm envisioning a city under a glass dome and Maya climbing up the dome to a, I don't know, window vent or something near the top? And that seems silly. I'm betting that's not the vision you want me to me have here.

Logically, you probably want to introduce the City folk who would call the police who would then punish the trespasser. So switch up the second and third points.

The case is pretty good to just stay at home in the Sprawl, hope it doesn't get bombed again, and wait to be drafted. But Maya hates waiting around, so she sneaks up anyway.

Since I don't know why Maya wants to go into the City, I'm left to surmise things. I'm told she could "wait to be drafted" and that she "hates waiting." My mind rushes to this conclusion: The Sprawl must be at war with the City and if she's drafted, she'll wind up invading the City so might as well get in there now.

But that's not right, is it? Why would there be police in there who punish trespassers? That doesn't sound like a war. So back to trying to work out why she wants to go into the city and what she's accomplishing instead of "waiting around."

Some jackass City boy about her age catches her. He shows off his full pretentious title - Aser General, of the line of Opimen, 5th generation - and doesn't even blink before turning her in. The police beat her to within an inch of her life. Maya knows that Aser's face isn't one she'll forget, and she sure isn't going to forget his stupid-ass name.

I like this paragraph a lot. Good voice! Just a couple of tweaks will make it even better, I think. Maybe change "jackass" since it echoes too closely with "stupid-ass" later. And the "within and inch of her life" is a bit cliche. Maybe something like: The police drop her back outside the wall, bruised and bloodied.

Three days later, Maya sees Aser in the Sprawl. She acts on vengeful impulse, but her attempt to knife him gets interrupted by a bombing. Somehow, she finds herself trying to get him to shelter.

I think the "three days" is a little too specific; makes it start to sound synops-y.

Why is Aser in the Sprawl? If he's so hooty-tooty and young (16? 17?), why would he be hanging out there by himself? This doesn't sound like a world where a rich kid could make a wrong turn while driving and suddenly find himself slumming.

Without a few words of motivation, a reader could well be thinking there's a lot of contrivance in the book to get characters where the author needs them to be without the plot growing organically out of the storyline.

"Somehow" seems to be contrivance number 3 :o(

She fails. He gets in the way of a blast, and when he wakes up, he doesn't remember his name. Or where he's from. Or who Maya is.

Nice and succinct. I like this.

Maya has to keep Aser close. If he ever remembers, he'll turn her in, so, improvising wildly, she tells him his name is Samuel and he's her brother.

This is good too.

But she finds she can't see any of Aser General in the kind, passionate Samuel.

"But" isn't the right conjunction here.

When she gets drafted, he follows her into the fray, and she finds herself wishing he weren't her so-called brother, because there's only so much lying she can do before her feelings tear it apart.

Spell out what "it" is and think about making this two sentences as there are a lot of things going on here. Otherwise, I like this.

The query needs at least a hint that he starts to remember, if he does. If he doesn't, then we need a hint of that too. I'll assume he does because that's inevitably where the drama lies. And if you can work in physical danger at the same time, all the better. Something along the lines of:

As the war escalates, the squadron is sent on a suicide run. Maya's prepared for the fight; what she isn't prepared for is Samuel waking from a nightmare on the eve of battle shouting out a single name: "Aser."

PARTITION is a YA war romance, complete at 75,000 words. Thank you for your time and your consideration.

Now, the exact wrong thing to do in a revision is to look back at what commenters like and try to keep those bits in exactly as they are. Unless they truly, truly work in your revised version, they'll feel awkward and out of place. So be prepared to revise even the good stuff. Advice to all, not just this author!

2 comments:

batgirl said...

Sounds more like YA sf than 'war romance', which, um, isn't a genre (or at least would suggest that it takes place in our world, which this doesn't).
I like the sound of this one, which could tap into the audience that reads Hunger Games.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

That is such good advice,don't write to please the critters. We've read revisions where that has happened and it has never worked that I've seen.

This query has a nice feel to it. I like the energy and the story of course. Good job putting it across.

Few items as Divine Miss P pointed out and good luck on the revision.