Monday, May 23, 2011

Query 87


Dear Agent,

[The author sent along a couple of options for starting the query.]

[Option 1] Time has finally run out for Libby Sparks. For sixteen years she has kept the secret of who she really is with the hope that she would find a way to rid herself of her prophesied destiny.

[Option 2] Libby Sparks has exactly two friends, one parent who hates her, and a chapter’s worth of trig homework to finish. Libby Sparks is also meant to destroy the world.

The moment she steps into the Caliph’s home she knows there is no hidden solution, no lies or tricks that will save her. Her Inquest will reveal everything. Her death will undoubtedly follow. Libby’s hands tremble as her secret is revealed. Shocked when the killing blow does not come after her destiny as the prophesied Destroyer is revealed, her problems are far from over. Libby must now either convince the entire world that she can overcome her fate before they publicly murder her, or embrace who she is meant to become and truly destroy the world.

Worldbreaker is a young adult dystopia novel, complete at 90,000 words. This is the first book in a series of three, entitled The Destroyer Series. Books two and three are completed as well, and currently being edited.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my novel.


I think we're being dropped into Libby's dilemma a little too cold. From what's given here, I'm having a hard time understanding what the story is. "Caliph" and "Inquest" hint at why this is dystopic, but I'm not feeling what this world is about. Opening 2, especially, starts out making it sound not very different from our world today.

I'm not understanding, first, what an "Inquest" in this world is and, second, why it's taking place in the Caliph's home. Is an Inquest something every teen goes through, or is Libby somehow a suspect who needs to be questioned? Who reveals her secret? Does she give up the info willingly, is she tortured for it, or does some seer divine it?

I get that she fears she'll be killed once her secret is out, so why isn't she killed? Is this government simply more humane than she imagines? But then we're told she's still a candidate for public murder. What does she have to do to convince the world she won't destroy it and is that being mandated by the Caliph? Is there a timeframe mentioned in the prophecy? Plus, if the odds are fairly overwhelming that she can't convince people she has free will in this matter or if she really doesn't have free will, it seems there's always the third option of killing herself or allowing herself to be killed for the sake of the rest of the world.

I think the reader needs a couple more things to get a better handle on the story. First, we need to better understand what the goal is and what the obstacles to achieving that goal are. We need to be convinced that a teenager can actually destroy the world. Does the prophecy mention how she'll accomplish that? Of course, the destruction could be more metaphorical -- Hitler could be said to be a worldbreaker -- so an idea as to whether she's destined to be a charismatic leader leading a dystopian Muslim nation to ruin or a nuclear-powered Firestarter who can literally tear the world apart would be good to know. In fact, if the world truly is dystopian, it could be she's destined to break a broken world, which might actually make it a better place. (And if that's not your story, that's really kind of a cool twist on the whole genre and may be something worth pursuing...)

In the query, Libby's goal seems to be deciding whether or not to thwart destiny. I'm assuming it's more complicated than simply not, you know, accidentally breaking the world. Is there a villain in the story? Someone who wants her to follow through on the destruction thing? What's preventing her from simply avoiding the prophecy?

Second, because you set us up with the trilogy bit, what's this book's story arc versus the series' arc? As presented in the query, book one should end with Libby either overcoming her fate so that there's no longer a threat of destruction or actually destroying the world. If the latter, I would say books two and three will be pretty short. If the whole "will she or won't she" scenario isn't resolved until book three, then we need to know what the arc for book one is. And the reader will want to be convinced it's a standalone story.

If books two and three are still being edited, they're not complete.

I'm not sure where to begin to create a "my version" of this. That's because I simply don't have enough information in the original version to guide me. For me, that's a pretty clear indication there isn't enough story element here to satisfy most agents or editors.


fairyhedgehog said...

I liked the first beginning better but like Phoenix I felt I was floundering through lack of information.

A.B. said...

I feel like there's a story in here somewhere, but I can't really tell what it is. I suspect you may have been too concerned with keeping your word count low on this draft and didn't really give yourself room to tell us about your book. I would suggest taking another stab at it and forget about the length of the query for now. You can always cut it down once you have something more substantial to work with.

I'm not crazy about either opening at this point, frankly. But given the choice I like option 2 a bit better. Play with it a little more and I bet you'll stumble onto something that grabs us.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I vote opening 2.

I love your voice. Strong writing, here comes the BUT what the heck is the story about?

Who is Caliph, why is she stepping into his house? What inquest? What secret? Why will she die? What problems?

Work with me, give me something to go on. Please.

I don't like prophesized, prophecies or soothsayers. They mean little (read nothing). The world was supposed to end again on the weekend. We're all here.

You are hiding the story. Reveal please. Not enough to go on. I really like your voice. Can we move to the story please?

I would love to follow this.


Wilkins MacQueen said...

PS Die or destroy the world? If the world is destroyed how can she live? You've got death or death. Logic missing to me. Unless she ends up in another world or something. Book 2?

I wouldn't mention books two or three until the cock ups are fixed in #1. Don't mean to sound harsh but this query needs work. Love the voice. The query can be fixed.Good luck.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Time is short tonight, so here's my suggestion for a rewrite.

Libby Sparks has two friends, a parent who hates her, and a chapter’s worth of trig homework. She’s also got the knowledge of her personal prophecy – to destroy the world.

The time comes for the Inquest – the public prophecy revelation. There are no hidden solutions, no lies or tricks that will save her. Everything will be revealed. Her death will undoubtedly follow.
What sane person would leave the prophesied Destroyer alive?

Libby’s hands tremble as her secret is revealed, but the killing blow does not come. Not yet. She must now convince the entire world that she can overcome her fate before they publicly murder her, or embrace who she is meant to be and destroy the world in the process.

Sarah Laurenson said...

A short time now to make a few more comments.

It's been said already that the choice seems to be between death not under her control and death under her control. Not great choices.

I was wondering, too, about her as a MC. What is likeable about her? Why would a reader indentify with her? What I'm getting from this query is that she needs pity but not much else.

I'd like to be sold on your MC and why she is the MC of this book. Why would I, as a reader or an editor, want to spend the time getting to know her better?

Yes, most MCs have issues and that's why there's a book in the first place, but if she's an anti-hero, we need to see that. If she's likeable, we don't see that. After all she only has two friends and maybe a parent who likes her. Not sure on that last one as I don't know if she has two parents.

So what's the heart of the story - if this is plot driven, or the MC - if this is character driven?

batgirl said...

Great title, and I like the voice. But I feel like you've given us a snippet from your synopsis, not a summary of your plot. It's as if you bring the camera in for a close-up of her trembling fingers, then zoom up and away so fast we barely catch a glimpse of the room she's in, or why she's frightened.
Consider starting with an establishing shot of the city, and maybe a dateline at the bottom?
The Caliph's palace, Dystopia City, 180th year of the Califate, Tuesday, 8 am. or something.