Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Query 89

Cry of the Witch

Dear Agent,

Whoever said life would be normal for Callie Richards was sadly mistaken.

The rural town of Coshocton is so small the road barely pauses there before seeking out the rest of Ohio. But when newly-orphaned Callie Richards arrives, she learns of her special power and every place on earth becomes more interesting.

Callie’s shocked when she’s told how numerous family members were killed at the hands of an evil “power stealing” sorcerer. And it’s her destiny to form the most powerful coven ever to defeat him. If the sorcerer is successful however his intent is causing Callie’s death and turning non-magical humans into metaphysical food and those with magic into slaves

Researching the town’s history for a school assignment uncovers magic that runs through the heart of the town and desires to control that magic in the impending war. Further discovery unearths that her family and the rouge sorcerer are responsible for the town‘s creation.

Callie reluctantly rises to lead a coven set against the menace of the sorcerer. His first assault takes the life of Callie's new boyfriend, and if she fails again, the stakes are even higher, for her new-found home, her friends and the world.

CRY OF THE WITCH a 106,000 word novel written in the fantasy genre.

Thank you for your time

Comments

I think the author is trying a little too hard to write an important-sounding query rather than letting the story tell itself in her voice.

The problem with "important-sounding" is that it often leads to odd word choices and awkward phrasing we'd never use in "real life."

I'm going to be honest and hard here and say that I don't think this query, as is, would make it past any agent based on the quality of writing demonstrated. But that's something that can be fixed. Start over -- and just be yourself in it.

Whoever said life would be normal for Callie Richards was sadly mistaken.

I don't think this sentence is your best first impression. The phrase is a bit cliche, and wouldn't you rather dazzle an agent right off the diving board with something fresh?

The rural town of Coshocton is so small the road barely pauses there before seeking out the rest of Ohio.

I know what you're trying to say here, but the metaphor isn't quite working for me. Even when it's anthropomorphized I don't think of a road "pausing" and "seeking out."

But when newly-orphaned Callie Richards arrives, she learns of her special power and every place on earth becomes more interesting.

"But" isn't the right transition here.
 
"ly" adverbs don't take a hyphen (I know -- weird, huh!).
 
The "every place on earth" bit is so vague it's pretty meaningless.

Callie’s shocked when she’s told how numerous family members were killed at the hands of an evil “power stealing” sorcerer. And it’s her destiny to form the most powerful coven ever to defeat him. If the sorcerer is successful however his intent is causing Callie’s death and turning non-magical humans into metaphysical food and those with magic into slaves

Were Callie's mom and dad killed by this sorcerer? Can you show us what "power stealing" means rather than air quote it?

I think you've got "successful" and "intent" backward here.

What exactly is "metaphysical food?" What will the sorcerer feed on and what happens to the food source?

Researching the town’s history for a school assignment uncovers magic that runs through the heart of the town and desires to control that magic in the impending war.

On a quick read, I can't tell if "desires" is supposed to be a noun or a verb. I read it first as a verb, which doesn't make sense that uncovered magic desires to control magic. Changing it to a noun, though, is almost as problematic. Whose desires? Desire itself can't control magic. And what "impending war?" Callie so far is only destined to form a coven -- has she already started the process now?

Further discovery unearths that her family and the rouge sorcerer are responsible for the town‘s creation.

"rouge" = "rogue"

Does this mean the town was created out of magic?

Callie reluctantly rises to lead a coven set against the menace of the sorcerer.

Why is Callie reluctant? Because she's afraid the sorcerer will kill her? Because she doesn't feel worthy? And why would the witches follow her? Does Callie have something they don't have other than the words of a prophecy behind her?

His first assault takes the life of Callie's new boyfriend, and if she fails again, the stakes are even higher, for her new-found home, her friends and the world.

I like that Callie fails here and loses something important. Perhaps you can introduce her BF a little earlier, though?

CRY OF THE WITCH a 106,000 word novel written in the fantasy genre.

You're missing an "is." Really, though, this is kind of a convoluted way to say:

CRY OF THE WITCH is a 106,000-word fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time,

My Version

With a bit of creative license taken ...

As if Callie Richards' parents dying in a freak car crash weren't devastating enough, being sent to live with family friends in a speck-on-the-map town in Ohio crushes her. It's all so overwhelming: new home, new school, new boyfriend -- and now new secrets.

Seems her parents' deaths weren't an accident. There's an ancient sorcerer in town who's been sucking the power -- and the life -- out of her family members around the world and turning other magically inclined folk into slaves. He's even feeding off the non-magical, turning their life essence into fuel for his growing craft. And after being in town a couple of weeks, Callie is feeling different, like there's some sort of power building in her, itching to get out.

Research into the town's history uncovers two alarming facts. One: Callie's family and the sorcerer together created the town. Two: There's a huge reservoir of magic running through its heart just waiting to be tapped, and only someone of Callie's blood -- or the sorcerer's -- can use it.

Unsure of the extent of the power growing in her but knowing she has to try to stop the coming menace, Callie calls together a coven of the best to help. When the first assault fails and the sorcerer kills her boyfriend, Callie realizes they may not be strong enough. She'll need to figure out soon how to tap the full reserves of the town's magic because to fail again will mean the destruction of her home, her friends -- and the world.

CRY OF THE WITCH is a 106,000-word fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time,

5 comments:

AA said...

I would think the author didn't have a good grasp of word usage. This query makes it seem that way.

"Whoever said life would be normal for Callie Richards was sadly mistaken."
Unless someone actually DID say this, it makes no sense.

"every place on earth becomes more interesting."
Unless she's BEEN to every place on earth, this makes no sense either.

"His intent is causing"- awkward. Also, since however means "but", it doesn't seem to work where it's placed.
I'm assuming you mean something like, if the sorcerer is not defeated he intends to kill Callie, or have her killed, etc. "Causing" her death is strange. He's not going to kill her himself? He's going to have someone else do it? Why?

"Researching the town’s history for a school assignment uncovers magic that runs through the heart of the town and desires to control that magic in the impending war."
First of all: "Researching-uncovers"...My research uncovers no subject. I'll assume it's Callie.
Second: "desires to control..." WHO desires to control? What have you got against subjects?

I <3 the idea of a rouge sorcerer. You've got to get a little eye shadow on there, too, and some lip gloss. Maybe a little body glitter.

"His first assault takes the life of Callie's new boyfriend..."
Didn't know she had one. You might have mentioned this important bit of information earlier, but I guess you were having trouble fitting it in between metaphors.

Start over on this one. See Phoenix's rewrite? Much better. Try something similar to that. It needs to have the important parts out where you can see them, and it needs to make sense.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

The first line floats and doesn't anchor the query or draw me in.

I don't care for sentences that start with conjunctions myself.

Callie reads like an instrument to get the story out. Nothing to add to P & AA.

Wilkins MacQueen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie Diaz said...

I feel like the quality of the story is hidden beneath this jumble of words that are simply hazing over the surface. There's some sense of conflict and character, but it's not strong or compelling enough.

The hook needs more zing to it, and that will come from a line that isn't so vague. I would definitely suggest starting over with this one and taking a new direction. Focus on specificity and voice--it could help to try writing this query in the voice of either your story's mc or narrator, as if he or she is explaining it to someone over coffee. Then reshape the result into a 3rd person query. Hope that helps!

batgirl said...

Does Callie have to have a destiny shoving her into her place? Can't she just want to save her own life and her friends and her town without a destiny telling her to?

Brilliant rewrite by Phoenix.