Monday, June 27, 2011

Query 93: Redux

The Bones of Babylon

Dear _____,

Fifteen year-old Chicago believes she is one of the last people on Earth. The skeleton she just found suggests otherwise.

The adults who run Castle Gehenna claim it’s her childhood friend Babylon, who ran away years ago, but Chicago doesn’t believe he’s dead. It turns out she’s right: that night he returns, and he tells her the secrets the adults have been keeping from her. Gehenna's walls are meant to keep Chicago and her friends isolated from what remains of the outside world, because they can control the creatures that nearly wiped out the human race.

The adults are prepared to kill to keep their secret. If the other children learn what Babylon knows, they could unleash a second wave of devastation-— one that humanity might not survive. Meanwhile Babylon sets into motion his own string of murders, determined to liberate Chicago whether she wants it or not. Chicago is sure that she can stop him, but she can't even trust herself: Babylon is using the link they share to erase her memories and alter her moods in hopes that she’ll join him against her captors. All Chicago wants is to find the good in Babylon and end the violence. If she fails, she will be forced to choose between the people she loves and the truth she can’t ignore.

THE BONES OF BABYLON is a 63,000-word post-apocalyptic fantasy novel for young adults. Thank you for your time and your consideration.

Thank you,


The changes the author made in this revision address some of the questions critters asked in the original. Kudos for that! What it doesn't quite do, IMO, is give us that clear understanding of, well, basically, what's happening. Absolutely you don't have to give it all away in a query, but I'm still not feeling as grounded here as I think I could be. And that's why objective views are crucial for everyone. So I'm going to reflect back to the author what I'm understanding -- and not understanding -- after reading this query.

Chicago is confined to a castle city. She finds a skeleton and now she thinks maybe there are others in the outside world, although she presumably found the bones within the city walls. Later we learn adults will kill to keep a secret, so maybe they've killed this person-now-skeleton. How careless of the adults not to bury or burn the dead outside the walls where their remains won't be found.

Gehenna's walls aren't very effective as Babylon seems to be able to come and go at will.

Chicago and her friends can control mysterious creatures that decimated the world's population -- but it's a secret, even from them, that they can. So they aren't. So the creatures are presumably out there still killing people because no one's controlling them.

If the children learn that they can control the creatures, then presumably the kids will of course elect to make the creatures destroy the rest of humanity -- which it seems they're doing now regardless -- rather than have the creatures turn on each other and destroy themselves.

Babylon starts killing people in order to convince Chicago -- and the other kids -- to leave Gehenna, where she seems to be safe, so she can be free to ... I don't know. (I have no clue what Babylon wants from Chicago or why.)

Babylon uses physical mind games to coerce Chicago to turn against the adults holding her captive. It seems Babylon is intent on letting the rest of the world be destroyed if the kids don't learn how to control the creatures destroying it. (Still trying to understand what Babylon's motives are.)

I'm wondering if the structure the author seems to be sticking with for this query is the most effective way to entice -- at least if some of the motivation and why's aren't going to be addressed. Maybe consider a different approach to the query? Shake things up a bit. Give the reader a better sense of what the creatures are and how the kids can control them. Put the peril of the world in at the beginning. See what happens if you write the query so that it shows the big picture first, narrows in on the story around Chicago and Babylon, then connects how the outcome of their story will affect the entire world.

Others' suggestions?


Ink and Pixel Club said...

I still feel like the importance of the skeleton to the story is unclear. Now I get that Chicago sees the skeleton as possible evidence of other humans, sine there are presumably so few humans in Gehenna that she would know if one ofbthem had died. And the adults decide that the most convenient explanation is that the bones are those of her long lost childhood friend. But once Babylon coincidentally shows up that same night, the bones aren't brought up again. I think you should either mention the bones again, even if you don't reveal whose they are during the query, or drop them from the query. You don't really need them to introduce Babylon. Surely Chicago was wondering what happened to him and the adults were insisting that he had died long before this skeleton showed up. It does tie in nicely with your great title, but it's also a little confusing, since these bones aren't really Babylon's.

You might also want to explain where Chicago finds the bones, which I'm assuming is some place within the walls of Gehenna, but secluded enough that they weren't right in plain sight.

My biggest problem with the query is that I don't really know what's at stake. You have two sides who are both willing to shed blood to achieve their goals and Chicago stuck in the middle. That's fine; the lack of a simple choice between the good guys and the bad guys can make for a very interesting story. But I have no clue what it is that either the adults or Babylon ultimately want or what might happen if either one wins. Once I know that, I'll have a better sense of what Vhicago is up against, why she is making the choices that she is, and what choices she will need to make in the story.

AA said...

I, too, think the skeleton should be explained or removed. It's too confusing.

If Chicago and her friends can control the creatures, how can they? With their minds? Why would they choose to use this power destructively?

How are Babylon's murders helping to liberate Chicago? With so few humans left, wouldn't murder be a last-last-last-result? The adults being prepared to keep their secret seems to run into the same logic problem.

Masako Moonshade said...

I find it funny that you guys mention the skeleton. About two hours after I sent the email I decided that had to go-- You're right, it really doesn't have a place in this conflict. And I'm working on completely revamping the query completely.

Thank you so much for all your help and your comments. They're indispensable!

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Hey MM,
I swear a group concsiousness spreads over the query.

I'd like a clear view of the whole shebang.

Babylon sets into motion his own string of murders, determined to liberate Chicago whether she wants it or not. Chicago is sure that she can stop him, but she can't even trust herself: Babylon is using the link they share to erase her memories and alter her moods in hopes that she’ll join him against her captors.

This is so unclear.

The adults should kill Chicago to keep the secret but don't. Babylon kills but Chicago thinks she can stop him? Stop him from what? I thought he'd already murdered. Now she isn't able to trust herself - to do what? ("Even" is an extra word that you can eliminate.) What link? If her moods/memories are altered you are on the wrong page with the query.

Altered moods and memories have Chicago confused about her... She wants to.... but Babylon, mind linked with her from... sees it another way. The adults however step in and.... causing Chicago to choose...

Sorry I'm late for the party but I'm stuggling and need help here. I did read this several times and remain more confused than when I started.

Help me out here.