Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Query 93

The Bones of Babylon

Dear fantastic agent of fantasticness,

Fifteen year-old Chicago is one of the last people on Earth. And she has found a body.

Though the adults of Castle Gehenna claim it's Babylon, her childhood friend who ran away years ago, she refuses to believe he’s dead. When her attempts to leave Gehenna to search for Babylon are thwarted, she finds him instead in her bedroom. He tells her the secrets the adults have kept all her life: that Chicago and her friends are not alone, that they are unwitting prisoners inside Gehenna’s walls, and that they possess an intoxicating power over the creatures that nearly wiped out the human race.

On one side, the adults take lethal precautions to ensure the stability of Gehenna and the survival of what remains of the human race. On the other, Babylon sets into motion a series of events that will end with the annihilation of everything Chicago has ever known. As Babylon’s only friend, Chicago is sure that she can stop him before his plans reach fruition, but everyone is suspect. Not even her mind is safe: Babylon is using the link they share to erase her memories and alter her moods, determined to make her join his side in the coming cataclysm. All Chicago wants is to find the good in Babylon and end the violence, but she is will be forced to choose between the ones she loves and the truth she can't ignore.

THE BONES OF BABYLON is a 60,000-word post-apocalyptic fantasy novel for young adults. Thank you for your time and your consideration, and I hope that we can work together.

Comments

The author’s writing shows confidence and there are some nice hints of story here. Ultimately, though, I’m not sure the hints add up enough to a good feel for the story overall. I know there’s some impending disaster looming, but I’m not clear what it is or why it’s happening.

Fifteen year-old Chicago is one of the last people on Earth. And she has found a body.

The first sentence establishes that this is a PA novel, so that’s a nice expectation. The second sentence, though, sets this up as a mystery. Yet none of the rest of the query follows through on this idea. In fact, we never come back to the body. It’s seemingly an unimportant thread so why does the query lead with this detail?

Though the adults of Castle Gehenna claim it's Babylon, her childhood friend who ran away years ago, she refuses to believe he’s dead.

Denial is one thing, but why would she try to find him? Is she simply trying to disprove the adults?

When her attempts to leave Gehenna to search for Babylon are thwarted,

Maybe make this sentence active and concrete: When she tries to leave Gehenna, the enforcers/her parents lock her in her room/ground her. I think giving us an idea as to the extent she’s being prevented from leaving would help world build. It would also give us a clue just how hard she’s trying to find Babylon.

she finds him instead in her bedroom.

Finding Babylon in her bedroom seems a bit inexplicable in the query. She thinks about him and he shows up? Are those really his bones and he’s a ghost? You can keep some mystery, I think, but I as reader want some clue here as to how and why.

He tells her the secrets the adults have kept all her life: that Chicago and her friends are not alone, that they are unwitting prisoners inside Gehenna’s walls, and that they possess an intoxicating power over the creatures that nearly wiped out the human race.

I’m not clear on the statement “are not alone.” We’re told earlier Chicago is one of the last people on earth and then right after this statement that the human race was nearly wiped out. So are there more people in the world than the query leads us to believe otherwise?

On one side, the adults take lethal precautions to ensure the stability of Gehenna and the survival of what remains of the human race.

This is pretty vague language (i.e., “lethal precautions”) and, if I’m reading correctly, I’m siding with the adults here.

On the other, Babylon sets into motion a series of events that will end with the annihilation of everything Chicago has ever known.

Again, very vague. And what’s Babylon’s motivation? Is he in league with the creatures? You don't need -- or even want -- to answer all the questions, but I think the query needs a bit more detail to entice.

As Babylon’s only friend, Chicago is sure that she can stop him before his plans reach fruition, but everyone is suspect.

I have no idea why “everyone is suspect.” Is Babylon not working alone? Is he recruiting? It would help a bit to know what kinds of events have been set in motion. Have leaders been assassinated? Is he about to trigger an worldquake? Is he sucking souls? At this point, it feels anything could be happening, and you want your query to show enough specificity to demonstrate the uniqueness of your story and world.

Not even her mind is safe: Babylon is using the link they share to erase her memories and alter her moods, determined to make her join his side in the coming cataclysm. All Chicago wants is to find the good in Babylon and end the violence, but she is will be forced to choose between the ones she loves and the truth she can't ignore.

A hint more of why Chicago remains so loyal to Babylon would help, I think. She hasn’t seen him in years, he suddenly shows up and tells her secrets about the adults then proves he has secrets of his own, then he starts a second apocalypse and she’s convinced she can stop him.

THE BONES OF BABYLON is a 60,000-word post-apocalyptic fantasy novel for young adults. Thank you for your time and your consideration, and I hope that we can work together.

I’d delete the “and I hope” clause.

I LOVE the title!

10 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

First part, first impression: Chicago takes me to the city and so does Babylon. I did a double take but got Chicago was her name. Babylon was not as easy to tell if it was person or place. Because there's a break between the first line and the next paragraph, there's an automatic break in my head and the body does not smoothly connect to Babylon.

That stopped me from reading on as it was too much work.

I agree with Phoenix - love the title!

Will read this again and comment more later.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

She found a body but is in total denial. It's not Babylon's body though because he appears in her bedroom. So does this matter? That she found a body?

What secrets? What creatures?

Not even her mind is safe: Babylon is using the link they share to erase her memories and alter her moods, determined to make her join his side in the coming cataclysm.

I thought they were friends.

Way too long. And it is mixed up.I sure liked the voice though.

A quiet walk in the woods may straighten this out and/or do what Divine Miss Phoenix suggests.

I like this writing.

Anonymous said...

The name Chicago confused me at first too. I had to re-read the first line a couple times.
I thought it was weird that she didn't go search for Babylon until after she found the body. To me, saying "childhood friend" makes it sound like they haven't been around each other in a long time. Then she finds a dead body and is like "This isn't Babylon, but seeing this random dead body makes me think Babylon might be in danger, so I'm going to suddenly go look for him now." Why didn't she go look for him earlier, or if they have been around each other all this time, then "childhood friends" might be a bad choice. Maybe just say "best friend" or something.
I do think the story sounds like it could be interesting. The query just needs to bring that out more and clarify some things.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Oh - she found a body. Not like she needed one because she didn't have one. She found an actual dead body. Yeah - mark me confused.

Masako Moonshade said...

Thank you so much for the critique. It really is enlightening. And I'll work on solidifying it and making things a bit more clear.

I'm actually surprised-- I didn't think the body would cause quite so much trouble. I'll see if I can fix that and incorporate it better into the query.

150 said...

*flies past trailing an airplane banner that says BE SPECIFIC*

vkw said...

There was a hint of a good story here but I'll be darn if I can figure out what the plot is.

Chicago confused me too. Obviously the author likes 70s bands or windy cities. Maybe both.

I like the title too.

I really want to read a better query because I really want to know what this story is about.

Also, I will note that this really does sound like a good YA novel. So many times I read queries for a certain age group and just shake my head, wondering if the author really thought much about age appropriatness.

So . . . when are your going to have the new query written?

Sarah Laurenson said...

I hope this helps...

Fifteen year-old Chicago Chicago? Is the city only 15? Is this historical? And she has found a body. So Chicago is a girl not a city. She found something. Finding something is a good thing. She must need a body. So she's not corporeal, but she wants to be? That's cool.

So those were my thoughts (more or less). I think part of the problem is there's a missing emotional impact on finding the body. It's a neutral statement and subject to wide interpretation. And my Chicago confusion didn't help as I missed the second half of the sentence while scanning for the answer to city or person.

Masako Moonshade said...

I've actually reworked the query a bit. Is there a period of time that I should wait before sending it in, or should I do that right away?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Masako: I'll put the revision in the queue for Monday. Send me the query by end of day on Saturday and I'll post it with comments on Monday. That gives you some time to have another sleep or two on it and tweak some more if necessary. Lots of people wind up sending a revision one day and a revised revision the next :o)