Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Query Revision 94

Face-Lift 917: Legend of the Phoenix

Dear Agent Person:

Ethan believes he will be a hero, despite the fact that the fairy who foresaw his rise to fame was actually a drug addict on one of her usual trips. Anna, the trouble-making young princess, just wants to be the typical damsel in distress, saved by a true knight to live happily ever after or something boring like that. However, life sucks for most people, and hardly anyone actually gets the role they desire.

After learning his status as a hero was not written in stone, Ethan discovers an ancient legendary sword that he thinks will help him become a legend himself. Due to his horrendous bad luck, however, Ethan accidently breaks the sword in two while trying to save Anna from a hungry gremlin. His mistake releases the evil queen Dahlia of the nymphs. Dahlia is weak but quickly regaining strength and simply wants a happy life filled with destruction and suffering to those around her. Horrified by what he has caused, Ethan and Anna head on a dangerous journey to defeat Dahlia, that is, if they don’t get captured by the king’s guards first for stealing the sword.

Throughout their journey, Ethan and Anna encounter nymphs, fairies, not-so-wise old men, talking hippy unicorns and a king and queen baked out of their minds on drugs. Ultimately, they come face to face with the terrible queen Dahlia. However, can Ethan and Anna accept their true roles in order to stop Dahlia, or will they fail to correct Ethan’s mistake and ultimately cause world annihilation?

Legend of the Phoenix is a 95,000 word Young Adult Fantasy novel. I am an unpublished author looking for a home for my manuscript, and I feel that AGENCY would make an excellent fit for my story and me. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Humor is difficult. What's even more difficult is translating long-form, situational humor into short-form query.

This query, I think, isn't quite striking the balance between showing the reader a humorous story and a story with heart. Humor, of course, is very subjective, so I think getting lots of comments about whether a humorous piece is working is very important.

If we break down the humor aspects, I think we find:

  • The situational humor needs to be clearly defined.
  • Irony needs to be set up and then its outcome anticipated in the reader's mind.
  • Simply meeting quirky characters does not make a story funny.
  • Descriptions of humor need to be humorous.
  • Reader discovery is a better tool than out-and-out telling a reader something.
  • Fast and pacey leave a better impression about humor than longer, slower sentences.
A lot of unnecessary words are slowing the pace of the query down. Tightening it, I think, will be a good first step here. For starters, you can delete despite the fact, multiple uses of actually, that he thinks, throughout their journey, however and ultimately.

My Version

Now the voice in my version is very different from the voice you give us in your version. I think the fun factor could still be amped up quite a bit, but that might make the voice much too different from the voice in your book. But I do believe if you go for crisper, shorter sentences and spotlight the situational humor better, the query will be more appealing to a greater number of readers.

Sixteen-year-old Ethan's future as a damsel-saving hero is in the bag: It's been foreseen. Too bad that career advice came from a fairy strung out on one too many magic mushrooms.

Anna, a trouble-making young princess, has her career mapped out too: meteoric rise as damsel-in-distress followed by early retirement in the land of happily-ever-after.

What could possibly go wrong with well-grounded plans like that? Right.

Fate seems to be cooperating when Ethan stumbles across a legendary sword that comes complete with a regulation prophecy. Something about making its wielder a legend too. Check. Meanwhile, Anna cleverly gets herself assaulted by a hungry gremlin just as a cute boy with a big sword happens by. Check and check. With his first mighty blow, Ethan misses the gremlin and breaks the sword in two. Oops. Double oops when his mistake releases Dahlia, queen of the nymphs who, after a few hundred years captive in a soul-sucking dimension of hades, is ready to settle down to a happy life destroying everyone and everything around her.

Lacking any fallback career plans to fall back on, Ethan and Anna head out on a dangerous journey to defeat Dahlia. Dogged at every step by a requisite list of quirky characters -- unwise old men, talking unicorns, drugged-out royalty and a host of hippie-fied fairies -- Ethan and Anna ultimately come face-to-face with the terrible nymph queen herself.

Poor kids. Following plan is never as easy as it seems.

LEGEND OF THE PHOENIX is a 95,000 word Young Adult Fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Masako Moonshade said...

My first impression is "Wow, that's a lot of drugs." While you've got some awesome humor going on with the MCs' mislaid plans, the impression I'm getting is that the rest of the jokes are variations of "oh look, he's high, tee hee hee", which in turn makes me wonder if the story will end with the characters all going to White Castle. If that's not what you're going for, maybe going on about baked royalty isn't the way you want to go, and you can focus on other ironies instead.

vkw said...

My first impression was also "that's a lot of drugs".

Also, I tend to shy away from anything that makes drugs seem cutesy, funny, positive in anyway or less than the tragedy they are. I'm thinking having lots of characters strung out on drugs and eventually succomb to a tragic lifestyle (death), isn't going to happen in this book. (I realize that this is my issue . . . but there it is).

Other than that, this is a much better query than previous and I can see it as a fun read - minus making drugs appealing.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

If you look at Phoenix's version, you can see she's taken a much lighter tone than the author has. That's why the humor works.

A statement like "life sucks for most people" isn't light. It's grim and gloomy. And while grim and gloomy can work as humor (think Marvin the Paranoid Android) it really requires that a humorous voice already be established.

As it is, with nothing else to go on, the query reader may simply conclude that "life sucks for most people" is the writer's operating philosophy. It's fairly hard to get any yuks out of that.

Not impossible. But fairly hard.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the help. I'll keep working on it!

Chelsea P. said...

I have this feeling that getting both Ethan and Anna into the first sentence might simplify things. Otherwise it feels a bit like two different stories when really it's the story of a girl who *technically* saves the kingdom and the boy who becomes a hero by helping her. Right? Something like:

"In a world where girls are damsels and boys are the heroes that save them, Anna and Ethan have their lives plotted out for them. All she has to do is get herself captured and Ethan will swoop in to save her. Too bad she's better at battling villains than being caught by them. Oh, and the fairy fortune-teller that prophesied Ethan's rise to heroism? Just a run of the mill junkie on the kind of trip that doesn't take wings.

So much for fairy tale endings. Unless..."

After that, my issue with your queries, author, is that they begin to feel a bit synopsis-y. I love the way Phoenix wraps things up in her version. It leaves us wanting more and ends on a humorous note.

The story sounds quite fun. If you should post another rewrite, I look forward to reading it :)

batgirl said...

Yeah, what other people said - saying 'the fairy was a drug addict' doesn't make for funny, plus immediately makes me think we're in Gritty Urban Fantasy territory, not in light satire of High Fantasy.
I don't want to hammer it, but there's a big tonal difference between 'addict' and 'stoner'. Drug addicts have track marks and ulcers on their arms, their noses are eaten away, etc. My guess is you want 'stoner' or similar.

Chelsea P. said...

"Stoner" wouldn't explain hallucinations though.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I'm kind of torn here. You improved the query. Drugs aren't funny. Maybe the getting stoned could come from an excess of Unicorn buttermilk or something. Too much of anything isn't good. This reads a little young for YA. I could be off though.

I think you're holding back on the humor. I'd love it if you'd make me grin, chuckle or snort. Unicorn cream cheese? Troll treacle?

The suggestion to bring in both characters up front is worth thinking about. Might be a good blend. Good luck on this. Intrigued.