Friday, July 8, 2011

Query 93: Redux 2

The Bones of Babylon

Dear _____,


Fifteen-year-old Chicago feels isolated amongst earth's few survivors, until her long-lost friend Babylon reappears from her past. He opens doors for her, kisses her hand, and treats her like a princess. Unfortunately, he's also bent on murdering everyone she knows.

Armed with the power to control both minds and monsters, Babylon is after blood — and Chicago. He tells her the secrets he almost died to learn: that she and her friends aren’t the sole survivors of the human race, that Chicago and her friends inherited a devastating power, and that the adults will do whatever it takes to keep it locked away. Their home isn’t a sanctuary, it’s a prison.

Babylon’s plan to liberate Chicago begins with the slaughter of her captors, but it won’t end there. Now Chicago must navigate both the paranoia of the adults and Babylon’s ruthless insanity. If she sides with him she will lose everything she’s ever held dear. If she doesn’t, she’ll be forced to kill the only person she’s ever loved.

THE BONES OF BABYLON is a 64,000-word post-apocalyptic fantasy novel for young adults. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The tightened focus here works better, imo. Now see if you can keep the focus tight while making the internal story line of the query a little clearer and more consistent.

For instance, we're told Babylon is murdering everyone Chicago knows. Does that mean he's killing her friends -- the ones who are like her and him -- too? Do her friends include the adults? We're told she and her friends aren't the sole survivors, so that indicates the adults would be included in there too. If that's true, then who are their captors?

Dangling the bit about controlling monsters as it's done here isn't really intriguing, it's just baffling. We don't know in this version that "monsters" laid waste to the world in the first place so we have nothing to equate with them or even if the term is meant to be literal or metaphorical.

Having to make a choice and potentially sacrifice the person Chicago loves is quite workable, but it's a pretty common trope in fantasy. Many readers who enjoy that trope (and I'll be the first to raise my hand) want to feel both parties are worth the sacrifice.

Remember Buffy and Angel? The audience came to love Angel just as much as Buffy did. Then he became Angelus and the audience knew, just as Buffy did, that Angelus had to die. For just a moment he became Angel again, but it couldn't last -- he knew it, Buffy knew it and the audience knew it. She had to kill him to save the world. What tore us apart was that she killed him when he was the good guy, Angel, not when he was the bad guy, Angelus.

Or how about the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera? He killed all of Christine's enemies and even kidnapped her, and he did it out of twisted love for Christine -- perhaps similar to Babylon's motive. In the end, though, he realized what he was doing was wrong. Both Christine and the Phantom are transformed by events.

From what we know of Babylon in this query, he's a bad guy. I may feel sorry for Chicago for falling for a murderer and having to kill the boy she loves, but even the query says he's exhibiting ruthless insanity. This is not a nice person. In fact, given how he showers Chicago with affected affection, he seems to be covering an abusive nature. There's no hint he may change in the end, that he can be saved. The reader can sympathize with Chicago, but our hearts aren't breaking that she may be forced to kill him. What can you give us in the query to help the reader better understand the dynamic at play here?


Sarah Laurenson said...

His being chivalrous does not provide a strong enough counterweight to his murdering people. My immediate thought is she should off him because he's nutters and a killer. No conflict there.

Can you raise the stakes and show us why she would stay her hand? What about his crusade makes sense to her? She needs what he has to offer but doesn't agree with his methods, perhaps?

Much clearer than the previous version for sure.

vkw said...

I'm really struggling with this query.

This re-write is much different than the one at EE's place, but I still have not a clue what is going on.

So help me out.

Who: Chicago who is 15 and a survivor with powers she didn't know about.

Who: Babylon wants Chicago and revenge. The way its written it sound like Babylon may have ill intentions toward Chicago.

Who: adults that are keeping the few survivors prisoner. Adult who? Like Babylon and Chicago's parents. I don't get it.

Now I do. Wow - it took that much dissecting to have the lightbulb go off.

Chicago has grown up believing that she is amongst the earth's few survivors and is being cared for by ''''''' inside of a sanctuary built just for them.

That is until her friend, Babylon, who she feared was dead returns. He has learned he and Chicago, along with the other so-called survivors, are actually being held in a pristine prison so that they can not use their devastating psychic powers.

Powers thatt blah blah blah. Babylon is after blood for the deception and (so they can escape into the world together).

He begins by slaughtering their captors, people who have cared and nurtured Chicago for as long as she can remember.

anyway . . . I think some streamlining would help.

start with

then add
what is at stake
what does the MC want to accomplish.

So I guess I don't know that. Chicago is falling in love but does she want to escape her prison? Is she angry at the decption

(I didn't like long-last friend . . nor returns from her past.)

(I don't think I would even go into the isolation part because well its kind of weird in the query. Isolation is the least of her problems.)

Ryan Mueller said...

Your problem with Babylon might be the order you introduce elements of him. Maybe consider leaving the murder out of the first paragraph.

For example:

Fifteen-year-old Chicago feels isolated amongst Earth's few survivors, until her long-lost friend Babylon reappears from her past. He opens doors for her, kisses her hand, and treats her like a princess.

He also brings her secrets he almost died to learn: that Chicago and her friends aren't the sole survivors of the human race, that they inherited a devastating power, and that the adults will do whatever it takes to keep this power locked away. Their home isn't a sanctuary; it's a prison.

Unfortunately, Babylon's plan to liberate Chicago begins with the slaughter of her captors. Now, Chicago must navigate both the paranoia of the adults and Babylon's determination to murder everyone she knows. Though she's initially repulsed by his brutal methods, part of her sees the reason and necessity behind the actions. If she sides with him, however, she'll lose everything she's ever known. If she doesn't, she'll be forced to kill the only person she's ever loved...

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I actually thought the last line of the first paragraph was great.

Maybe this was discussed earlier, but-- I have a lot of trouble reading this, because Chicago is the largest city in the Midwest. And that's the image my mind presents me with when it reads the word. It's not able to switch over to a 15-year-old girl.

Masako Moonshade said...

Thank you all for looking through this. It really helps me a lot.

Jo-Ann said...

I choose to ignore - or at least, not refer back - to the previous versions of queries/ synopses as I read them on this blog, so I can critique each version on its merits. It stands alone - just - even though, as Phoenix pointed out, the "monsters" need fleshing out.

The line at the end of Para 1 does not work for me, it just jars. As previous commenters have pointed out, the murderous behaviour far outweighs the chivalrious (sp?) approach towards Chicago. If Chicago is conflicted at this point ("he might have gored three adults here to death, but he kissed my hand and gave me a tiara - he's ok, really") makes her sound like an incredibly self obsessed air-head. Save the last line of para 1 for later. Unless she actually IS that shallow and vain.

I would start para 2 with "he tells her secrets..." and a hint about what the power may be. Then put (a version) of the sentence beginning "armed with power..." at the end of that para.

Then in para 3, you could discuss Babylon's murderous nature in more detail, and what C. needs to be liberated from.

Author - As I was processing the query, I kept on seeing the story as a darker version of "The Truman Show" particularly that it seemed to be about contented captives being fed b*ll and kept in the dark. (ok, I'm not implying that the "monsters" are reality-tv fans following Chicago's life. Although on second thoughts...)

Does this make you groan or go "yessss!"

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

See, I took at as understood among all rational beings that his chivalrous behavior didn't outweigh his nasty evilness. The line was an attention-getter. Worked for me.

However, if it fails to work for most people I guess it doesn't work.

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I think it's getting there, but I still want to know what's motivating either Babylon or the adults, preferably both if Chicago Has this information fairly early on. You're hinting at it, but I need more detail. I'm guessing that revealing what the adults are up to will make Babylon's violent plans make more sense. Right now, I don't know what makes the adults so afraid of the kids' powers and why they keep the existence of other humans a secret. I also don't know why Babylon feels the needs to kill people instead of just escaping again with Chicago (and possibly the other kids?). I hope the answer is more than "he's insane."