Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Query 97: Redux

Martin Mason and the Man in the Crystal Prison

Dear Agent,

Thirteen-year-old Martin Mason spends his evenings staring at a blank wall. Behind it lies a device designed to free powerful tyrant Samuel Wade from his impenetrable five-year prison. Martin doesn’t know this. He only knows three teachers who work behind that wall have mysteriously disappeared.

To solve this mystery, Martin must first master his mind’s rare ability to manipulate the world around it. Guessing test answers and turning invisible at will were great for playing pranks at his old school back home but are about as useful as card tricks against abilities like Wade’s.

Then, he must decide who deserves his trust in this new, seemingly idyllic world where cars drive themselves and the temperature’s always a pleasant seventy degrees. His best bet is Steve Lazarus, the substitute teacher who supposedly saved Martin from life as some government lab rat by dragging him to this school in the first place. There’s also the school Director, but he suspects Martin in the disappearances. As for the police, they weren’t much help when Samuel Wade held this secret society in his brutal grip five years ago.

But what’s really getting to Martin is the discovery that Wade is actually his biological father. Despite Martin’s affection for the adoptive parents who raised him, the allure of his own flesh and blood is powerful. Wade is the greatest persuader the world has ever known, after all. Martin, though, can stop Wade’s return…but only if he first solves the mystery of the blank wall.

MARTIN MASON AND THE MAN IN THE CRYSTAL PRISON is a tween fantasy, complete at 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I like how this is now setting the book up as a mystery. It definitely downplays the Potter comparisons better, which helps the reader focus on THIS story.

Setting up the mystery first then dropping in tidbits about Martin, where he's at, and what the complications are as done here helps make the query feel like a story with many reveals, rather than a straight info-dump. And it will, I think, have agents hoping the manuscript follows through on the same kind of storytelling skills.

I think only a couple of tweaks to this are needed and then it's ready to send off into Queryland. Good job!


I would change "five-year" to "crystal" or delete altogether. The time duration is ambiguous. I know you mean Wade's been there for 5 years, but here it could be read that he only has a 5-year prison sentence.

I'd like to know how other critters interpret the last sentence about the teachers who have disappeared. It's not clear to me whether Martin knows the teachers are there. It could also mean that the teachers who were working behind the wall aren't there any longer.


Maybe substitute "place" for "world"? Unless it really is a different world.

I don't think Steve needs to be named. It's a cool name, but if it's meant to hint at some of the plot, it doesn't in the query.


Change "the world" to "this world."

Delete "though."

Actually, I think the last sentence could be amped a bit by injecting a bit of doubt into it beyond mastering the mystery. Something like: And only if his new powers don't master him first. Or: If his father or his new powers don't sway him first, Martin can stop Wade's return ... but only if he solves the mystery of the blank wall.


Ink and Pixel Club said...

If I hadn't read the previous version of the query, I would be very confused by the first paragraph. The first two sentences are intriguing, but the last two are hard to follow. Sentence one sets up the question of why Martin is staring at a blank wall and sentence two seems to provide an answer. But sentence three tells me that Martin doesn't know about the device or Samuel Wade, making me wonder if I really need to know about them yet. Sentence four gives me a ton of information that is hard to process with no explanation of how Martin knows it.

Stick to what Martin knows right now. There's a blank wall that looks completely ordinary to everyone else. But Martin can see through the wall. On the other side, three teachers who have recently vanished from the school Martin attends are working on some kind of mysterious device. (assuming I'm reading/remembering right and the teachers don't start off working behind the wall and then disappear.)

The next most important things are that Martin himself is a suspect in the teachers' disappearances (why?) and that Martin has magic powers. That gives him a reason to want to solve the mystery and the potential means to do it. The. You can get into Samuel wade and his possible connection to the blank wall and the device behind it.

What exactly is the mystery that Martin needs to solve? He already knows where the three teachers are (again assuming I understand correctly and they don't vanish while they're behind the wall) and that they're building some kind of device. Is the mystery what the device is for? How the teachers got behind the wall? Howbto get them out?

Ryan Mueller said...

Thanks for the comments, Phoenix and Ink and Pixel Club.

It sounds like the last sentence of the first sentence is causing some confusion. What I intended was that the teachers worked behind the wall and then disappeared.

So, would changing the sentence to: "He only knows three teachers who worked behind that wall have mysteriously disappeared."

I agree on "though" in the last sentence. I debated whether or not I should put it there. I'll see if I can work in your suggestion to spice up the last sentence.

Ink and Pixel Club, my intention with the first paragraph was to set the reader up with the stakes of the mystery and then reveal that Martin needs to solve this mystery. Hopefully, changing work to worked as indicated above, makes this a little less confusing.

And the school director suspects Martin in the disappearances because he spends so much time watching that wall. I wanted to include that information in the query, but I also wanted to stay under 250 words. I'll see if I can find a way to work it in succinctly.

I know somebody asked me on the original query if this was part of a series. While I plan it to be one, this book does stand alone (considering I haven't come up with the complete plot for the rest of the series yet).

Xenith said...

If haven't read any previous versions of this, and I was very confused. I'm trying to work out who, what, why and where, while more complications are thrown at me. I totally missed Wade's name so when I came across at the end of the second paragraph had to backtrack.

Can you introduce Martin and give him a context (like Ink & Pixel said maybe), and then bring in the other characters and complications?