May 15, 2009

Query- Story for a Shipwright (Revision 1)

Click here to read the original query and sample pages.

I am seeking representation for my novel STORY FOR A SHIPWRIGHT, a work of commercial fiction complete at 82,000 words.

Family dysfunction and responsibilities weigh on Samuel Wesley; he has no time for himself, let alone na├»ve Marlena, hired to stay on at his mother’s bed & breakfast. A story within a story develops when she reveals a tale of shipwreck and survival. Her farfetched stories leave Samuel wondering if they are merely the imaginings of a delusional girl—he cannot possibly know she holds the key to his family’s past; that she will launch him into recollections of his own repressed memories.

Samuel’s intrigue grows, and so do his feelings for Marlena. Now he must compete with his womanizing best friend, and quell his psychiatrist brother’s suspicions over her motives, while keeping his own emotional fallout at bay.

If he pursues the relationship, he risks yet another failed romance, and complicates his already thorny life. Yet if he does not see it through, he will miss out on the most extraordinary woman, and incredible story he could ever imagine.

Marlena and Samuel, through their own unique perceptions, help each other find the home and love we are all looking for. This character driven exploration, of our needs versus wants in a world where ordinary converges with extraordinary, resonates with all who have been at the crossroads of personal and familial reconciliation and discovery.

Thank you for your consideration.


Anonymous said...

The query looks very long. It's not though, I counted only 262 words. So I'd suggest dropping some stuff, and replacing it with other stuff.

Second paragraph, last two sentences, I'd change to: "He will learn she holds the key to his family's past, after she begins revealing a farfetched tale of shipwreck and survival."

This is because, a "story within a story", as well as "repressed memories", are techniques of narrative manner. They are better used with some stories than others, but they could be used to tell virtually any story, so they don't really show why your story is special. Since that's what a query is for, I'd leave it out of the query.

Third and fourth paragraphs together, after the very first sentence, I'd change to: "If he risks pursuing her, he must compete with his womanizing friend, and confront suspicions over her motives. If he does not, he could miss out on an extraordinary woman."

The hero's failed romances, womanizing friend, psychiatrist brother, and business disagreements with his mother aren't separate from his thorny life, as far as I can tell they ARE his thorny life. And "the most incredible story he could imagine" could also potentially apply to any story, not just yours, so it doesn't help you show how unique your story is.

The entire last sentence before your thank-you --- I'd drop that too. Largely because the sentence before it ends it so well.

OK, so what would I use all the saved space for? Telling the agent more about the heroine; specifically, why she is extraordinary.

Anonymous said...

Just read the sample pages. I like them.

I wouldn't have tried to go so far afield in the first few pages --- arguments with the hero's mother, weather in Maine, the size of the boat --- but AFAIC you pull it off somehow, that's impressive.

I like the way Marlena makes her appearance. I don't know if I'd have the hero's eyes rolling out of his head, though. Description of the first time the hero and heroine meet is important, and we don't know WHY his eyes are rolling out of his head. Is it because he's surprised? The apparition-like vista of the sunlight? It doesn't seem to be an immediate sexual attraction, because his mind goes right back to his work.

Another thing you capture well is the hero's disillusionment and distraction. The fact that he works so hard in that state, makes me like him. But it's possible to go overboard with that: I do it myself. For example, at one point you use "at least several hours", which is two degrees of uncertainty about the time. When I go overboard expressing uncertainty (because the character's tired, sad, beat up, or whatever), then my readers complain that the story's losing focus, and their interest.

jbchicoine said...

Thanks for having a look and for the comprehensive feedback!

Regarding the "story within a story", it consumes nearly a third of the plot, her story, presented to Samuel as fiction, about his ancestor’s shipwreck on an island, the same uninhabited island upon which her pregnant mother washes ashore, 100 years later. Somehow, I’m hoping to convey all of that.

Samuel does not know until the end, that her stories are autobiographical.
I don’t know how much of that to give away in the query. If I change the last two sentences of the second paragraph, perhaps it should be more like, “Not until the end of the story does he find out her farfetched tale of shipwreck and survival is her personal history, holding the key to his family's past,” but then I’m not sure the placement would be right.

I wonder too, if at the beginning I should mention, “…‘aspiring novelist’, Samuel Wesley…” –stories intrigue him.

At any rate, I will be mulling all of this over, and I am grateful for your input.

Thanks too for looking at my excerpt.
I hoped that the hero's eyes rolling out of his head would set up the dismissive way he views the girl. She first needs to chip away at this before telling him her story, and returning a few possessions she brought along from her island, including the captain’s log belonging to Samuel’s Gr.Gr.Gr.Grandfather.