Jun 11, 2009

Revised Query: The Mansion

Click here to read the original query.

There is a statue in the gardens that used to be a girl.

When six teenagers learn that their parents participated in a dangerous experiment before they were born, the news is life-changing. Especially when they're pulled from their homes to spend a year in observation, living in a huge mansion and going to a private school of the experimenters' choosing. For Sami Harris, it all might just be a blessing in disguise. She sees the experience as a chance at a fresh start. She's long suffered teasing about her schizophrenia diagnosis, but hopefully, all of that can change.

Unfortunately, she begins hearing voices again as soon as they get to the mansion. When her twin sister suggests that maybe the voices are real, Sami begins following them to diary pages throughout the house. Piece by piece, she and the other kids in the house unravel what happened to make one young girl disappear from the mansion. And end up as a statue in the gardens. Sami isn't sure how, but she knows that they have to help the girl. But first, everyone in the house will have to come clean about the things that they can really do.

The Mansion: The Experiment is a 55,000 word YA Fantasy. It is the first in a potential five book series. My first draft won the Make My Movie Contest run by GospelSims.com. As a result, there is a series of machinima videos, available on YouTube. The promo video that was made just before the finale videos, is about a minute long and is a wonderful representation of the feel of the book. It can be found here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D39suMxt9KM&feature=channel_page in case the link doesn't work).

Full manuscript, synopsis, and outlines of further novels in the series are available upon request. Thank you for your consideration.


Anonymous said...

You've got some good bones here, but I have a few suggestions to help flesh this query out:

1. Bring Sami in sooner and make her the focus:
Sami isn't introduced at all to us until halfway through the first paragraph and I think that's partly why this query feels emotionally distant to me.

Consider rewriting this in first person, then switching only the words to make it become third. I think that would up the sense of urgency, add YA voice--if you have one other than this quite neutral narrator--and pull us in faster to the crux of the conflict.

eg. Your hook would become something more like: Sami Harris thinks the statue in the garden is a real girl, but maybe that's just the schizophrenia talking...

2. Flesh out your antagonist. At present I'm not clear who that is, other than Sami's schizophrenia. Is it her parents, the people who run the experiments? Once Sami and the others are in the house, other than obscure information, does the antagonist actually *do* anything active against which Sami must push?

3. What are the stakes, other than whether they can rescue the girl? Will anyone else become a statue if they don't solve the mystery? Is Sami being gaslighted so she'll come to doubt her own sanity if she can't solve it?

4. Title in all-caps, it's a "55,000-word YA fanstasy" <---note the hyphen

Hope I haven't discouraged you. Your writing is clean, which is a huge advantage. We just need some more pertinent detail and urgency, IMO.

Scott said...

I think Cherry is on the right track with her comments.

I really liked the one-sentence hook, but it took a little too long to tie into the rest of the query. I think Cherry's suggested rewrite of the opening is dynamite.

I understand why you listed the video on YouTube. But with the crush of queries agents get, I tend to doubt they're going to take the time to go and watch them. I would strongly consider cutting that section.

Bane of Anubis said...

Agree w/ Cherry - think her opening line helps condense your writing while retaining the hook (and most agents want condensed writing in queries - omit needless words, etc.)...

Not sure if I agree w/ the 1st person angle - most agents frown on this (I could have misinterpreted what cherry meant, though).

Also, try to provide more detail (e.g., explain the experiment concisely - show that it was dangerous) - ignore the impulse to build too much mystery in your query; you want to hook the agent and then you want to give them enough meat to make them want to keep eating.
Right now, the query is far too vague, IMO.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, Bane, yes, the query should remain in third person. But as a way of getting deeper into one person's POV, a technique that can be used is to first compose the query in first person, then change only the words necessary to get it into third. (You can do this in the mms itself, btw. I find it very, very helpful.)

eg. This line from the query:

"She sees the experience as a chance at a fresh start. She's long suffered teasing about her schizophrenia diagnosis, but hopefully, all of that can change."

From Sami's POV in 1st, it becomes almost impossible not to add voice and immediacy. The line becomes something more like:

"I'm no dummy. This is my chance to ditch the kids who bug me about my schizophrenia."

Then in third:

"She's no dummy. This is her chance to ditch the kids who bug her about her schizophrenia."

Anyway, if you're interested in reading further, just Google "deep point of view".

And Rick, sorry for doing a thread hijack!

Bane of Anubis said...

cherry, thanks for the clarification and explanation - my left brain really appreciated the example :)

Rick Daley said...


Don't worry about hijacking the thread, your feedback is very useful. I haven't heard of the first person / third person bait & switch before, but I like it. I can see how it would be effective in drawing out your voice.

Laura Martone said...

Not to sound like a broken record, but I agree with Cherrytart, Scott, and Bane - as visual as your current hook is, it feels like a gimmick and creates a distance between the reader and the story. Best to start with Sami in the first sentence - since she seems to be the protagonist.

Intriguing idea overall, though - it seems like an evocative, potentially poignant mystery. Good luck with it! :-)


P.S. The only thing I don't agree with is Cherry's comment re: the title. While there should be a hyphen for "55,000-word" - I'd italicize "The Mansion: The Experiment" not put it in all caps (I usually only put the title in caps for the purpose of the Public Query Slushpile). But, of course, that's just my opinion. :-)

Anonymous said...

Laura, I guess depending upon the e-mail server, important formating like italics and underlining can get lost. If you hang out on writing boards like AW at all, they routinely suggest putting the title in all-caps for this reason.

Laura Martone said...

Cherry -

Oh, okay, for e-queries, I can understand that. In fact, that makes a lot of sense.

But, for the snail-mail variety, I assumed italics would look more professional.

I am old-fashioned, though. :-)