Jul 6, 2009


Dear Agent,

Death follows Charlotte—literally. When an intoxicated Death had accidentally taken her family at the hospital, Death looses his job and is sentenced by his superiors to act as eleven-year-old Charlotte’s personal guardian. Under Death’s guidance, Charlotte finds herself leaving the orphanage accompanied by only Death and a piece of paper with five families looking to adopt her. Although each time a family is ready to sign the adoption papers, Death’s bad habits of gambling, drinking, and stealing gets the ever impressionable Charlotte into trouble, causing her to lose her chance at finding a family.

By the time they reach the final family, Death starts to feel attached and responsible for her. So when he seeks approval to become her permanent guardian, he must control his bad habits to become her legal guardian. The fifth and final family has other plans, though. They slowly begin to turn Charlotte against Death with a series of incriminating evidence that lands him in hot water with the local authorities and his superiors. Fearing he will lose Charlotte forever, Death must find a way to clear his name and win Charlotte back before the family signs the adoption papers.

DEATH AND ME is a quirky 95,000 word young adult novella.


Suzan Harden said...

I love the premise. (I'm a big fan of Dead Like Me.) There's a few things in the query that need to be clarified.

1) Does Death no longer collect souls after he's fired? Is he now human? Can others see him? I can't see Charlotte waltzing out of the orphanage, apparently by herself.

2) Why does Charlotte get blamed for Death's vices? She's only eleven.

3) The word 'guardian' is used almost repetively. Can some synonyms be used?

4) If Death's not human, how would he get custody of Charlotte?

5) Why would the fifth family turn Charlotte against Death? From the earlier description of Death, the fifth family adopting her would be a slam dunk.

6) Is this Death's story or Charlotte's? And why doesn't Charlotte hate him for prematurely taking her family? It seems to me you'd get a lot more conflict mileage if Charlotte's the main protagonist.

7) Have someone proof-read your spelling (LOL - speaking from experience here.) "Looses" should be "loses" in the second sentence.

8) 95K is novel length. A novella is roughly 15K-40K.

Again, I love the remise. Best wishes with your submissions!

John said...

A few thoughts:

95,000 words is a novel, not a novella, which is good in that novellas are hard to sell because they don't cost much less and buyers feel like they're not getting their money's worth. However, 95K is pretty long for a story with an 11-year-old protagonist. By comparison, the first Harry Potter book as around 77k. When I queried for a 101k-work YA novel with a 12-year-old MC, one agent suggested cutting the length by half.

Death sounds like an interesting character, but Charlotte comes off as very passive. Is there anything interesting about her? How does she get into trouble? How does she feel about losing her family or having Death as a guardian? Does she blame him for the loss of her family?

Finally, there are some rough edges on the query, like the verb tense disagreement in the second sentence of the first para. In the second sentence of the second para, you could drop "to become her legal guardian" from the end.

This sounds like it could be quite an amusing story, but we need to know a little more, and query needs a little polish. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comments. Yeah, the word "novella" is not suppose to be there; it's just suppose to be "novel." I was having some troubles with word when copying and pasting it here.

The problem I seem to be having is I either have to write the query with a lot of info or write it with not as much info.

So, yes everyone can see Death like a normal person walking about; there is more than just one Death in the world--it's like a business; and there is a reason why Charlotte doesn't hate him right away.

The problem is that I don't want the query to be long and filled with so much backstory.

Laura Martone said...

I feel like I'm always saying this on the Public Query Slushpile (LOL), but I agree with the other commenters here.

The premise of this story is intriguing, but the query needs a lot of polishing.

Mainly, the relationship between Death and Charlotte needs some clarifying (based on the author's comment, it needs to be understood that Death can be seen by others - and that Charlotte is attached to him for some inexplicable reason). Also, for the purposes of the query, the MC needs to be obvious - is it Charlotte or Death? If it's Charlotte, I agree with John - she must be less passive.

As for the details... you've already cleared up the novel/novella issue. And remember to add a hyphen between "95,000" and "word". Also, please fix the spelling/tense errors in the first paragraph.

Otherwise, good show! I wish you lots of luck with the novel!