Oct 15, 2009

Query: Butter and Margarine

Dear Agent,

Until Justin Reinhart walked into their dad’s insurance agency, Sunny Cumberledge lived a margarine existence, a life hardly worth spreading on weekday toast. Or so her sister always said; Rain never let someone’s feelings stand in the way of a good metaphor. Although Sunny can’t be entirely mad at her: if the always- impatient Rain hadn’t set up their first date, Justin might have taken his new policy rates and left without her number. But like always, Rain shoved Sunny headlong into her life and didn’t apologize for it. Why should she? Rain lives in a butter- pat world full of flavor and worth every calorie. Sunny’s the one living like a twenty- one year old grocery list, unremarkable, unmemorable.

Sunny never really understood her sister, a woman who didn’t seem to care that she was mostly loathed by her family. Before that December day in the office, Sunny had resigned herself to being the good daughter, the Cumberledge their father loved the most. Someone had to live practically; Rain stopped trying to be anything but fantastic eleven years ago. But Justin makes Sunny think she could be so much more. She starts to see herself as a potentially interesting person, a person worthy of remembering. She let herself be buried alive underneath eleven years worth of pleasing dirt. It’s finally time for Sunny to please herself, and in doing that, she might discover just what her sister has tried to show her for so long. Anyone can merely exist; only the fantastic can really live.

Butter and Margarine is an eighty- one thousand word novel in the women’s fiction genre. [Personal Information]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Saison Williams


Bane of Anubis said...

Hi Saison,

IMO, you've gone a bit too metaphorical on this. Try to address the conflict between Sunny and Justin more succinctly (I'd leave out Rain altogether... she may be integral to the story, but not the query) so that we have a better sense of the conflict (try to provide more specificity and less generality).

Try to cut to the chase sooner (e.g., setup Sunny as living a drab/margarine life in one sentence and use that as a springboard into detailing how Justin comes along and shows her how to live a more exciting/butter one).

Hope this helps. As always, TWAGOS.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I agree with Bane- the metaphors are pretty heavy here. I also got confused with the mention of Rain. I've read many agents who say to leave out the names of everyone except the protagonist and maybe the antagonist. They want to know the core of the conflict, not a character run-down.

Good luck!

Rick Daley said...

The metaphors and symbolism are clever, but they get in the way of the story.

Is the heart of the story the relationship between Sunny and Rain, or between Sunny and Justin?

Try to boil your story down to a single sentence, and then build the description up to 250 words based on that.

I like the irony behind their names...that Rain is the exuberant one and Sunny is drab.

Madeline said...

I agree with what has been said above. This almost reminds me of some kind of thematic analysis. I would suggest making it more simple, get to the point, and throw in a bit of the neat metaphor stuff. I agree with Rick, the names/personalites are interesting. Good luck!

Kristy said...

I like the first sentence, but I agree, after that, the metaphors sort of distract from the story and I don't feel like I know what your story is really about.

My thoughts for what they're worth:

It took me a couple of reads to get this: "Justin might have taken his new policy rates and left without her number." Maybe you could find a way to say it more clearly?

I didn't understand what "pleasing dirt" meant.

Don't spell out 81,000.

wendy said...

What I like about this query is you've captured the very original voice of your novel. There is no blandness here. This query stood up and demanded to be read. The first sentence was excellent. However, this could be just me, but I found the second sentence difficult to understand. It read as very ambiguous to me. Perhaps if 'Or so her sister always said' refers to the first sentence, then it could be punctuated as a stand alone sentence without the semicolon and following indep. clause. However that independent clause is a bit ambigious - for me. Perhaps before saying that you could have a bit more of a built up about Rain, so there's more of a smooth flow. I think the second para needs to be cut considerable. Not all of that info needs to be imparted.

All up, though, I am intrigued and would love to read the novel one day. It promises wit, wisdom and original ideas.

wendy said...

oops - typo alter. meant to type 'cut considerably'.

Anica Lewis said...

A fun premise. I agree with Rick, though, that it would be good to make it clearer what the main plotline is here. If it's Sunny and Justin, then the business with Rain could be summed up more quickly, and their father probably left out. Some of the metaphors, too, had me kind of scrambled, especially the "pleasing dirt."

John said...

The second para jumps back and forth between present and past tenses. I'd stick with past, and use past perfect ("had done") to refer to events or conditions before the narrative begins.

Saison Williams said...

I really appreciate all your thoughts on this. I've struggled with query writing because I've never been sure how bare bones to go with the pitch, so the plot is there without losing the voice. But I can see now that the metaphorical content isn't really good for the initial query, and I'll definitely re- work this with that in mind.

Thanks again, everyone!