Jan 5, 2010

Query - Fallen Knight (2nd Revision)

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the first revision.

Dear Ms. Agent,

My 105,000 word mystery/suspense novel, FALLEN KNIGHT, fits the material you’re in search of. Think of it in the mold of The Bowery Boys versus Professor Moriarty.

On the eve of 2011, a twisted mind is intent on replicating the largest bio-terrorism act in US history. How ironic that the only thing standing in his way is a group of aging friends who still revere the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Lee Hamilton is a middle-aged human resource manager for a manufacturing plant located in the Deep South. Aside from being recently re-married, the only thing keeping him from slipping into a mind-numbing normalcy is his occasional rendezvous with the knights. One of six college buddies, who in their mischievous heyday were labeled ‘The Knights Who Say Ni’ for their love of all things Monty Python, Lee has come to treasure his re-kindled friendship with the tight-knit group. Then tragedy strikes.

A call from Dianne Williams, the manager of the detective agency where one of the knights works, informs Lee that somebody has savagely beaten their friend into a coma. Furthermore, a mysterious illness has suddenly befallen the majority of the investigators at her agency. Lee rallies the rest of the knights to help Dianne search for the assailant, which points in the direction of one of the fallen knights previous investigations. The pursuit leads to a student responsible for a lethal high school shooting sixty miles outside the nation’s capital. Though the boy committed suicide following his rampage, the group discovers the authorities have been suppressing facts about the young shooter, including a note hinting at an ominous on-going threat. Utilizing sometimes questionable (aka illegal) methods, Dianne and the knights link a cryptic series of numbers to the boy and several other crimes, pulling the covers back on a plot more ambitious than anybody had previously imagined.

In over their heads and scrambling to avoid arrest, the boundaries of the knight’s friendship become tested. But the nickname so casually bestowed on the band many years ago, becomes prophetic as they personify the grand chivalrous behavior the title of knight once proudly stood for. And if they fail, a lethal biological agent will be unleashed on the streets of Washington DC.

Thank you, Ms. Agent, for your consideration of this query. At your request, I will be happy to send along the complete manuscript.


Sincerely,
DL Hammons

8 comments:

Stacy McKitrick said...

First off: The beginning paragraph should be placed at the end. I’ve seen it mentioned on several agents’ blog sites, so I’d do it.

I like this query much better than the other two. There is still some wordiness, though. You might want to remove “which points in the direction of one of the fallen knights previous investigations”. It sounds better without it: “Lee rallies the rest of the knights to help Dianne search for the assailant. The pursuit leads to a student…”

Also, “knight’s friendship” should probably say “knights’ friendship”. You are talking about all of them, correct?

I don’t know how unique your story is, since it’s not the type of book I would read, but it sounds intriguing. I wish you luck in your search for an agent.

DL Hammons said...

Stacy,

Your suggestions were very helpful. As far as the beginning paragraph goes, I've seen it recommended both ways (Writers Market has it on top), so when I go to query I'll check the agent's website to see if they have a suggested format, and adjust accordingly.

jasonamyers said...

Hey, DL

I like this one better than the other--up to a point :-)
A few questions to get your noggin noodlin!

How ironic that the only thing standing in his way is a group of aging friends who still revere the Quest for the Holy Grail. Why is this ironic? I like this paragraph as your opener.

Lee Hamilton is a middle-aged human resource manager for a manufacturing plant located in the Deep South.
I think you can combine this sentence with the one that follows it.

One of six college buddies, who in their mischievous heyday were labeled ‘The Knights Who Say Ni’ for their love of all things Monty Python,
Not sure what this has to do with the rest of the query. It might matter to the story, but here, how does Monty Python affect the story. Is it weaved throughout the story?

A call from Dianne Williams, the manager of the detective agency where one of the knights works, informs Lee that somebody has savagely beaten their friend into a coma.
Okay, good inciting incident, but I would move this up closer to the top. Agents want the core conflict of the story identified soon.

Lee rallies the rest of the knights to help Dianne search for the assailant, which points in the direction of one of the fallen knights previous investigations. Good stuff...but why do the knights become involved? What about the cops?

Utilizing sometimes questionable (aka illegal) methods
You could just put they were going outside the law in their hunt. You've kind of said this above, when the knights are looking into instead of the police. Also, could you put this all into one sentence? Such as::Dianne and the knights link a series of cryptic numbers to a boy who attacked a school and then committed suicide...or something like that?

I know it's hard to tell such a complex plot in such a small forum. Believe me. I am doing the same with my query letter.

Overall, this isn't a bad query letter, I just added questions above that I had while reading it. You might want to try the old "one sentence" routine where you sum up your entire story in one sentence, to get to the root conflict, and then build upon that. Have you summed your story into one sentence? It will help your focus in writing the query letter. Agents want the core conflict, the decision the main character has to make at the end of the story, and why this story is different from all other ones out there.

Good luck with this, and hopefully you will be around when I put mine up here. I need a LOT of help with mine too!

jasonamyers said...

You know, what I just had another thought after hitting submit.

You start the query off giving us the main thrust of the story. The bioterrism act, and Lee and his pals have to stop it. Cool. But the next two chapters start into the story, and never retie us back to the first sentence...until the very last sentence again. It's almost like there are two stories here because I dont' see the connection between the boy committing the school shootings, the cryptic numbers, and the bio-terrorism plot. It seems to bookend the query, but is not in the meat of it.

Piedmont Writer said...

I have to agree somewhat with Jason, it does seem like it's two stories in this query.

Although, I also have to say, this query is better pulled together. I like his "mind-numbing normalcy" and I really, really like the way you led the knights to their former glory.

Keep on plugging DL, you've almost got it!

RCWriterGirl said...

I like this one better than the others, too. I agree with Stacy. You should move the first paragraph to the bottom.

Second, I'd get rid of a lot of the plot that you pack into the fourth paragraph. I don't think we need to know all about this teenager, etc. I think we just need to know that the friend was found dead and they're trying to solve the murder through sometimes illegal methods, and their friendship is tested.

I think you should remove the sentence about their title becoming prophetic. It's too much, not to mention, pretty obvious, as that tends to be where these novels head (the protagonists trying to save the day tend to do so and become heroes).

Falen said...

I think the query will work a lot better if you cut anther 50 to 100 words. I know it will be hard, but if you can do it, the query will be much stronger for it.
For example, I would cut "Lee has come to treasure his re-kindled friendship with the tight-knit group"
Unless it's absolutely imperative that you express to the agent that the point of the novel is that the friendship is re-kindled, there's no reason to have this here. We already know he's friends with them, and you mention they were college buddies, so we can make that intuitive leap.

I would just go through and cut anything that is not absolutely necessary to sell your story.

With more cuts, it may also help with the above mentioned "double plot" issue, which I also noticed.

Keep going! You're almost there!

Piedmont Writer said...

DL -- I have just been through a mind-numbing query mess myself last week and someone told me you only need 4 things for a great query.

hook, conflict, motivation, goal.

Obviously your hook is the bio-terrosim attack.

What is the conflict? Dianne calls Lee and tells him about his friend.

Motivation? Lee, the Knights and Dianne want to find out who beat their buddy to a bloody pulp.

Goal? Suppress a bi-terrorism attack.

Now, the problem is getting from the hook to the goal while incorporating the Knights and Dianne. Which I think, is what this first paragraph does.

On the eve of 2011, a twisted mind is intent on replicating the largest bio-terrorism act in US history. How ironic that the only thing standing in his way is a group of aging friends who still revere the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Lee Hamilton receives a call from Dianne Williams, the manager of a detective agency, and she informs him one of his old friends has been savagely beaten, could he come and help out?

Utilizing questionable methods to find the perpetrator, they uncover a diabolical plot to infest Washington, D.C. with a deady bio-chemical agent. Will the Knights be able to stop the villain in time?

Thanks for your time and consideration.
Sincerely,
you. I used 111 word in the main body of the query. You now have 139 words left to fill in the gaps.

DL -- I know and understand how frustrated you are, believe me I do. I hope this helps you regroup, and of course you don't have to use any of it. But I really like the premise of this story, I like Lee and Dianne and I especially like the Knights. (I have a thing for men in armor lol.)

Good Luck.