Jan 11, 2010

Query: OUT OF TIME

Drew Evans, a sarcastic cop in one of St. Paul's crime ridden neighborhoods, was working at the Republican National Convention (RNC) when … Let’s let him tell you what happened.
“I’ve been called a cold bitter man. Personally, I think I just drink too much lemonade. After dealing with the riots the night before, I needed to be inside or else I would shoot someone. I was working security inside the Excel Center, when I saw him. You know how it is, when you see someone that is a bit off, something about a person just doesn’t look right? I was drawn to him, and after some awkward conversation, he ambles off lost in the crowd. The glint of metal under his seat brings a momentary vision of the Unibomber. No worries, though, it’s only a cell phone. I stash it my vest, forgetting to leave it with the lost & found.

“The following week, I’m in a fight with a burglary suspect. We’re rolling on the ground, trading punches as my backup makes a welcome appearance. The suspect is being hauled off when another cop tosses me a cell phone, thinking it’s mine. I recognize it as the one from the convention last week. I hit the re-dial button to track down the owner, when a wave of vertigo hits me, doubling me over. When I can stand, I find that I’m no longer leaning against my squad car; I’m in an alley. Noise draws me out of the alley and I find myself joining a crowd moving along a city street. There are helicopters circling overhead and cops in full riot gear. Unbelievably, I am back at the RNC—which ended a week ago. I am absolutely stunned. Did I just make a call to the past? If this is a call, I want it to end. Pressing the end button, I find myself back leaning against my squad. I’m back right where—and when—I was before I fell down the rabbit hole. Curiouser and curiouser.”

Presented with an opportunity like no other, Drew makes the decision to use the device to travel back to visit his father who died during Drew’s teenage years. It had been a difficult experience, so for Drew it was a no-brainer. Go back and see his father, renowned musician Doc Evans, right when he got his big break, headlining at the Jazz Ltd nightclub— in1947 Chicago. Of course things never go as planned—that Murphy guy got it right—and when the Chicago mob decides to have an interest in the club, Drew finds himself caught right in the middle.

Out of Time, my 75,000 word adventure novel, will appeal to fans of Michael Crichton. His novels have taught me that strong characters, tight plotting and page turning action are important ingredients to a successful novel. This is a time travel adventure that’s not a science fiction story.

Having written professionally for the last ten years in advertising and marketing, I’ve learned the value of powerful ideas and concise execution.

Thank you for your consideration,
Allan Evans

8 comments:

Lt. Cccyxx said...

FWIW, as not an agent but someone actively querying for a novel, my impression is that writing the query letter (or a significant portion of it) from a character's perspective is discouraged.

The first paragraph could easily be pared to one sentence (or two at most).

I think much of the detail in the second paragraph is also superfluous to a query.

Third paragraph: here's where I would recommend more. Be more specific about what the central conflict is. To rationalize this a bit, if your protagonist simply withdraws from the situation, it seems like things would be fine (since the situation went on in the past). Tell us more about why this can't be the case.

Finally, on your 4th paragraph, can you do better than invoking Michael Crichton? or at least provide a second author who is maybe not quite at that status?

I hope these comments help.

Falen said...

I, too, was going to say that i've always been told that writing a query from the character's POV is a quick way to get a form rejection.

That said, i don't mind the Michael Crichton comparison, but do think you'll do better to add in another, similar but not as "big", author.

Bob said...

Go to this site: http://www.therejectionist.com/ which is a literary agent's assistant, and scroll down to the 2010 Is The Year of The Beast and read what they wrote about character POV queries

Dominique said...

Character POV queries are percieved, according to several agent blogs, as gimmicky and are frowned upon.

I recommend reading Query Shark. There's a link to it in the sidebar.

"It had been a difficult experience, so for Drew it was a no-brainer." This sentence felt very off to me.

"Go back and see his father, renowned musician Doc Evans, right when he got his big break, headlining at the Jazz Ltd nightclub— in1947 Chicago." This is not really a sentence in it's own right, at least not the way you used it. It takes time to figure out how you meant it to be used, which distracts the reader, which is bad. For maximum clarity, the clause should be connected to the previous sentence via colon. Also, the clause, while having a lot of good info, makes the first sentence of the paragraph seem redundant.

Donna Hole said...

This sounds like a first chapter; maybe an interview of some sort with the MC. It's very nicely written, but not exactly query material.

This site has a lot of query tips and advice in the margins; you might want to access them.

I must say though, you have an excellent voice, very strong character and plot set up. Really sounds like something I'd purchase after reading the "back of the book" blurb.

.........dhole

B.E. Sanderson said...

First impressions: I skimmed the character POV paragraphs because they weren't showing me anything. Show don't tell. Leave the majority of your writing style and voice for the sample pages (which always come after the query - not in it).

I'm not sure 'adventure novel' is the right category for this story. I could be wrong, but when I think of adventure novels, I think Indiana Jones or Allan Quartermain. I see you don't want to be labeled SF, but would 'urban fantasy' work?

Lastly, the Crichton line - though you may be entirely right - will probably turn off some agents. Try something more along the lines of think 'Mike Hammer meets (whoever the main character of Timeline is)' You've got a gritty voice with a tinge of humor that reminds me a little of Spillane and a little of Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden.

Good luck with your query. I look forward to seeing this in print.

Botanist said...

I don't want to repeat the comments already made, just to add my agreement with everything said so far.

My additional comment is that an agent is going to be scanning this amongst a hundred other queries in the same day. You may have only a couple of sentences to grab her attention. She might not get as far as the part where you start talking about the important bit - the story.

Neat concept though!

Aimless Writer said...

Great concept but this is a bit rambly. Conflict, motivation and goal get lost in words we don't need. I agree with Botanist about agents not having enough time for this kind of query. They want to know the bones of the story and they want to be excited by it. I think if you took out the character's POV and got right to the meat of things you'd have a nice tight query. Good luck! This looks like a book I'd love to read.