Mar 30, 2010

Query for YA fantasy: THE DESTINY STONE

Dear Agent,

Ploughing the fields was a part of daily life for seventeen-year-old Haythem. He dreams of adventure, but never expects to leave Turig until the day his mother appears – a mother he grew up believing dead. She pleads with him to leave at once, telling him he needs to find the courage to embrace his destiny and to assume his rightful place among her people the Elves. Haythem is curious to learn more and so he leaves, taking with him an old map and a stone she cautions him to protect.

With the help of Arygos, a mysterious young man, and Tarquin, an ancient creature of great wisdom, Haythem uncovers the truth about the stone and how the King’s desire to possess it is connected to unrest in the Empire. He also learns the stone gives him the power to wield magic. This newfound knowledge forces Haythem to come face to face with the true legacy of the stone. He is disturbed by what he discovers – the stone is an extension of his own magic and if he is to have mastery over it he must bind himself to its will in order to rid the Empire of the cruel King.

THE DESTINY STONE is a fast paced young adult fantasy and is complete at 115,000 words. It explores the joy of love, the pain of loss and the power of courage and sacrifice. I have a M.A. in anthropology and have experience teaching university level Sociology and Anthropology courses.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Aspiring Writer

1 comment:

Lynn Colt said...

The good news: this is well-written, and gets the gist of the story across. However ...

The bad news: you have a lot of cliche story elements in your query. Like:
- a farm-boy with a destiny.
- a not-dead (surprise) parent who in this case also serves the purpose of an oracle, ie to give our hero word of his 'destiny' without actually helping him (why can't she help him 'assume his rightful place', anyway?)
- a magic item that has a disturbing legacy, is sought-after by kings and is the key to defeating the antagonist.

Add in mentions of Elves and an Empire, and this query gives the impression of a cross between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. This is, unfortunately, not going to make agents think you've come up with a fresh, new plot.

What you need is to rewrite the query without any of the cliches (or if you must, only one). Focus on what makes the story different from all the other quest-novels out there.

Some ideas for doing that:
-cut the first sentence. If you mention your protagonist is a teenage farm-boy, you've set the reader up to be alert for cliches (you could just start with 'seventeen-year-old Haythem dreams of ...' or something)
-tell us what, exactly, Haythem's mom wants him to do. Right now the vagueness of 'embrace his destiny' and 'assume his rightful place' isn't doing the query any favors.
-second paragraph: we need specifics. What is the truth about the stone? Etc. We also need some stakes; what happens if Haythem fails?

Other things:
-if this is an Empire, why is the ruler a King and not an Emperor?
-I'd cut the second sentence of the last paragraph; it's vague and tells instead of showing. The last sentence (about your MA and teaching experience) is also extraneous, since it doesn't really count as writing-related. Also, I'd cut "fast paced" from the first sentence. Your query and pages should show the pace; agents don't need to be told how fast it is.

This comment is long, sorry. Bottom line, it's clear that you can write well, and as a description of the story this is pretty good. As a query pitch to agents who can spot a cliche element from a mile away (speaking of cliches, lol), this needs reworking.

Hope this helps, and good luck!