Jul 6, 2010

Query- Seaweeds (revised)

Click here to read the original query.

DATE

Dear AGENT,

On the shore, an unusual love triangle arises between a young man, a mermaid, and a man-killing siren in SEAWEEDS, a 65,000-word contemporary fantasy.

Sky Hunter never thought turning twenty-three would bring him a boat party, strange presents, and birthday sex. He and his hook-up, Melanie, ride it out until Sky falls off the boat and nearly drowns. He survives and winds up on the beach the next morning to discover a naked girl with violet eyes. She can’t talk, but her beauty and charm make her much more likable than sleazy Melanie. Sky is led to believe the girl is a mermaid and was the one that rescued him. He names her Pearl, teaches her to be human, and falls head over heels for her.

There’s just one problem. Melanie isn’t too thrilled about Sky’s new girlfriend. She slaughters his cat and threatens to murder his family if he chooses to stay with Pearl. Sky isn’t going to give in without a fight, but when he discovers Melanie is a siren who has to seduce a man before feeding him to the ocean, he must find a way to stop her before she kills him. Meanwhile, he faces the ultimate task of figuring out a way to prevent Pearl from turning back into a mermaid.

SEAWEEDS is The Little Mermaid with sex, violence, and alcohol. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


Sincerely,

N. Blank

16 comments:

Anonymous Author said...

Birthday sex.

All right, the issue here isn't with the query. The issue is whether the person who receives your query (overwhelmingly likely to be female) will 1) want to read your book and 2) believe it has sales potential.

It sounds like a fantasy (in more ways than one) aimed at adult males who haven't quite grown up yet... and you have to ask yourself whether that's a demographic that's likely to buy a whole lot of books. It's certainly what an agent will ask herself.

Michelle Massaro said...

Uhhh... this sounds like a joke. If it isn't, you have your work cut out for you getting this ready to send to an agent.

Anonymous Author said...

Oh, one other thing. People often use the phrase "at your earliest convenience" without thinking about it. The phrase actually comes from such letters as you might get if you're late paying your bills. It's not really polite-- nor meant to be-- it's pushy.

N. Blank said...

It is a fantasy, in both ways. It is aimed at adult males (ages 18-24). I have many guy friends in this age range who don't read fiction because there isn't anything out there that suits them. There's either young adult, which is basically high school drama, or adult fiction. The in-between zone is still vague and needs to be identified. I personally think there should be 2 categories for young adult. One for high school kids and one for college students. That being said, I'm not sure whether any agent will feel the book is marketable given the publishing world doesn't have an established category for college students. That doesn't mean my query is a joke. My main character is male. The novel is told from his point of view, and being 23, he's not going to explain things with a G-rated tone. Maybe this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's a fun ride for me and those who need an escape from the world.

Michelle Massaro said...

My apologies. The phrasing is SO 'in your face', and the plot line SO similar to Little Mermaid that I honestly thought it might be a joke. I do apologize, seriously.

Here's the big problem: your story is waaay too similar to Little Mermaid. In the movie, Ursula turns human and uses a magical "siren song" (composed of Ariel's voice) to lure Eric, and I think her name might even have been Melanie (I'm not sure). In another version of the story (not Disney), the mermaid turns to foam in the end after a failed attempt to kill the prince (sacrificing herself to the sea). http://www.retrojunk.com/details_movies/2837-the-little-mermaid---based-on-hans-christian-andersens-classic-tale/

You appear to have the EXACT same story but with characters who get nekkid a lot. Even the birthday on the boat is taken from Little Mermaid. Is this intentional?

Your phrase choices and bluntness with the sexual aspects of your story might bring it into erotica genre but I know little about this. Can anyone confirm this?

I think you'll need more original material to snag an agent. If I'm wrong, you can cross your eyes and stick out your tongue at me. =)

~ Michell

Michelle Massaro said...

I misspelled my own name- LAME!

~ MichellE

Jenny said...

I heard recently about exactly this category--New Adult.

I actually rather like the idea of the Little Mermaid for modern times. (With that said, I probably wouldn't read this book. But the idea intrigues me.) I agree with Michelle that it shouldn't be identical, but I don't see why it can't be a modern retelling--authors do that with fairy tales all the time.

The first sentence of the second paragraph feels weak to me, but I'm not quite sure why...I think it's the "never thought" phrasing. I bet he did think about birthday sex and presents.

I'm wondering why Sky has to worry about Pearl turning back into a mermaid; there's no mention of why that would happen.

Michelle Massaro said...

I noticed the "never thought" line too and thought the same thing. I's an overused phrase anyway, along with "nobody ever told him..."

Better would be: "Sky Hunter's twenty-third birthday brought him a boat party, strange presents, and an hook-up with the very sexy Melanie."

Anonymous Author said...

Michelle, I think you've corrected my objection to the phrase "birthday sex," which is that it doesn't seem to involve another actual human!

Michelle Massaro said...

LOL

N. Blank said...

Thanks so much guys. Michelle, I love the rephrasing at the beginning. That makes it flow much better.

These are my revisions so far:

On the shore, an unusual love triangle arises between a young man, a mermaid, and a siren in SEAWEEDS, a 65,000-word contemporary fantasy.

Sky Hunter’s twenty-three birthday brings him a boat party, strange presents, and a hook-up with sexy Melanie. A night of pleasure turns into a night of horror when Sky falls off the boat and nearly drowns. He survives and winds up on the beach the next morning to discover a girl with violet eyes. She can’t talk and has trouble with basic motor skills like walking or using silverware. Sky is led to believe the girl is a mermaid and was the one that rescued him. He names her Pearl, teaches her to be human, and falls head over heels for her.

There’s just one problem. Melanie isn’t too thrilled about Sky’s new girlfriend and threatens to murder his family if he chooses to stay with Pearl. Sky isn’t going to give in without a fight, but when he discovers Melanie is a siren who has to seduce a man before feeding him to the ocean, he must find a way to stop her before she kills him, or worse, Pearl.

SEAWEEDS is The Little Mermaid with sex, violence, and alcohol. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Michelle Massaro said...

Well, I like this one better right off the bat because it is cleaner so makes me more comfortable. That’s probably good for the agents as well. Glad you liked my line, btw. I’ll try to pick apart the query a bit more:

An EVENING of pleasure turns into a night of horror when Sky falls off the boat and nearly drowns.
(I’d avoid using the word ‘night’ twice in this line.)

He survives and winds up on the beach the next morning to discover a girl with violet eyes. She can’t talk and has trouble with basic motor skills like walking or using silverware.
(Why is she using silverware on the beach in the morning? The phrasing of this sentence suggests this is the case. Not to mention this example of silverware is pulled directly from the Disney movie.)

Sky is led to believe the girl is a mermaid and was the one that rescued him.
(‘Led to believe’? Is it not the truth? Is someone tricking him? The phrase implies she may not really be a mermaid.)

He names her Pearl, teaches her to be human, and falls head over heels for her.
(Sounds like his pet. You don’t mention if she loves him back. Pearl seems to be a flat character. Make us care about her as more than an object).

Sky isn’t going to give in without a fight, but when he discovers Melanie is a siren who has to seduce a man before feeding him to the ocean, he must find a way to stop her before she kills him, or worse, Pearl.

(This line isn’t quite working. The first thing I see is the use of the word “but”. If you remove the clauses you can see what I mean: Sky isn’t going to give in without a fight, but he must find a way to stop her. See what I mean? Maybe if you hadn’t led with the murder threat already. There’s no escalation here to warrant the word “but”.

Suggestion:
Sky refuses to give in to Melanie’s threats, certain that he can outsmart her. But when he discovers that she is a siren out to seduce him in order to feed him to the ocean, he must find a way to resist her magic long enough to save himself- and Pearl.)

SEAWEEDS is The Little Mermaid meets Fatal Attraction. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
(I would phrase this last line in a softer way. But I’ll be the first to admit that may just be my own personal convictions coming through. Take what you will, and leave the rest. Good luck!)

Anonymous Author said...

Agree with everything Michelle said, and I would add:

"Horror" is too strong a word for falling off a boat and nearly drowning, especially since "horror" in a query letter suggests a genre. Also, granted it's a scary experience, we want our protagonist to be tough, not so easily giving in to fear.

To bring up another issue with the manuscript rather than the query: there does seem to be this tendency to objectify the female characters, and as Michelle mentioned, Pearl needs to be more of a person. What if she rescues him from drowning? That gives her agency (which I suspect she badly needs) and also explains how he survives near-drowning.

Finally, I'm a little confused as to how you can not know somebody is a mermaid. Mermaids, in my experience, have fishy tails. If I met a disoriented young woman on the beach who couldn't walk, "mermaid" isn't a possible explanation that would come to mind.

Finally, I don't think you need to say that you're looking forward to hearing from someone at the end of a query letter-- goes without saying-- but I don't suppose there's any great harm in it.

Anonymous Author said...

Oops, I guess that was two finallies. But anyway *this* is finally.

N. Blank said...

Thanks so much. I think not knowing enough about Pearl is the biggest problem with my query. She is the one that rescued him.

PS- I wish we could give out medals to best query revisers! You guys deserve it!

Michelle Massaro said...

I often wish the same thing! I don't know where I'd be without my online writing buddies!