Aug 28, 2010

Query - Bond of Darkness (1st Revision)

Click here to read the original query.

Valence hears a voice in his head offering him advice. He struggles to ignore it, fearing the Darkness' return. For all he knows, the voice could be a manifestation of its unrelenting evil.

The Darkness infects everything it touches. Valence cannot be sure if he is one such victim. If he is, he could be aiding in the return of Balter Mithrus, the creator of the Darkness and a power the world is better off without.

Wielding the Pearls of Mithrus grounds Valence and allows him to see his tie to the new war against the Darkness. Mithrus demands his power returned or threatens to unleash the infection into the world. Creatures hunt Valence, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible. Pitted against the oldest evil in the land, he must save the lives of those he has never met and hope to make it out alive.

BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods. I have been published in the Stockpot, an undergraduate literary journal and the Sentinel, a county-circulated newspaper. I am currently working on a sequel.

Thank you for your consideration.

12 comments:

Dominique said...

I didn't read your original query, so I'm looking at this with an unaided eye, and I can honestly say I don't know what happens in this book. This query, to be, feels too disjointed. There's obviously a lot going on, but, as I don't understand the world in which it occurs, none of it means anything to me.

What is the Darkness? How is it effecting his mind? Where did he get the Pearls of Mithras? So, Mithras is a real person, then how did the MC get the pearls without Mithras being okay with it? There's too much here that doesn't seem to follow.

Anonymous Author said...

Like Dominique, I also can't figure out what's happening here. I think the problems are

1. sentence structure
and
2. emphasis

1. You use a lot of convoluted sentence structure where simple sentences would serve you much better. The reader gets lost trying to figure out what you're talking about. And if she's got 350 queries waiting in her inbox, she won't try for long.

2. You start out with a voice in the main character's head offering him advice. That's not a bad way to start a story. But in a query, you cut to the chase. What's the conflict? What's at stake? What threat does your character face and what choice does he have to make? State that in a sentence or two, and start your query with that.

(Btw, like Dominique, I mentally autocorrected Mithrus to Mithras.)

Zee Lemke said...

I just lost a sentence-by-sentence commentary with word-count-based suggestions for how to give concrete detail. To an unexplained error.

I don't have time to re-type it. I'm sorry, this is my lunch break.

Characterize Mithrus if he's that important. Take out everything general and replace it with a detail. Not the world's oldest evil; the warlord who violated X treaty or massacred Y town. Like that.

Justin W. Parente said...

Thanks to the comments so far. I think now I'm convinced of one thing for the query and that's to make it seem point A to B. I wanted to tell more, but I can't without it extending to some 300 words. And I try to stay under 200. My new objective is to highlight the voice Valence hears as one of the main conflicts along with the Darkness. Mithrus is important and so are the Pearls, but not as much to sell the query.

The voice is what the title means. It's reflects what Valence does and how he thinks.

Do you all think that might work in my favor?

Anonymous Author said...

Justin,
I don't know. What is the voice? Who does it belong to? Why is it a threat? None of that's coming through right now.

Zee Lemke said...

Is your main conflict internal or external? What sells epic fantasy is usually the battles--in Feist's Riftwar Saga, first the Midkemians against the Tsurani and then everyone against some returning demigods. In Eddings' Belgariad, farmer boy uses magic rock to become king and thwart conquest by invading other. In both of those stories, the main characters face internal challenges as well (believing in self, discovering capability for greater magics, choosing good use of power over evil), but that's not the main point. I didn't read them about fifty times each in middle and high school for the parts where the characters (sorry) whined about their fates (Garion, I'm looking at you). I read for the little guy getting together a small team to take out evil. I read for the politics and swashbuckling.

For you the writer, the cool part might be that Valence sorts out whether he's sane or not. For me the person reading the jacket copy deciding whether to buy it, the cool part is going to be the main conflict--which really sounds like it's Valence defeating Mithrus and saving the world, NOT like it's Valence learning to tell his conscience from a magic disease and saving his sanity (lower stakes). That's why I want to hear more about Mithrus. If that external conflict is good enough (in commercial fiction; literary is internal) then I might come along and learn useful things about voices in my head. Or I might think your main character is cardboard (again, thinking Garion here) and love the book anyway.

Zee Lemke said...

Also, I really wish I had my sentence-by-sentence comments, because one thing I did was give examples of vivid writing and setting-development in the same word counts as your current general sentences. You have more space than you think you do, you just need to pack better.

Zee Lemke said...

...wait, under 200?

250-350 is what I heard.

Anonymous Author said...

Zee, it's really not the length so much as what you do with it.

Shorter is better. Say 250. But the really important thing is that not one single word gets into it that doesn't absolutely need to be there.

Same goes for the manuscript, natch.

Donna Hole said...

I didn't read the other two Justin - I haven't been around this site for a while. I'm going to just comment on the strength of this one.

1. "When a voice in Valence's head . ." I'd like to see first and last name for Valence, and a position/career that explains why he "hears" the voice. I need to see his title/profession and race. Where/what is his world.

2. "Traveling through his homeland. ." Is there some other world/land he could go and why is he wondering about? What makes his "race" feared?

I like the line "Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible." However, I have no idea what "The Darkness" is, or what kind of threat it poses. And why Valence is the only one who knows of the conspiracy.

This is Valence's nemesis, and needs as much development as the hero.

3. "He must shed the stigma of his race," but we don't know what that could be. If you explain this (just a little) in para 1 with Valence's character description, it is a powerful statement, and would fit well right where you have it as an obstacle to overcome.

". . while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see." Does ANYONE else perceive this danger? Does he have a support system, allies? What are the consequences if he fails?

4. The last paragraph is perfectly worded - in my unprofessional opinion. (Of course, this whole critique is my unprofessional opinion). Probably leave out that you are working on a sequel though. As you are an as yet unknown author, they're only focused on this one novel. (I've read a few agent blogs myself, and what I've gathered is if they are interested in THIS novel at all, they will ask about your future writing plans.)

You might want to put "BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods." at the beginning, depending on how your personalization line reads, but there is so much controversy about that out there you may want to leave it right where it is. On that score, you just need to research the Agent you have in mind to query, and a lot of times Agency's have basic submission guidelines and examples posted on their website.

The last thing I'll comment on is your credentials. I think they are excellent. There are as many opinions on what you should/should not mention in credentials as there are on whether to put your novel's word count at the top or bottom of the query.

Unless those publications amount to some form of "self publishing" there is no reason not to include them just because you were not paid. A lot of nationally recognized publications do not pay their authors. Its a stepping stone into commercial publication. Something to put on your query letter that says someone in the publishing world has read and approved your work.

You're on the right track here Justin. This is concise, and nearly tells enough about your character and the plot of the story.

........dhole

Donna Hole said...

I didn't read the other two Justin - I haven't been around this site for a while. I'm going to just comment on the strength of this one.

1. "When a voice in Valence's head . ." I'd like to see first and last name for Valence, and a position/career that explains why he "hears" the voice. I need to see his title/profession and race. Where/what is his world.

2. "Traveling through his homeland. ." Is there some other world/land he could go and why is he wondering about? What makes his "race" feared?

I like the line "Creatures hunt him, servants seek to destroy him and the conspiracy behind the Darkness grows larger than he thought possible." However, I have no idea what "The Darkness" is, or what kind of threat it poses. And why Valence is the only one who knows of the conspiracy.

This is Valence's nemesis, and needs as much development as the hero.

3. "He must shed the stigma of his race," but we don't know what that could be. If you explain this (just a little) in para 1 with Valence's character description, it is a powerful statement, and would fit well right where you have it as an obstacle to overcome.

". . while he attempts to unify a nation against an enemy they cannot see." Does ANYONE else perceive this danger? Does he have a support system, allies? What are the consequences if he fails?

4. The last paragraph is perfectly worded - in my unprofessional opinion. (Of course, this whole critique is my unprofessional opinion). Probably leave out that you are working on a sequel though. As you are an as yet unknown author, they're only focused on this one novel. (I've read a few agent blogs myself, and what I've gathered is if they are interested in THIS novel at all, they will ask about your future writing plans.)

You might want to put "BOND OF DARKNESS is an epic fantasy, complete at 115,000 words. It tells the traditional hero’s quest while introducing an enemy far from demon lords and omnipotent gods." at the beginning, depending on how your personalization line reads, but there is so much controversy about that out there you may want to leave it right where it is. On that score, you just need to research the Agent you have in mind to query, and a lot of times Agency's have basic submission guidelines and examples posted on their website.

The last thing I'll comment on is your credentials. I think they are excellent. There are as many opinions on what you should/should not mention in credentials as there are on whether to put your novel's word count at the top or bottom of the query.

Unless those publications amount to some form of "self publishing" there is no reason not to include them just because you were not paid. A lot of nationally recognized publications do not pay their authors. Its a stepping stone into commercial publication. Something to put on your query letter that says someone in the publishing world has read and approved your work.

You're on the right track here Justin. This is concise, and nearly tells enough about your character and the plot of the story.

........dhole

Donna Hole said...

I'm having blogger problems tonight Justin.

I should probably just e-mail you (sighs)

The voice I'm picking up in this query is narrative, and I'd pretty much expect an omniscient POV. It doesn't seem personal to Valence to me.

So maybe first in deciding if you are "in voice" is to determine your novel's POV, and write this from that perspective. If its deep third, then bring a lot more of Valence's personality to the synopsis. If its multiple, then bring those other MC to the fore (no more than say three characters, which would include your antagonist).

You said this is epic fantasy. Then give it sweeping verbiage, and paint a picture of the world and characters with prose.

I think you're too stuck on the idea of the shortest word count possible. What you're forgetting is that your novel is 115,000 words, so "concise" isn't going to be the first consideration in this Agent's mind. He wants to get involved with your character, and the world, and the express danger that threatens both.

What I'm looking for - as an epic fantasy reader - in this query, based on some of your other comments, is:

Who do I care about, and what is important to him?
What is the world: what makes it happy, what is the threat. (This from the MC perspective)
Who is the antagonist, and what does he want?
Who is on the protagonist side, and what will be gained if they win.

Who is Mithrus, and what do the Pearls mean to Valence; or Mithrus?

The old: Who, what, when, where, why questions will work well for you here Justin. 200 words? I'd say not likely. You'll cheat your storyline. Less than 400? Yeah, you have the drive for that.

...........dhole