Sep 17, 2010

QUERY- MAD AS A HATTER (first revision)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear Awesome Agent,

London, 1882. Kidnapped as a toddler, Emil Aleric and his mother survived. The rest of the family didn't. So the word of a ruthless killer rampaging London frightens his mother into sending Emil to live with Officer Corwin James.

Every murder follows the same pattern: a young girl is kidnapped. Three days later, her body shows up, killed in a horrific fashion. But what throws everyone off is the notes quoting Alice in Wonderland.

This doesn’t mean anything to the police, but it does to Emil. The man who kidnapped him was never caught, and Emil only knew him by one name: the Hatter. If the man they’re looking for and the tormenter of his past are the same person, then Emil will do anything to stop the man. He even stands a chance of avenging his sister—if he isn’t killed first.

MAD AS A HATTER, a YA historical mystery with a supernatural twist, is complete at 50,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Me

8 comments:

Zee Lemke said...

Better. I don't think you even need Corwin's name. (I know. Trust me.) I see what you're doing with your first paragraph, but I suspect that the kidnapping and the current plot might do better separated. Your hook is something like, "Emil's sister was murdered by a man called the Hatter, so when a serial killer leaves notes quoting Alice in Wonderland on girls' corpses, Emil wants to solve the mystery personally." It comes across MUCH better in this one than the other one.

I am nervous as all get-out about the "supernatural twist." What you've described here is a good historical thriller. Either put something supernatural in the query, or leave it out of that last paragraph. If you've done it well enough, an agent reading a partial or full will be able to adjust your genre for you.

I want to know why Emil's still alive. Too male? Is he the white rabbit? I don't ask this out of plot curiosity, but out of confusion with a) how many people were killed in that kidnapping and b) whether Emil and his mom were rescued and let go. You might want to move the AiW up into the first paragraph with something like "When he was a toddler, Emil's whole family was kidnapped by a man called the Hatter."

Zee Lemke said...

Rescued OR let go. Oops.

Tally said...

Thank you! I have a few questions about your critique. First of all, the first chapter follows Corwin so I'm not sure whether that would throw off the agent. As for the kidnapping. Emil and his sister were kidnapped. The Father was shot when they were kidnapped. The mother wasn't in the crossfire. Emil was rescued right after the kidnapper killed his sister in front of him.

Maybe to clear up confusion I should just say that the family was attacked. But thank you very much!

theemptypen said...

This is tighter than the original query. I'm intrigued and want to know more. I'm especially curious about the Alice in Wonderland connection and what the supernatural twist is (no hints?).

But I have a few questions.

The second sentence makes no sense. Emil was kidnap, but his mother survived? How can she survive something that didn't happen to her (aside from the terror of your son being kidnapped)? Along those same lines, how could Emil's family not survive something that didn't happen to them (and we don't know that "family" includes a sister until she's introduced at the end of the third paragraph)?

Why did his mother chose Officer James? Is he family? A kindly neighbor? Do the police often protect teens for scared parents?

Why would this killer freak out his mother? The very strict MO is to kidnap girls. Emil is a boy.

Why don't the quotes mean anything to the police? Aren't they clues?

As I go down the *ahem* rabbit hole of questions, I'm pulled further away from your query. A few more answers would help me focus on the story and your query.

My 2 cents. Thanks for sharing.

Zee Lemke said...

That is a pretty persuasive reason to leave Corwin in, but if you do, make sure he's integrated. Make sure he helps Emil solve the case, or whatever.

Dominique said...

I didn't read the original, so I don't know if this is better. I do, however, know that the first three sentences (and I'm not sure why you felt compelled to public the setting as the first sentence) meant nothing to me. You need to explain more about the kidnapping and how everyone else ended up dead, because your reader isn't going to know anything about your story. About the setting sentence, I suggest moving those to the part of the query where the title and word count are.

there are places where the sentences are hinky and take time to figure out. You don't want your reader to have to pause to catch your meaning. Try reading this query aloud to yourself to make sure they mean what you want them to and make sense.

markmurata said...

Tally, in your reply to Zee, we still don't see why this is supernatural. Any supernatural element should be present within the first five pages of the story, preferably sooner, or it messes up the reader later on. And if it is that soon in your story, it needs to be in your query.

markmurata said...

Tally, in your reply to Zee, we still don't see why this is supernatural. Any supernatural element should be present within the first five pages of the story, preferably sooner, or it messes up the reader later on. And if it is that soon in your story, it needs to be in your query.