Sep 16, 2010

Query - Possessed

Dear Agent So-and-So,

Fourteen year old Gabriel is stuck at home with his parents after fighting in the Napoleonic War for two years. His father has forbidden him to return to sea after losing his left hand in battle.

To make matters worse, Gabriel is forced to go on a long trip to visit his aging aunt in the country. His boredom evaporates when he hears voices in a dark room filled with locked cabinets.

Gabriel's curiosity is cut short when a series of tragic events drive him into the woods with a madman in hot pursuit. The voices from the room follow him there. Just when he thinks that he is going mad, the truth unravels.

Everything that he thought was real is a lie, including his identity. He is not a soldier. He is a cold blooded murderer.

The angry voices of those that he shot five years ago only become worse. He fears the day when he, too, will enter into eternity.

Is there any way out of everlasting punishment for killing the innocent? Gabriel is certain that there isn`t one.

Possessed is a supernatural thriller that contains a final word count of 56,139 words. I have pasted the first ten pages at the bottom of this email.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work. If you would like to see more of my manuscript, please let me know.

Sara Flower


Zee Lemke said...

I'm'a go line-by-line like I always do.

First paragraph can be condensed considerably and avoid erroneously telling us that Gabriel's dad lost his hand. Consider: "Fourteen-year-old Gabriel is stuck at home with his parents after losing his left hand in the Napoleonic Wars." Note that this also doesn't begin your plot, but it's only one sentence and you're allowed a little bit of setup.

Take the second paragraph out of the passive. How are Gabriel's parents forcing him? Why doesn't Gabriel just run away? Is the force money-based or guilt-based? The real thing that matters here isn't Gabriel's aunt, it's the voices. Move them up. The rest is just background. The plot appears to start with unnamed "tragic events" in P3. I personally dislike the words "event" and "situation" anywhere in a query. You don't have to tell me all the secrets, but those words make me feel like you're holding out on me. If Gabriel's aunt dies and he's framed for it, say so. The madman following him comes out of nowhere in this version. Tie that guy in or leave him out.

Truth can't unravel. Lies unravel, sweaters unravel. You're being either inexact or overly philosophical. This isn't the place for either.

The cold-blooded murderer thing is so sudden that I'm left to wonder whether the ghosts are lying to him (understandably, of course, but your simple affirmation that he's a murderer kind of cuts that out), or whether this is some sort of anti-war political thing where every soldier is a murderer. If he did some questionable killing in the war, and that's the act that's the basis for the whole story, consider putting a second sentence up there in P1.

I get the feeling that the meat of this story is Gabriel's struggle for redemption. It's concerning to note that, if he's going to find it, it's not going to be on his own, since he doesn't believe he's redeemable. Character agency is always a big problem in queries, but P6S2 is the biggest plot-shutdown I've seen to date. What does he want? What is he willing to do to get it? That's what makes a protagonist a protagonist.

Novel title in all-caps. Word count rounded to the nearest k. "Contains" is not the word you want. Paste pages only if instructed to do so (though that one you probably knew). Last paragraph should be "Thank you for your time and consideration." They know they can ask you for more.

All that said, this query is pretty good. Something is obviously going on. It's making me want to know more in the good way too.

Anonymous Author said...

Of all the queries that I've seen on this site, this looks the most like a book I'd actually like to read. I think. Can't quite tell.

First of all, is this a YA? It looks from the age of the protagonist like it is. But he's 14, and he killed people when he was 9? Who? You should tell us, not just hint. Hinting is for book jackets.

Second, granted I'm not religious, my first thought on learning I'd killed people would be horror, not worries about the hereafter. The latter seems sort of self-centered.

"Gabriel's curiosity is cut short when a series of tragic events drive him into the woods with a madman in hot pursuit" is similarly vague. Are these the killings? If so, tell us. (Also, should be "drives" not "drive".)

"Possessed is a supernatural thriller that contains a final word count of 56,139 words" sounds awkward. Suggestion: "Possessed is a supernatural thriller, complete at 56,000 words."

Sara Flower said...

Zee - Thanks so much for commenting. You are a big help! :) It's funny the things I did not see before that seem so obvious now that you pointed them out. Thanks again and I will be making a lot of changes.

Sara Flower said...

Hi Anonynmous. Thanks for your reply. It certainly does need a lot of work. I didn't realize how confused my query actually sounds. I can see why agents haven't been eating it up yet. There's this crazy twist that is hard to work in to the query, but I will try harder! :)