Jan 14, 2011

Query, Sacred Fire

Tuccia trembles at her trial as she waits to be executed for a crime she did not commit: losing her virginity. For other Roman women, this would not be an offense, but for a priestess of Vesta, such a sin could displease the gods and condemn Rome to ruin.

Tuccia’s accuser is an angry priest who failed to seduce her. With a priest’s testimony against her, no one will believe Tuccia is innocent. There’s only one person who can save her life: the goddess Vesta. If Vesta will allow Tuccia to perform a miracle, it will prove that she’s favored of the gods.

Tuccia has distrusted Vesta ever since a Vestal Virgin was wrongly accused and executed for the same crime. She must depend on Vesta now, because if she doesn’t save her, Tuccia has no hope of surviving.

Sacred Fire is a historical fiction of 88,000 words. It is based on a true story.


Anonymous Author said...

There's a problem with basing novels on "true stories". Truth is much less demanding than fiction. And what the 21st century asks of its stories is quite different from what Pliny the Elder required.

The original story glorified the goddess Vesta. Tuccia, helpless against her accuser, was saved when the goddess performed a miracle by enabling Tuccia to carry water in a sieve.

Now, whether that's actually true or not I won't presume to say-- but if it is, then someone probably performed some skullduggery with that sieve. If that somebody was Tuccia, go her.

Nowadays we prefer our heroines to kick ass and take names. Your query needs to make it sound like Tuccia is taking control of her situation, not relying on someone else to save her.

Florence said...

Wouldn't you say, this is based on a legend? If that is the case, they it could be used effectively as a hook.

A hook, by the way, that you don't have. Not that all 21st Cen characters have to "kick ass" ... but there must be something compelling. The stakes are her life. What awaits her if she wins?

Start again and try to get a very strong one or two sentence beginning ... if you can't describe it in one or two sentences, keep trying until you succeed.

Great success and keep working it :)

Dominique said...

I'm seeing a few major problems.

1) Your opener is wordy. I get you're trying to be descriptive, but simpler is better in this case, because it frees space to say other things. Instead of "Tuccia trembles at her trial as she waits to be executed for a crime she did not commit: losing her virginity" try "Tuccia is about to be executed for a crime she did not commit: losing her virginity.

2) From this query, it seems that your MC has nothing to do this book but wait in a cell to see whether or not a goddess she doesn't like will decide to help her. Apparently, she lacks agency and, without decisions to make, is going to have a problem moving the story forward. In fact, from this query, it seems like the character moving the story forward is a goddess. What are Tuccia's decisions and choice?

3) If it's based on legends or folk-lore, this is not the same as a true story. Just because a bard said it, doesn't make it inherently true. The Odyssey, for example, is considered fiction.

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim said...

Okay, I'll cut out the whole "true story" thing.

I feel that this query doesn't describe the book very well, but I can't figure out how to describe the book well and put it all into a query.

Example: the book never says the gods are real or aren't, but leaves it open. Tuccia really does have faith that Vesta will save her, and as she dips the sieve into the river, a frog egg sack gets caught in the sieve and blocks up the holes. I agree that this sounds like Vesta is the star of the show, but the book doesn't read like that. Tuccia has to have the courage to try and perform a miracle even if she doesn't know it will work. Tuccia has lived her life in fear, and this is the first time she ever shows courage.

How can I write that?

Anonymous Author said...

Well, how you write it is your job, natch. But if you can show us that she's lived her life in fear and that this is the first time she's showed courage, that would indeed be a start. (But she needs to show the courage pretty early for the average reader to care about her.)

The frog egg sac gets back to the character-having-agency thing. It's luck. Characters can have luck, but they've got to have initiative to get them to the point where the luck counts. Show us that.

Believe me, I've tried to sell passive characters before... and haven't sold them till they toughened up.

You may be being too loyal to the legend.