Sep 12, 2011

QUERY- THE RISE OF TEDDY

Dear …,

[something here about them and all the research I've done to ensure that they are a good fit with my novel]

Teddy, an overweight fantasy aficionado, is obsessed with the concept of the hero. He knows that even if nothing about him is heroic he has the mettle to become one … someday. At present, he has more pressing issues, like his job at the local gym. Never has he felt so inadequate. Life is a constant reminder of how far he lies from ideal. Not that it spurs him take any action. That catalyst for change comes when his co-corker, Tia, – his destined princess, as he thinks of her – says, "you would look totally hot if you lost fifty-pounds," Teddy infers more than she means to imply and decides to do something he has never before attempted – lose weight.

If only he knew where to start.

After a mishap that involves dropping a couple hundred pounds on his head, he is approached by the gym's most persistent nutcase – a man in a bright green fanny pack named Stan – and offered help. Unsure, but fully aware that he has no other option, Teddy accepts.

It all seems so easy at first. However, the smooth path soon becomes a jagged and twisted maze with obstacles lurking around every bend. Tia's boyfriend returns to town and pops the bubble of Teddy's inflating self-esteem. Stan's daughter becomes a confusing confound in Teddy's hermetic life. Former nemeses become allies. Through it all, Teddy finds himself acting less and less like the hero he wants to become and more like the immodest kids he once despised. In the end, his actions may forfeit his chances for the one thing he wants: Tia.

THE RISE OF TEDDY, a work of commercial fiction, is complete at 97,000 words.

I am a graduate of 2006 Stanford University and was once an overweight kid myself.

Sincerely,

LP Vendrell

11 comments:

Rick Daley said...

This has the makings of a good character-development story, but I think the presentation needs some work. I like that Teddy is overweight but working at a gym, and he is surrounded by bodies he aspires toward but he is not willing to put in the effort to attain.

My main take-away is that I'm confused by the tone. This could be a serious reflection on body image and the life events that shape it in our minds. Somewhere along the line does Teddy realize that change needs to come from his own desires to be fit and healthy, rather than just to make Tia think he's hot?

The part that confuses me about the tone is the paragraph about the couple hundred pounds dropped on his head, which could easily be fatal but it mentioned casually in a way that makes me think of an anvil in a cartoon; this is also due in part to the subsequent introduction of a quirky side character.

I don't think you need to mention your tenure at Stanford or your childhood weight...I don't think either will convince an agent that this is a compelling work of fiction. Focus on the story.

Sarah Pearson said...

'A man in a bright green fanny pack named Stan.'

Perhaps reword this sentence to make it clear who is called Stan?

GLJ said...

Teddy, [an] overweight fantasy aficionado, is obsessed with the concept of the hero. He knows that even if nothing about him is heroic he has the mettle to become one … someday. At present, he has more pressing issues, like his job at the local gym. Never has he felt so inadequate. Life is a constant reminder of how far he lies from ideal. [the previous sentence essentially conveys the same info as the sentence before] Not that it spurs him take any action. That catalyst for change comes when his co-corker, Tia, – his destined princess, as he thinks of her [the “as he thinks of her” is implied] – says, "you would look totally hot if you lost fifty-pounds," Teddy infers more than she means to imply and decides to do something he has never before attempted – lose weight. [same with the “do something he has never before attempted”, this doesn’t need to be said]

If only he knew where to start. [seems unnecessary]

After a mishap that involves dropping a couple hundred pounds on his head, [not possible-this destroys your credibility] he is approached by the gym's most persistent nutcase – a man in a bright green fanny pack named Stan – and offered help. [the wording “persistent nutcase” makes me think mental institution instead of a gym. Persistent at what?] Unsure, but fully aware that he has no other option, Teddy accepts. [Drop the “Unsure, but fully”, not needed]

It all seems so easy at first. [Really? Huge fat nerd has no problem exercising or dealing with non-obese gym rats? This strikes me as completely unrealistic] However, the smooth path soon becomes a jagged and twisted maze with obstacles lurking around every bend. [this is nothing but hollow description telling the reader nothing. Don’t waste the readers time with such meaningless junk. We understand that he will have trouble. But this has no impact. SHOW us something, instead] Tia's boyfriend returns to town and pops the bubble of Teddy's inflating self-esteem. [this would be more interesting if you showed us boyfriend doing something nasty to Teddy] Stan's daughter becomes a confusing confound [“confusing confound”???? What does this mean? Sounds like you are using words that you don’t understand, leading to nonsense phrasing] in Teddy's hermetic life. [this should be “hermitic”, not “hermetic”, which means sealed or air-tight. Hermitic means hermit-like] Former nemeses become allies. [This tells us nothing] Through it all, Teddy finds himself acting less and less like the hero he wants to become and more like the immodest kids he once despised. [This could be interesting, but you don’t do anything but tell--SHOW this, as Teddy’s realization might be the most interesting part of this query] In the end, his actions may forfeit his chances for the one thing he wants: Tia. [How? This implies that his personality grows ugly as his physique grows beautiful, but you haven’t given us any indication that Tia isn’t a shallow person, too]

THE RISE OF TEDDY, a work of commercial fiction, is complete at 97,000 words.

L. Vendrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L. Vendrell said...

Rick -

You right the tone needs to have some tweaking. I address the dropping weight on his head issue below.

Sarah -

I will clarify that.

GLJ -

I agree with you comments on the first paragraph a lot of that it repetitive with added verbiage.

As for the dropping a couple hundred pounds on his head, it refers to an incident where he overestimates how much weight he can bench press and the bar slams down on him ... and yes it is possible. But, maybe head is the wrong word ... something like, "After a mishap on the bench press," or something like that.

The confusing confound, refers to a confound in a psychological study ... as in a random variable that influences an event ... she confuses his goal with her presence. But,the "confusing" in front of it is redundant.

And yes, I put an 'e' instead on an 'i' in hermitic.

And I agree that the late part about his character change as he gets closer to his goal.

Anonymous said...

Start with the action: When the girl of Teddy's dreams makes a comment about his weight, he decides to lose the pounds and get the girl. The trouble is, Teddy has never tried to lose weight before and hasn't a clue about how to get started.

The talk of "concept of the hero" at the beginning is confusing and reads more like backstory -- it just doesn't seem important to the query. Ditto with the fact that he's a fantasy aficionado (well, at first I read this to mean he's an aficionado of overweight fantasy -- which is much different!).

There are weird elements of academic writing in here that I find offputting : "concept of the hero," "catalyst for change," "confound", etc. There's a lot of reaching-for-the-thesaurus words (persistent; hermitic; nemeses; immodest kids --where does that one come from? immodest? just because they're in good shape? -- etc) too. As Rick says, get your tone consistent.

A good rule of thumb: avoid adjectives as much as possible.

I don't usually discuss plot when I discuss queries. But this query introduces a few elements that seem oddly illogical. For one, the idea of a grossly overweight guy working at the local gym threw me (it'd be different if it was a university gym, but I'm not able to believe a commercial outfit would hire the opposite of what they're trying to sell. Anything's possible, of course -- perhaps it's his uncle's gym?).

More importantly, the guy works in a gym -- how could he not know where to start in order to lose weight?

And he works in a gym: why would Stan be his only option? This gym has no personal trainers? (The gyms I used to go to didn't -- but most of us were happy to help out others, especially when someone new came in who obviously needed help learning. That's what's so great about a local gym.)

And if this guy really is foolish enough to attempt to bench press "a couple hundred pounds" on his first go (well, it's highly unlikely he'd even be able to unseat a barbell loaded with that much weight -- it's also highly unlikely someone who works in a gym would make a dangerous mistake like this), then it's going to be hard to sympathize with him.

But I'm going to assume these questions are dealt with in the novel (and if they're not, get back to work!). And I'm going to suggest you don't need to include these details at all in the query -- they're just not important for the query. In fact, I think that focusing on these plot points just gets in the query's way.

Focus the query on the real action (overweight boy needs to lose weight to get girl), the real conflict (losing weight ain't easy) and the characters involved (boy/girl/girl's boyfriend/quirky sidekick, etc.)

Lastly, I'd lose the Stanford University reference (assuming that's the same school as 2006 Standford University -- proofread!), which doesn't appear to have anything to do with this novel.

(This is yankinfrance, by the way. Blogger's login is screwed up...once again...sigh...)

L. Vendrell said...

yes-all your questions are covered in the story (it's a small town, the owner needed workers) however if mentioning them is more confusing than helpful, they need to go.

The immodest thing has to do with Teddy's worldview, but once again, if it sounds like a thesaurus word, then it should go to. This is the same with all the other words you keyed on, they relate back to the character of Teddy ... but maybe that doesn't work in such a short space.

I am not sure what you mean about the whole Stanford/Standford (what is Standford?) thing, it was just a brief line about my personal background.

I am back at work on another version.

Thanks for all your input (this is my first attempt at anything like this, and I am finding out it is a lot harder than writing the story.)

Rick Daley said...

To weigh-in on the job at the gym (I swear that pun was not intended, but I'm keeping it, so there):

I am a member of an Urban Active Fitness Center, and there are several trainers on staff that don't look like they work out often, if at all. I find it very plausible that a person could hold a job at a gym as a trainer and be 50 pounds overweight. That's a person that should be 180 weighing 230...not morbidly obese.

Luis- My advice is not to rush into a re-write. Take some time to let all this feedback sink in, and try to sort out the common threads.

Good luck!

yankinfrance said...

Admittedly I haven't been in a US gym in 20 years, so I don't know what things are like nowadays ;-) And I was thinking in kilos, not in pounds -- 50 kilos overweight is another matter entirely!

For the Stanford thing (my apologies for my own typo!, I wrote that very late at night): your educational background is not relevant information for the query (unless you're querying a fellow Stanford grad). Holding an MFA from a prestitigious writing program is probably worth the mention. Usually the bio paragraph is for giving an overview of your published work -- if you haven't published, then just something brief will do. Remember, you're selling the novel, not yourself.

Also: "I am a graduate of 2006 Stanford University" makes no sense.

I do like the part about you having once been overweight.

I agree with Rick, now is the time to step back from the query for a couple of weeks. Take the time to read through the Query Shark archives in the meantime. You might just learn to enjoy the query-writing process.

The hardest thing for me is patience. I finished a novel three months ago. I'm still trying to come up with a decent query for it. I'm starting to suspect this is because the novel needs further revision.

Let's see if blogger will let me log in today... if not, this is yankinfrance again....sigh...

Anonymous Author said...

The opening made me think this was going to be a fantasy.

"I am a graduate of 2006 Stanford University" -- fix that.

There's a lot of strange word choice in this query-- sometimes too formal, sometimes just off-- and a couple of punctuation errors. On your next try, proofread carefully.

Rebecca Kiel said...

What a great idea for a blog! Glad I found you.

I'd move up when the story actually starts. It seems to take while to get to that point which might cause an agent to think the MS has the same problem.