Oct 11, 2011

QUERY- MAD AS A HATTER

Click here for prior queries.

Dear Fabulous Agent,

London, 1882.

Seven years ago, Emil Aleric and his sister were kidnapped by a man who called himself the Hatter. Emil survived. His sister didn't. So when he hears news of a serial killer ravaging London and leaving a note quoting Alice in Wonderland at each murder scene, Emil is convinced that his former abductor is on the prowl again. And when his young guardian, Officer Corwin James, is put in charge of the case, he thinks it must be fate.

Corwin's not too keen on Emil having anything to do with the case, but Emil's extensive knowledge of the murderer's methods is too invaluable to waste. Yet as they piece their way closer to tracking down the serial killer, seven years of buried feelings threaten to consume him. Emil must fight for his life once again- but this time, his life isn't the only thing that's at stake. If he fails, he risks his family, his world, and maybe time itself falling into hell.

If he succeeds in finding Hatter, well... he'll be in hell already.

Complete at 51,000 words, MAD AS A HATTER is a YA thriller. I am a student living in the Cayman Islands. I have never been kidnapped by a serial killer and intend to keep things that way. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Me

25 comments:

Anonymous Author said...

This seems pretty good on the whole. There're just a few things I'd tweak.

And when his young guardian, Officer Corwin James, is put in charge of the case, he thinks it must be fate.

First, there's an unclear antecedent to "he". Second, why does it matter? Third, it's hard to get excited about a protagonist who believes in fate. Protags need to be self-propelled.

That sentence and the one following it aren't working the way you want them to. There's probably a bond between Corwin (as his young ward certainly would not call him) and Emil, but it's not coming through.

The first two paragraphs deal in specifics, but the third falls off into generalities. We need to know what's at stake specifically, but you're giving us vague terms instead.

I'm not sure about the bio. The student thing you may want to leave off-- it may tilt the balance toward "no" for some agents. Agents do need eventually to know where you live... but it's not nearly as important as it was 15 years ago. The bit about never having been kidnapped falls flat.

It's my opinion that you should never bother with a bio unless

1. the agent specifically asks for one

or

2. you are published up the wazoo-- in which case you should give titles, publishers, and dates. That's all.

Tally said...

Thank you for your feedback!

John said...

There's a lot of good stuff here. A few things it would be very helpful to know:

How old is Emil?

How long did the kidnapping last? Did it end soon after it started, or did Emil escape only recently? The meaning of "seven years of buried feelings" would differ depending on the answer.

If Emil has family, why is he under the guardianship of a policeman? Is Corwin a relative?

As AA said, the third para could be clearer. (Another ambiguous "he" there too.) It would help to have at least a little more idea how the Hatter threatens Emil, his family, time, etc., and how Emil's buried feelings complicate things.

GLJ said...

Overall, this reads okay, but has a few sentences that seem unnecessarily complex. Some pronoun confusion. I must admit I’m not crazy about the title, as it is so derivative of Alice in Wonderland. Is Alice in Wonderland in the public domain? If not, it might cause a publisher to hesitate.

I didn’t feel compelled to read more. I get no sense of who the Hatter is or what he does to his victims. So this comes across as a generic bad guy and generic story. And you don’t want that. Think about what is unique in your story and try to make this stand out more from the millions of other stories.

Comments below in square brackets.


London, 1882.

Seven years ago, Emil Aleric and his sister were kidnapped by a man who called himself the Hatter. Emil survived. His sister didn't. So when he hears news of a serial killer ravaging London and leaving a note quoting Alice in Wonderland at each murder scene, [quoting another book might be copyright trouble for you, and isn’t enough of a hook] Emil is convinced that his former abductor is on the prowl again. [Convinced? Seems like a sure thing!] And when his young guardian, Officer Corwin James, is put in charge of the case, he thinks it must be fate. [Pronoun confusion: who is the last “he”? It can easily be read to refer to either Emil or Officer Corwin.]

Corwin's not too keen on Emil having anything to do with the case, but Emil's extensive knowledge of the murderer's methods is too invaluable to waste. [You are wasting time telling us obvious things (Emil can help) and NOT telling us why Corwin wouldn’t want the help!] Yet as they piece their way closer [Really awkward wording] to tracking down the serial killer, seven years of buried feelings threaten to consume him. [Again, you are telling us things that are completely unnecessary. Telling us WHY Emil is freaking out would be SO much more compelling!] Emil must fight for his life once again- but this time, his life isn't the only thing that's at stake. If he fails, he risks his family, his world, and maybe time itself falling into hell. [This last sentence is overblown. You offer nothing to support it. Time will be affected if a crazed killer isn’t caught? Why? How? You are failing to put in the very things that might catch interest.]

If he succeeds in finding Hatter, well... he'll be in hell already. [Um, this really says nothing, is merely telling us what we should feel, but we have no basis for dreading Emil’s potential fate.]

Complete at 51,000 words, MAD AS A HATTER is a YA thriller. I am a student living in the Cayman Islands. I have never been kidnapped by a serial killer and intend to keep things that way. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

Anonymous Author said...

In E.L. Konigsburg's Newbery-winning The View From Saturday, one of the protags arranges to meet the others using quotes from Alice In Wonderland.

Btw, writer, I'm hoping your research is absolutely impeccable. But I wonder if 19th c. English cops were called "Officer" as a title...?

Tally said...

Thank you all for your advice, but there's one comment I want to address.

[You are wasting time telling us obvious things (Emil can help) and NOT telling us why Corwin wouldn’t want the help!]

Emil's just a kid. No responsible adult wants to get a kid in the middle of an investigation, let alone one where the criminal is a serial killer who has never been caught.

But thank you all for the advice! It's really helpful. I'm only fifteen, so I know I have a loooooong way to go.

Rick Daley said...

Tally- You are making a great start!

It's impressive to see a 15-year-old working so hard, and conducting yourself professionally to boot. I recall the earlier versions of this query (and that you were younger) and I was excited to see it come through again after a long wait...I'm assuming you were working on the manuscript during that time.

Good luck!

Tally said...

That just made my day =D

I did some querying, got a decent number of requests and mostly positive feedback, but a general agreement that it still wasn't quite there yet. Then I moved internationally, got back to work on it, and am putting the finishing touches on it as I rework the query.

Anonymous Author said...

Tally, I think you're doing great for a fifteen-year-old.

One thing to bear in mind is that in 1882, attitudes toward children were quite different from today. Even compared to my childhood in the 1970s, children today are much more carefully guarded and cosseted.

(That's one reason I like writing about children in the past. They were allowed to have adventures.)

In 1882, children by the millions were working 12 and 14 hour shifts in factories or mines. Quite small children.

When laws to protect children finally came in, childhood first ended at 10 years old, then at 12, then at 14. It wasn't till the mid 20th century that our modern idea of childhood ending in late adolescence arrived.

So if Emil's your age, it's unlikely Corwin would see him as "just a kid" and in need of special protection.

Good luck with this. I'd say continue not to mention your age (or studenthood) in your query. Like us, agents will be impressed that you're working so hard at this at 15. But it's better if they decide to sign you first.

Tally said...

Oh, right, I keep forgetting that I took out the line about Emil being noble XD Yes, I've studied the industrial revolution, and I considered it being a major part of the plot in the original plotting. However, Corwin and Emil are part of a very different part of society.

Just wanted to clear that up.

Anonymous Author said...

Okay, but bear in mind your query's going out on its own, so it shouldn't raise any doubts it can't answer.

If Emil's a member of the nobility, we'll naturally wonder how he ended up living with a cop. So continue not to mention that.

Tally said...

Yes, that's why I took it out. He actually ends up with the cop in the first chapter- I'd go into detail, but I usually hate when people do that when I'm critting, so I won't. Anyway, I just wrote that Corwin was his guardian because there's no need to elaborate on things don't contribute to the query, you know?

Anonymous Author said...

Since most of the questions seem to center on the Corwin issue, you might consider taking him out of the query.
Just make some brief reference to the cops being stymied or somesuch.

I'd put in Emil's age, too.

Tally said...

I really can't take him out of the query, though. The novel opens in his POV.

(he's only twenty-one)

GLJ said...

"Emil's just a kid. No responsible adult wants to get a kid in the middle of an investigation, let alone one where the criminal is a serial killer who has never been caught."

I did not get any sense of Emil's age from the query. It makes more sense with this information.

Rick Daley said...

Tally- Thank you, I think the best thing any writer can know is that his or her words made an impact ;-)

Tally said...

=D

Yeah, sorry! Most of the people who've been critting my queries as of late have read the novel, so I forget things I've omitted sometimes. Emil is fourteen (I'm putting that in the next query)

Rick Daley said...

Tally- I noticed you submitted and deleted a couple queries...are you still revising?

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