Aug 7, 2012

QUERY: REIGN OF MAGIC

Dear ****,

War was supposed to be glorious. Lewan volunteered gladly to fight for his king, but nothing could have prepared him for the cold brutality of battle. His regiment retreats and seeks shelter in an old crypt, accidentally activating an ancient power that kills thousands of men instantaneously. Lewan, the only soldier spared, flees the battlefield in a panic. Magic was just a story told to scare small children, but what else could kill an army in seconds?

Frightened and confused, Lewan reports the events to his king, but no one believes him. No one, that is, except the watchers – a secret organization dedicated to destroying magic. The watchers want to eliminate the source of the magic, but a sorcerer long since thought dead appears with an agenda of his own. On top of that, the king begins to suspect the true cause behind the slaughter and seeks to understand its meaning. A power struggle quickly ensues, a fight between men and kingdoms to control a force long hidden from the land. Magic devastated the realm in centuries past, and without interference it is posed to do it again.

REIGN OF MAGIC is a completed 75,200 word fantasy for young adult readers. It is told from four points of view: Lewan, the watchers, the sorcerers, and the kings. I have one published short story in Byline Magazine.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

****

7 comments:

Rick Daley said...

This is succinct and the word count is good, but there are a couple things I would tweak:

- The first sentence is passive. Passive voice cannot be avoided completely (easiest way to spot it is to look for a verb 'to be' followed by an action verb in the past tense), but best not to open a query with it.

- The first two sentences are past tense, then you switch to present tense. Stick with present tense for the query.

- The first two sentences also focus on things that are not happening...war lacks glory; Lewan is not prepared. My preference if to focus on what does happen, that is the meat of your story.

- You don't need to say your novel is completed, that is implied by the query itself, so it's redundant. We should never, ever, query an unfinished novel.

Other than that, I do get a sense of the conflict and I read this with interest. It's difficult to juggle points of view, and you may not want to emphasize the multiple POV in the query, others may have more guided input on that.

Good luck!

Sara Tribble said...

I really like the tone and idea used with this, but try to remove excessive parts that you don't really need yet, like explaining the Watchers.

Something more teasing would do nicely, "Someone is out to destroy the remaining magic and it's up to Lewaen to find out who."

I try to stick with only 4-6 sentences for each paragraph and very simple, not long and extended.

Anonymous Author said...

Okay, I'm gonna be odd man out here. While I like your writing style, this query feels like it's starting in the wrong place and emphasizing the wrong things.

The whole first paragraph seems like backstory and could be told in a sentence. Just tell the important part: an entire regiment (usually 1,000 men, no?) is killed, except Lewan.

Keep the focus on Lewan. Your story might be told from four points of view, but your query should be told from only one. Lewan wants X, but Y stands in his way, so he tries Z, only to have W happen.

Watch out for errors like "posed to happen again" and "four points of view: Lewan, the watchers, the sorcerers, and the kings". (The fact that the story is told from four points of view shouldn't go in the query anyway.)

I'm not getting YA from this. How old is Lewan?

Faraci said...

Thanks everyone, especially Rick, for the comments! I just posted another revision, trying to address some of the points you made.

I'm having trouble deleting the sentence about the points of view. It really is a large part of the book, since Lewan is only a part of the overall plot line. I didn't want to bog down the query with all of the character's names and stories, but it seemed important to at least mention. Is this a mistaken impression?

Thanks again!! :)

Anonymous Author said...

Yup, it's a mistaken impression. And I'll accept the diminished thanks with a diminished "you're welcome."

Weren't you by here with this story a few months back, or perhaps somewhere else? I have a distinct memory of giving you the exact same advice before. To no avail.

Only job of the query is to get them to read more. Doesn't need to expose your whole story, your heart, your soul, any of that.

Faraci said...

Sorry, you might have me confused with someone else. This is the first multiple POV that I've written, and I have definitely not posted it here before.

I based that POV sentence on something the Query Shark said on the issue. Worth a read.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/2011/03/199-ftw.html

gj said...

No matter how the manuscript itself is structured, in the query you need to present a coherent story, complete with a clear character arc.

You start with Lewan, spend two whole paragraphs (well, 1 1/2 long paragraphs) essentially promising the reader that this is a book about the sole survivor of the slaughter, and getting the reader to think, "wow, I really care about this guy, and wonder if there's some deeper meaning to the fact that he was spared, or whether he'll go on to justify his continued existence by helping take out the mass murderers." But then it's all about some generic king and some generic cult, and Lewan has completely disappeared.

It's great that the manuscript itself has multiple layers, multiple story lines. But for the query, you need to convince the agent that you have ONE coherent layer, ONE coherent story, ONE coherent struggle between ONE protagonist and ONE antagonist, and then the agent can be pleasantly surprised when she reads the manuscript and finds the additional layers/stories/characters. But until you prove you can do ONE such story, it doesn't matter that you've got others thrown in.

With respect to the multiple-pov reference, if I remember correctly, the fact that it was multiple-pov was a particular feature of that story (although I can't recall how) that made it different from the standard presentation in that genre. You don't need to 'fess up to multiple pov in all queries, but the Query Shark wording is good for ONLY those very few occasions when the multiple pov is relevant. Imagine, for instance, adding to a query that a romantic suspense novel is told from the pov of the hero, heroine and villain. That's pretty much the norm, and there's no real reason to mention it. Same here -- why does it matter that you've got multiple povs? Isn't that fairly standard?

But, really, the biggest issue is figuring out how to show, in the query, that ONE of those povs has a complete character arc. What you've got here is: "character A has something bad happen to him, and he passes off the problem to someone else. The someone else then tries to fix the problem." So the initial character isn't doing anything after the inciting event, which kind of rules him out as the protagonist, and the second character isn't introduced until after the inciting event, which makes the whole inciting event seem like backstory.