Dec 19, 2009

QUERY - THE UNCOMMON ONE (2nd revision)

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the first revision.
Click here to read the sample pages.

Okay - after much thought and re-writes, I hope I came up with something that doesn't sound like TWILIGHT.

Dear [Agent Name]

Like all vampires, John Pennington can slip into the minds of mortals and control their thoughts and actions. Touch their skin and he can read their thoughts or bring the ones he wants to the surface, and his saliva can heal the marks his teeth leave behind after he feeds on them. But unlike most vampires, when John sees a mortal in trouble, he will step in and help any way he can as long as it doesn’t reveal his true identity.

So he doesn’t do anything different on the night he finds an unconscious woman being tossed into a trunk by a serial killer. It’s not until he places the still unconscious woman in her car that he discovers a scent so enticing it draws him closer to her and when he touches her skin, he feels a rush of warmth he never thought possible. He’s intrigued, but vampires don’t involve themselves with humans and he leaves her, without any knowledge of him or his deed.

Sarah Daugherty has survived an abusive ex-husband and is on her own for the first time. When she wakes in her car with vague memories of being abducted, she’s terrified, and the following night takes up an offer to go out after work. Only looking for company, what she finds instead is a sexy bartender named John. So what if he’s allergic to the sun. So what if he’s on a special liquid diet. His touch causes her heart to race and sets her body on fire. She convinces him to give dating a chance.

John finds himself falling in love with Sarah and it’s with all his inner strength to keep their relationship platonic, for he made a promise to himself that he wouldn’t make love to her until she knew the truth. But the fear of losing her forever becomes too much of a risk for him to take and he keeps putting off what he knows in his heart he must do.

THE UNCOMMON ONE is a paranormal romance of 109,000 words. The complete manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Stacy McKitrick


Holly said...

Hello, Stacy.

It sounds a lot like TWILIGHT. Your story is your story, though, so good luck.

My suggestions: limit your plot to two paragraphs. You also have some long sentences you might break into two sentences.

Again, good luck!

Holly said...

Me again. I just read the first version of your query. I like it way better than the revision -- it's much shorter and to the point. I would go with the original, but would take out the sentences about your first novel and shorten some of those long sentences.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

I must agree with Holly that your story does sound reminiscent of Twilight. It might behoove you to make clearer in your query what would set your story apart.

Scott Daniel said...

I agree with Holly ... the first version is much better than this final revision. This revision did not grab my attention. It was kind of flat.

The first sentence of your original query did grab my attention. I would consider breaking up the first graph, however. The opening graph, IMO, should be the hook ONLY. Discuss the meat of the story in a paragraph or two afterwards.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I appreciate the comments. I liked my original version better, too. But I couldn't figure out how to get it to sound original. Guess I still need to do some more thinking.

That's what's great about this site. It makes me see my mistakes more clearly.

Oh well, back to the drawing board!

gj said...

Start from scratch. Not because this -- or the earlier versions -- are bad, but because you've got some "darlings" that need to be killed, that are being kept from version to version, and the easiest way to kill them is to start from scratch.

Then, focus on JUST ONE of the two characters, mentioning the other only as he/she affects the other. You said somewhere that the hero has the most conflict, so make him the protagonist, establish his goal and then show how BOTH the heroine and a third party makes the protagonist's life more difficult.

Start with the very basics: he wants ___, because ____, but the heroine [or the heroine and a third party] are getting in his way. Then you can build up from there, keeping the focus on what the hero wants, what he's doing to get it, how he's being opposed, and what the stakes are that prevent him from shrugging and walking away from the struggle.

Also, make sure the protagonist is ACTIVE. He comes across as passive (except for his initial rescue of her, which is glossed over, so it's not terribly exciting) in all the iterations so far, which may be exacerbating the comparison to Twilight.

Avoid anything that's "normal," and focus on what's unique about THIS protagonist and THIS plot. You don't need to define vampires (unless yours breaks the usual definitions, e.g., they don't drink blood, but bathe in it; or they don't turn into bats, they turn into ravens or whatever), and you don't need to mention things that the protagonist is unaware of (the mythology) UNTIL he is aware of it.

Establish an over-arching goal for your protagonist, and then make him act toward it. In other words, something like this (just an example for structure and focus, not your story at all):

John Pennington is a vampire with a mission: he's part of a crew of five who've vowed to stay alive for five centuries and prevent a prophesied apocalypse. He's only got 200 years left, so he's not going to risk his life to save a mere human. OTOH, that life isn't worth living if it means ignoring the evil in the world, so when he sees a woman being abducted, he steps in to save her life and to kill the serial killer who would have killed her. [Sorry about the over-use of "kill/er" there.]
Unfortunately, that's not the end of it. The woman shows up in his bar and DOES SOMETHING THAT CREATES A RISK FOR HIM. AND THEY ACT IN WAYS THAT INCREASE THE RISK.

The last bit, the capitalized section, is your actual story (with everything else backstory), and you haven't mentioned what the actual story is. He loves her, but can't act on that love until she knows he's a vampire. Okay, so he tells her. Story over. That's artificial conflict. What you need is real conflict, between his over-arching goal (which you haven't mentioned, so I just made one up in my example) and falling in love with the heroine. That's what will make your story stand out from Twilight.

Generally speaking, and contrary to common sense perhaps, in a romance, the protagonist's goal IS NOT simply to fall in love, but is to do/accomplish/get something else, and the relationship complicates that goal. So, present the hero's goal up front, and make him work for it, and make loving the heroine the absolutely worst thing that could happen to him.

Holly said...

Hi, Stacy:

Before you rework your query to show how your story is original, make a list of all the things you love about your novel. That might spark your imagination.

Good luck!

Stacy McKitrick said...

Thanks gj. You finally got the light bulb to go off in my head.

And Holly, you're right too. I re-thought over ALL the parts of my book, not just the romance parts.

So don't be surprised if you hear from me in a few weeks with a new query.

Thanks for all your help. I think it's much better to get this kind of feedback here, than wasting some agent's time (and blowing any chance I might have in getting one).