Jan 27, 2010

Query -- The Butterfly Key (First Revision)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear Agent,

Devastated by the recent miscarriage of her baby and inundated by a constant, never-ending crush of emotions, Nicole Kuefler is embroiled in an agonizing conflict against God and His so-called providence.

Upon reaching her breaking point on Christmas Eve, Nicole is losing her battle. With her soul fractured like a broken pane of glass, she is unable to purge the brutal despair that has seeped in through the cracks. Moreover, her seemingly indelible faith is at risk of erosion.

Determined to mend the shards of his wife’s shattered soul, Nicole’s husband, Drew, gathers his wife and children around the Christmas tree. Guided by something he could only consider extraordinary, Drew narrates a made-up tale of a young couple who also want children, but find themselves struggling amidst the providence of God.

As Drew spins his yarn, he is hoping to weave a story that will show Nicole that God has a purpose for all that happens – even the heartrending events in life.

When Drew finishes his emotional story, he is still unsure if Nicole can find it in her heart to forgive God. That is until a special gift appears under the Christmas tree from one of the invented characters in his story, which completely changes everything for both Drew and Nicole.

THE BUTTERFLY KEY is a 72,000-word work of literary fiction and is set within the small town of Columbus, Minnesota. A completed manuscript is available upon your request. I look forward to working with you.



Andrea Coulter said...

Hi, this looks like an interesting story, but the query needs to be heavily pruned. I'll give it a shot:

first paragraph: cut "and inundated ... emotions". It's unnecessary; most people can imagine how traumatic a miscarriage is.

second paragraph: the language is too flowery. I'd cut the second sentence entirely. other points: it seems like her faith is definitely eroded, not 'at risk of erosion.' I'd cut that sentence too, and just keep the first one BUT what exactly does 'losing her battle' mean? Losing her faith? Thinking of suicide? Specifics are better than vague 'battles'.

third paragraph: I like the idea of a parable to help the wife get through this, but a 'made-up' story makes me wonder if the reader is really going to be interested. for the query I'd cut "guided ... extraordinary," and the word made-up.

fourth paragraph: just minor streamlining changes. "Drew spins his yarn, hoping that the story will show ..."

fifth paragraph: needs streamlining. Something like "When Drew finishes the tale, but it doesn't seem as if Nicole will forgive God ... until a special gift appears under the tree that changes everything for Drew and Nicole." Also, 'special gift' is vague again. If possible, tell the agent what it is instead of being coy about it :)

sixth paragraph: great closing, no comments.

In general: watch for darlings, mainly the flowery phrases ('fractured like a broken pane of glass', for example, which, while a pretty simile, doesn't actually add much). Keep it simple, and let the genuine emotion of the story shine.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, this sounds really interesting. Please know that I do not have "experience" in critiquing literary fiction queries, however, I would like to point out that I was actually left wanting more concrete details.

Of note, you mentioned "the providence of God" twice. I think this term should be used only once.

Also, you have beautiful writing, however phrases like "crush of emotions," "broken pane of glass," "purging the brutal despair," "seeping through the cracks," "risk of erosion," "mend the "shards," "spins his yarn," "embroiled in agonizing conflict" run the risk of sounding (please forgive me b/c I don't particularly like the word) cliche. In other words, it's a beautiful way of TELLING the emotion, however, it doesn't SHOW what actually happens. All this emotion is going on, but I'm not really feeling it. (Hopefully I'm not a callous soul.) And I don't really know what happens in the story.

Now, the part where Drew is telling his story, you mention fantastic things--he's guided by "something," you give details of the story, and you show the gift. I was much more emotionally invested in these things, because they act as an anchor to hold my interest.

I hope that helps. And please ignore me if I'm off on these things.

BTW, I L-O-V-E the title! :)


Unknown said...

I think this has promise, and your title is very eye-catching.

However, I do agree with Lynn; you need to trade in some of your fluff for some real details. The only thing you've really said is that Nicole has had a miscarriage, she's more than crushed, and her husband makes up a story to make her feel better.

I would feel better if you gave up some more concrete details: What battle is she losing? Does she blame God? Is she pulling away from her husband and other children?

I look forward to your next round of revisions. Hope we've all helped. Good work, keep it up. :)

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

Some thoughts. I'm going to break it down in sections.

Upon reaching her breaking point on Christmas Eve, Nicole is losing her battle. I'd say if she's reached her breaking point, she's been losing the battle for a while. I'd rephrase to put losing up from and the breaking point second.

With her soul fractured like a broken pane of glass, she is unable to purge the brutal despair that has seeped in through the cracks. This feels overwritten. I'm sure this can be simplified and tightened.

Moreover, her seemingly indelible faith is at risk of erosion. Actually, it already sounds eroded. Maybe not all the way, but it seems at least partially eroded. You might saying 'is beginning to erode' or something to show that the erosion is not about to start on Christmas Eve or is imminent in some way.

I feel like you could give more specific details in the last paragraph. "Changes everything" is pretty vague.

RC Writer Girl said...

I'm hesitant to comment on this, because the story sounds interesting. Yet, it sounds like it could be something really poorly executed. After I finished reading the query, I came away with: this is a story about a man telling his wife a story.

A story about a man telling his wife a story sounds like it could be pretty dull.

I'm not saying what you've done is dull. I'm saying, when it all boils down to that, it seems one could be going out on a limb with a story about someone telling a story.

There are lots of books where a character is telling a story to another character, like Nicholas Sparks' THE NOTEBOOK. But, I can't imagine he pitched it as this old man telling this old woman a story about love. I think you might want to try to pitch it a bit differently, focusing on either the fictional story or the story of Nicole and Drew, and get rid of too much mention of this story Drew tells.

By the way, how much of the book is spent telling this fictional story--a chapter, 2 chapters, 10 chapters?

Last thing, would this fall under Christian fiction, rather than literary fiction?

Good luck