Aug 10, 2012

QUERY: REIGN OF MAGIC (revision 2)

Click here to read the original query.

Dear ****,

Lewan gasped as a mysterious force ripped through the army, killing thousands of men instantaneously. He was only a volunteer, answering his king’s call to war. Why was he the only one spared? And how did this happen? Magic was just a story told to scare small children, but what else could kill an army in seconds?

Lewan flees the battlefield and 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 are unable to eliminate the magical power, and must contend with politics and internal coups as they struggle to contain the situation. To make matters worse, a sorcerer appears in the land after centuries of absence with an agenda of his own. A power struggle 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 will happen again.

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

Thank you for your time and consideration.




gj said...

I'm going to assume that this was posted BEFORE you had really absorbed the comments on the previous version. It doesn't address the big problem: you present Lewan as the protagonist, but then promptly drop him, so the final problem mentioned belongs to someone else, not him.

The new language demonstrates where things go wrong in using manuscript language in a query.. "Lewan gasps" is a perfectly useful sentence in a manuscript, but it's not right for the query. It's SHOWing something that can (and should) be TOLD.

There is an aspect of "show don't tell" that applies to queries, but this isn't it. Do show the character doing something heroic, show the voice as humorous (or dark or whatever the voice is), show that there's a thrilling plot line. Show these things, don't simply "tell" that the character is heroic, the voice is humor/dark/etc, the plot is thrilling.

But don't get down to manuscript-level showing (e.g., the character gasps) in the query. That's where you simply tell the agent: this is what you need to know about the character and the inciting event.

Assuming Lewan is your protagonist, the query should start out much briefer (telling instead of showing): Lewan is a common soldier, who, for no reason he can fathom, is the sole survivor of a magical slaughter of an entire army.

Okay, that's a great set-up. But now what does he do?

Not what other people do, not what magic does, but what does Lewan do? What does he know (as opposed to what he does not know)? How is it a problem for him? How does the problem get worse FOR HIM?

If the king is the protagonist instead, then start with the king: when a common soldier reports that his entire army was slaughtered by magic, the king does something, and then the problem gets worse.

Pick one protagonist and tell his story. No relay races, where the first protagonist passes off the story baton to the second protagonist who passes it off to the third protagonist, etc. The first character mentioned should also be the one who's doing something about the problem that's described in the last sentence of the query. And SOMEONE should be doing something about that problem, rather than the problem just hanging out there in the air.

Anonymous Author said...

Even in a novel, four POV characters is extremely difficult to pull off well, and you would have to have a really good reason for doing it. But that's by-the-by.

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