Tuesday, August 5, 2008

#62-revised

Dear Query Shark,


Rebecca Oakland wanted to take top honors and leave Crystal Shores. She focused on herself and her grades, spending little time thinking of others.

I'm as self involved, ok MORE self involved, than the next slithery agent in NYC but I'm not the protagonist of a novel. We really need a reason to care what happens to Rebecca. Right now she sounds exactly like me...and that's NOT a good thing.

Needing an isolated area for a governmental experiment, a scientist targets Rebecca's town, and sends in his grandson, Derek, to ensure the program's its success. The young, good-looking intellectual brings with him, not only an academic challenge, but an experiment of his own, a computer game he created. That is when things begin to drastically change.

You've called the problem here both a "governmental experiment" and "a program" in the same sentence. That's confusing. When I substitute its, a fundamental flaw in logic is revealed: if this is a government sponsored experiment, why does the scientist need his grandson?

I'm entirely turned off by a high school student being described as an intellectual with a straight face.

The sentences are awkward here. Start with very plain subject-verb-object constructions. I had to read the young, good-looking intellectual brings with him, not only an academic challenge, but an experiment of his own, a computer game he created twice in order to figure out what Derek was bringing with him."But" and "not only" are indicators of exceptions, not the main subject.

Now, Rebecca is scared, as friends and family succumb to a mysterious sleep. In an attempt to stop the madness, she will have to play Derek's game and hope she has the strength to fight through and win. The thought frightens her, but realizing that she could lose the most
precious things in her life, forever, frightens her more. In the world of Omniverse, there are no restarts or saves. Rebecca cannot stop. She cannot give up, or it will be GAME OVER.

I have no clue what kind of story is happening here. I have no clue about motivation. There's no reason to care about Rebecca. The stakes are unclear too.

The completed manuscript of 86,000 words for GAME OVER, is available upon request. Thank you for your generous time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Please don't ever put I look forward to hearing from you soon in a query letter. It sets my teeth on edge. Other agents may not have quite the ..ah...toothy! reaction that I do, but why risk they do. Be safe. Don't say it.


Reply: unclear plot, awkward sentences. Form rejection.


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ORIGINAL:

Dear Query Shark,


My inspirational suspense novel, Game Over, brings forth a struggle between good and evil, when a mysterious figure, steeped in the delusional grandeur of darkness, desires world allegiance and welcomes you to his creation, the computer game called Omniverse, secretly
programmed to break your will as he attempts to take your soul.


What? delusional grandeur? desires world allegiance? break your will as he attempts to take your soul?

This is so generalized as to be meaningless.

I'm not familiar with a category called inspirational suspense, but I'm not familiar with inspirational books in general so if that's a real category, cool. How do you know if it's a real category? Is there a section in the bookstore that says "inspirational suspense?". There isn't at the stores where I buy books, but hey, I haven't been to every bookstore in America either.

Rebecca was scared. When her small hometown won a free technological make-over, it had seemed a dream come true. A dream which quickly became a nightmare, as friends and family succumbed to a mysterious sleep, while others drifted along in a cyber fog, oblivious to the
chaos around them.

What? What is a technological make over? What is a cyber fog? Cyber generally means the world of electronic media. Unless you are an avatar in Second Life how are you drifting along in a cyber fog?

In an attempt to solve the mystery and save her town, Rebecca must willingly open herself up to unknown and unseen dangers that are lurking deep within the computers. To her disgust and horror, the virtual reality she encounters is controlled by real evil, meaning she must draw her strength from real faith and take a stand. But, the hairs on the back of her neck prickle, as she thinks about her lack of attention in Sunday school and nodding off during Services. Had she absorbed any knowledge, strength, or faith? If she found others wandering inside, would they have the will to stand? Rebecca will soon find out as she's put to the test, for in the world of Omniverse, there are no restarts or saves. Fight against it, for if you give in, it is Game Over.


The completed manuscript of 86,000 words is available upon request. Thank you for your generous time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Sincerely,


The Devil is in the computer and Rebecca has to overcome him? Does that about sum it up? You'll need to make the Devil more interesting or this will simply be a boring preachy book. The thing is the Devil IS interesting, and tempting, and luscious, and that's why we all have such a hard time resisting him.

This needs a lot of work, it's a form rejection right now.

11 comments:

Adam Heine said...

"You'll need to make the Devil more interesting or this will simply be a boring preachy book. The thing is the Devil IS interesting, and tempting, and luscious, and that's why we all have such a hard time resisting him."

Wow, that's an excellent summary, Shark. Evil (even "pure evil", whatever that means) has to be real; no matter how evil somebody is, they believe that what they are doing is right. Even the Devil.

The thing is, this query reads like the backs of a lot of existing Christian fiction. Which is why, though a Christian myself, I don't read Christian fiction.

beth said...

Inspirational thriller...I'm thinking something along the lines of Ted Dekker. There is actually a shelf for that at my book store.

I'd vote to start the query with Rebecca, and to be less general in description.

Beth said...

Cut back on the hyperbole and be more specific about the conflict and the stakes. Honestly, we'll be more interested if you don't work so hard trying to drum up drama. The story should be (and it sounds like it is) strong enough to speak for itself.

Just_Me said...

This book has been done, and by someone with a good sense of humor too. Check out St. Vidicon by Christopher stasheff (I think that's the spelling).

I'm not an avid reader of anything labeled religious or inspirational and this query doesn't make me want to rush out and read the book. Especially the evil bit, show me that it's evil and needs to be stopped, don't tell me.

talpianna said...

For help in characterizing the Devil, check out C.S. Lewis's THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS.

Clare K. R. Miller said...

Heck, how does Rebecca know that the stuff she learned in Sunday school would help her defeat this evil? Why isn't she worrying that she never went to a synagogue or a mosque before this? It's not clear from the query, at least.

BuffySquirrel said...

Computer games, virtual reality, and so on are all about imposing your will, even if it is only on pixel people/aliens/puppies/trains/tanks. So I don't see how a game dedicated to breaking the player's will could hope to attract any adherents.

I'd be much more interested in finding out how the game does this than in any other aspect of the query.

Ashley said...

If you take out the devil part it sounds similar the plot of the dot-hack video games. Those were pretty interesting. =D

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dot_hack#Plot

nn Angel said...

You tell a lot in the query versus show, which could be good or bad. I personally don't have as much of a problem with the sentence construction as the Shark but I do have a problem when you first bring up the game.

1) "fight through and win it" just sounds weird and over the top for a game. Mention here that you can't save and the like to make this part understandable. Because it wasn't until the end of this paragraph I even understood why you thought this might sound interesting.

2) It isn't clear what Omniverse is. Mostly because the sentence before is discussing her friends and family, and then you jump back to the game.

I also agree that the part where you describe the government project and the son coming needs to be cleaned up. While I don't mind the sentence structures, I think it's really messy and could be done better. But that goes for the whole query.

Another thing, why, if she hasn't thought of others much before, is she going to risk her life to save them now? That's one thing you never explained. If doesn't care that much, why does she suddenly care more?

DeAnna said...

Your initial comment made me laugh...

"Right now she sounds exactly like me...and that's NOT a good thing."

I know it has nothing to do with this query, but if you haven't seen Kare Kano (a manga), you might want to - a selfish teenager obsessed with her grades plots to defeat the charming, offhandedly intelligent boy who thinks he's falling in love with her - and who beat her for top spot in their class.

It made me feel better about my attitude in high school :)

Mùirn Beatha Dàns. said...

Anyone else feeling a hint of "The Demon Headmaster" by Gillian Cross?