Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#137

Dear Query Shark,


"I'm not in love with Alice Stevens, she's just a very sexy reccuring dream.

At least that's what I thought until the sulfurous redhead showed up in my algebra class on a sunny afternoon and proved me wrong. That's when I found out I was gifted just like her: mind reading, dream walking and persuasion were just the beginning. Now I can shield myself from other people's powers too!

But when we tried to steal her evil dad's journal, Alice got captured and I lost my powers. If it hadn't been for Alice's sister, Jamie, I'd be lying dead with a bullet between my eyes right now.

Jamie's convinced me to try and get my gifts back so we can save Alice. I guess I owe it to her, even though I never truly loved her.

I love Jamie now. Alice will be pissed.

But still, we're gonna rescue her – if she still wants to be rescued that is."

THE GIFTED is a Young Adult paranormal romance, complete at 65 000 words.

Thank you for your consideration,

(author name)


Much as I adore the phrase "sulfurous redhead", this approach (writing the query 'in character') is gimmicky. Don't do it. And what kind of power is "persuasion" anyway? Revise. This isn't a form rejection, I'd read the pages, but it's not the most effective query you can write.

38 comments:

Alissa said...

I was confused by the first sentence in quotes. I thought maybe, the rest of the query would switch to third person, but it didn't.

DeadlyAccurate said...

Recurring is one C, two Rs. Easy mistake to make; I didn't even catch it my first read-through.

Heather Lane said...

I really like this query--it contains the elusive 'voice'. So many queries lack the personality of the book. And, if it gets an agent to read the pages, and doesn't garner immediate rejection, then isn't it doing its job? Too much flavor is much better than none, right? Of course, I don't see hundreds of these each day...

Lydia Sharp said...

I'm not a fan of queries written in first person through the character's eyes. Intriguing story, though.

Lehcarjt said...

Ditto to what Alissa said.

I thought this query worked on a technical level - I got a sense of the voice and the storyline. However (as an adult reader of YA), I didn't feel grabbed by it.

Anna Claire said...

I liked this query too, and the voice. I have a few grammar-Nazi nit-picks if you'd like to hear them. If not, just ignore!
-The first sentence needs a semicolon, not a comma.
-second paragraph, add a comma betweeen powers and too.
-sixth paragraph, add a comma between rescued and that.

myimaginaryblog said...

I remembered enough of Geology 101 to picture sulfur as yellow, and since I've also been around sulfur springs and smelled the rotten-egg smell, I thought "sulfurous beauty" was an infelicitous, or at least very unflattering, simile. I did assume the query-writer was going for a fire-and-brimstone mood, but my more literal associations with sulfur got in the way of it working for me.

Andrew said...

Sulphur's yellow innit?

Andrew said...

haha...just had to post because of the wor verification

Charc: Query Shark's French cuosin

Josin L. McQuein said...

Beyond what's already been said, (and I'm in the "This is annoying, not intriguing camp)don't name your telepath Alice. I know it's nit-picky, but one of the telepathic vamps (and one of the most popular secondary characters) in Twilight is Alice. It probably doesn't matter, but I know it would bug me.

Also, the voice here sounds really young to me - like 13 - but that's contradicted by use of words like sulfurous. It doesn't match.

If I were reading this, expecting a romance, and the MC waffled from one sister to the other with "she'll be pissed" and an "oh well" attitude, I'd throw the book at the wall hard enough to bounce it into the trash.

myimaginaryblog said...

As long as I have nothing better to do than nitpick today, another thing that created confusion for me was this bit:

""I'm not in love with Alice Stevens, she's just a very sexy reccuring dream.

At least that's what I thought until . . ."

It wasn'tt clear whether the "until" part was negating his thinking she was just a dream, or his not being in love with her, or both. I assumed both and was confused when I got to "I've never really loved her."

(By the way, in my previous comment I misquoted as "sulfurous beauty" instead of "sulfurous redhead," but either way sulfurous still brings the wrong images to my mind.)

Liesl said...

I liked the voice and the book sounds intriguing. Even if you don't use this as your query I think you can keep a lot of it in a revision to third person and it will make it stronger.

Also there's a GIFTED series and since your book sounds like it has similarities you might want to reconsider that title, thought that's probably not the biggest deal at this point.

Dawn Hullender said...

I really like it when a query is written in the character's POV. If I'm trolling the book store and find an interesting book, the blurb is what makes or breaks it.

To have a pitch written in the character's voice and POV tends to draw me in.

But that opinion is as a reader. Maybe that's why I can't get an agent eh?

Josin L. McQuein said...

A book blurb isn't the same as a query pitch, though. You have to cold sell a query - with a blurb, the book's already been vetted by an agent and a publisher and been through editing, so you've got a relatively good shot of it being professional grade.

jessjordan said...

"Jamie's convinced me to try and get my gifts back so we can save Alice. I guess I owe it to her, even though I never truly loved her. I love Jamie now. Alice will be pissed."

Who is this "her" he owes something to? As written, it looks like Alice, but I think you mean Jamie.

The MC has gone from not loving Alice, to loving Alice, to not loving Alice, to loving Jamie, all within just a few words. It makes the MC seem a little fickle for my tastes. Also, the voice at the beginning seemed younger to me, like middle grade rather than YA.

Best of luck!

tallycola said...

I think this story sounds good, but it is too similar to Scott Pilgrim for me to take on (if I were an agent). Scott Pilgrim is a series of graphic novels that is going to be released as a major motion picture next summer... Scott has recurring dreams about a girl and falls in love with her before he meets her in real life. She has powers, and goes through his dreams because it's a shortcut for her. He has some powers too, because they live in a kind of video game world.

Probably totally different from this story, but the girl-entering-his-dreams things is just too similar for me.

Lucy said...

I'm into your voice, and I like your storyline. I'm not into scatological language, but that's just a personal preference. Like some others, including the Query Shark, I think this would be stronger in third person.

One thing I don't see here, though, is a clear picture of the stakes involved. What's going to happen to Alice if she isn't rescued? What kind of evil is her "evil dad"? What's in this for him?

Keep going, I think you're on a good track here. :-)

wendy said...

I loved it until the narrator switched affections for no reason I could fathom. It was a let down. It might work in the context of the story, though.

Vacuum Queen said...

Why is that gimmicky? It gives a taste of "voice" and I like it. It's a bit too fast paced, but I think I'd like to read more.

GhostFolk.com said...

Probably totally different from this story, but the girl-entering-his-dreams things is just too similar for me.

Really?

This worries me for some reason. [Oh, and I hate dreams in novels - personal thing]. I used to hear this stuff a lot from people when I talked about ideas I was working on.

It got to where I couldn't mention a story idea at all.

"Somebody has already done a book about a girl in a blue dress."

I hate to think someone is avoiding a terrific book they'd like to write/read because someone else has done something similar.

Rosemary said...

A shift to third person improves this enormously, and still reflects the writer's voice:

"Matt Hooper's not in love with Alice Stevens; she's just a very sexy recurring dream.

At least that's what he thought until the sulfurous redhead showed up. . ."

And "sulfurous" works for me.

JS said...

I really like it when a query is written in the character's POV.

Agents don't. At least, I've never seen or heard one saying they did.

I don't get "sulfurous redhead" at all. What's he trying to say? That she smells like sulfur because she's a demon? Or because she has a flatulence problem?

Fouad Khan said...

hydrogen sulfide is the primary odorous gas in farts... sulfurous readhead? You could have just said Kathy Griffin!

lora96 said...

Sounds cool. I'd read it! And I know sulphur is yellow but it just made me think of goldenish red hair so it still sounds good :)

Lydia Sharp said...

Vacuum Queen said: "Why is that gimmicky?"

To which I ask: "Who is signing the query letter? The fictional character, or the author?"

--

And, to clarify...
sulfurous -- like burning sulfur in odor, color, etc.

Yeah, that doens't fit. Sorry. As someone else pointed out, sulfur is yellow. And even if it was red, IT STINKS (never smelled sulfur before? let an egg sit out on your kitchen counter for about a week, then crack it open. I guarantee you'll never use the word sulfurous to describe anything pleasant ever again). Not very effective use of imagery, in my opinion.

Astrology said...

I get that it's not your taste, but I know someone who wrote her query letter in the character's voice, and was published. Just sayin'.

As a redhead, I'm curious to know if anyone besides me notices how many female protagonists have auburn tresses, copper curls, or manes of mahogany, cinnamon, titian, ginger, berry, copper, russet, claret, or henna? It's so common, it's practically a cliché. What's wrong with a curly crop of blonde, or a brunette with an Audrey Hepburn cut? Or how about a mysterious beauty with black hair and a blue streak?

Tabitha Maine: said...

I really liked it. I'd read the book. When I read sulfurous redhead, I thought of a hot-tempered diva(spoiled teenager)with red hair, and I do know what color sulfur is, but it didn't distract me at all. I wish I could read more.

Modify your query since Ms. Shark isn't satisfied but keep the story.

tally said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tallycola said...

@GhostFolk.com:

Well, yeah. My worry would be that the writer would submit queries and be rejected on the basis that it's already been done. If someone is going to think "that sounds a lot like X" it's up to you to show how your story is fresh and original and different from X.

aliasclio.wordpress.com said...

You all are being a bit too literal-minded about the use of "sulfurous" as an adjective.

Sulfur, once also known as "brimstone", is an unusual element in that it burns, with a blue flame no less, although it does not, as once believed, burn spontaneously in air. It is associated with volcanoes, hence with the underworld and the devil, because volcanic eruptions produce sulfuric gases. That's why they speak of "fire and brimstone" sermons. Sulfur also, ahem, changes to a dark red colour when heated...

So: a "sulfurous" redhead is a fiery redhead, a volcanic or explosive redhead, and a potentially devilish redhead.

Now, I admit I had to look this up to get the whole story. But I did know through some sort of knowledge osmosis that sulfur was associated with explosiveness, and that its other name was brimstone.

I suspect that the writer of the query, and the handful of readers who said they understood the word, had a similar vague kind of knowledge of its associations. I agree that the allusion is too unknown today to be useful in a query, but I think its use was rather clever all the same.


aliasclio

Jill said...

I like the use of sulfurous. To me it connotes burning and intense.

Dal Jeanis said...

Overall, I like the tone, but the exact construction seems a bit slipshod. Most of the problems I see are things that could be fixed... I'd probably ask for pages, but I wouldn't be surprised if that switch from sister to sister were a real problem for the reader, if it isn't handled a lot more deftly in the book than the query.

chris becker said...

Matt Mc as a writer I have plenty of people who give me support but what I need is someone who will give me an objective unbiased opinion. If you can't take a harsh comment regarding your work you're in the wrong field buddy.

Write on Query Shark!

wendy said...

Ms Query Shark, could you please post another query crit soon? No pressure. :)

Terri said...

Astrology - thank you! The hair thing is a pet peeve of mine. I am so tired of titian tresses that it can be a deal breaker for me about buying a book.

Just how many fiery redheads (usually with "emerald eyes") do you see every day?

Astrology said...

Terri, you're welcome.

"sulfurous redhead" = Kathy Griffin, and she gets on my nerves.

sanjeet said...

I didn't even catch it my first read-through.

Work from home India

Rachel Redmond said...

I know this is really old, but "persuasion" refers to mind-control powers, usually ones triggered by spoken word. Eden in Heroes, for instance, can force anyone to do anything by telling them. The mesmer in Artemis Fowl is the same thing. It's a pretty common power and a pretty common way to refer to it, from what I've read.

Personally, as a voracious reader of YA fantasy and occasionally paranormal romance, I see a lot more problems with this than the first-person gimmick.