Saturday, August 21, 2010

#172-FTW

Dear QueryShark:

Segorian Anderson is an Idiot. But that’s fine with him. It’s a well paying job with no heavy lifting.

If you walked past Segorian, you’d forget him before you even saw him. It isn’t a magic power, he just has the sort of face his own mother could forget. She’s been trying to for years. But being forgettable is a job requirement for an Idiot.

No, he's not the Court Jester. He doesn’t wear motley (whatever motley may be), that's a different union. He’s the Idiot. In a Queen’s castle, wine spilt down the wrong dress can lead to a declaration of war. So someone unimportant has to be blamed for it, and that’s the Idiot’s job. He’s the Idiot that did it, for any value of ‘it’. Of course, as soon as he’s exiled-for-life out of the castle gate, he uses his back-door key and sneaks in. To wait for next time.

Everybody needs an Idiot. Queen Sonea of Peladon has Segorian.

But that's not all the job. Someday, something really bad will happen. Really, really bad. Badder than a bad thing on a very bad day with extra badness. When your Top Guns are more Top Gones, when the world’s about to end (or the washing up won’t get done – whichever comes first), who you gonna call? No, not them. They haven’t been invented yet. You call the Idiot, so you can risk someone nobody will miss if things don’t work out. And now Peladon has a case of dragon.


But the dragon may be the easy part. Segorian has woman trouble, and he’s the only person in the castle that doesn’t know it. Because to Segorian, women are an open book. The problem is, he never learned to read.

A COMEDY OF TERRORS is a comic fantasy of 51,000 words. The author has never saved a small country from a dragon. He is, however, both male and married and feels well qualified in the field of Idiocy.

My thanks in advance for your time and attention. As per your published guidelines I enclose ( whatever they ask for - the first five pages and a short synopsis) for your consideration.


Sincerely



This query breaks every rule I've yammered about in terms of content. Who's the antagonist? What choices does Segorian face? Who knows...and who cares?! Not me. I just want to read this. That is a query that works.

The SOLE purpose of the query is to get me to read your book. IF you can do that without following any of the guidelines, be my guest.


This is hilarious.

I'd read pages.
I'd pray they were good,.

50 comments:

Tahereh said...

this is spectacular. what a brilliant concept!

if i read that kind of jacket copy at a bookstore, i'd sit down in the aisle and start reading.

original AND hilarious.

i love it.

jjdebenedictis said...

This is hilarious.

And that's what works about it. To draw a reader into a story, you need to promise them a reward--juicy conflict, sizzling sexiness--it doesn't matter as long as it's something the reader wants more of.

Humour totally works for this purpose.

Brittany said...

Hee hee, I really want to read this book! This writer has really great and original voice. :)

Joseph L. Selby said...

I was hooked by the first couple paragraphs, but by the end I was wondering if there was any story or if it was all just premise.

Anthony said...

"Badder than a bad thing on a very bad day with extra badness."

I am in love.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Sounds like Terry Pratchett.

Betcha he's already got an agent, though.

Stephanie Barr said...

I didn't know how I felt about it. at first. Old idea (very fairy tale-ish) but the humor is effective.

And that is really all I'd need to read more. There are few things better in a book for me than humor. If the book can make me laugh, well, I'm good.

Besides, I like fairy tales.

Marian Perera said...

I liked it. Especially the part about "women were an open book to him - too bad he'd never learned to read".

Stephanie Barr said...

I think I figured out why I liked it. It's because it answered the questions it should about Segorian - who he is, what his conflict is and what's at stake.

And added why we should care. He's funny.

Lehcarjt said...

You started to lose me in paragraph three as I began wondering if there was a point to the idiocy. While that question was answered, I still am left wondering at the plot.

I can see this does work - it's quite clever. But as someone who reads fantasy it would not induce me to buy the book. This voice is not what I'm looking for in a fantasy. Perhaps Comic Fantasy has s different audience though.

TheLabRat said...

In addition to the reading of women and bad bad badness lines, this slayed me: "He’s the Idiot that did it, for any value of ‘it’."

I will be looking for this book.

Misty said...

I love this! I'd buy this book in a heartbeat!

Suzi McGowen said...

I loved this. The only thing I didn't like was the word count. I want it to be longer!

(Loved the author's bio, too.)

April said...

It works! I just wish the plot was a little clearer around the fifth paragraph. When it started out with "Someday, something really bad will happen," I expected to hear more about how such a bad event would affect the protagonist's life/job/romantic situation.

John Jack said...

Segoria is the self-antagonist. He's his own worst nemesis, enemy, villain, and an idiot. How lively his complicating antagonisms, his conflicts from such a simple but really hard to perceive discerning outlook on the human condition. I only hope the novel's written in third person. He's an idiot, how can he know he's an idiot and still be so brilliantly insightful?

Wait, maybe fate has gifted him with superior intelligence and cursed him with an inferior station in life. Hmm, smacks of a predestination challenge and a free will triumphs resolution or an apotheosis resolution. Maybe first person isn't unreasonable.

Campy voice like science fiction movie Our Man Flint and Keith Laumer's saga and Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat saga. But fantasy rather than science fiction and perhaps not as playfully author surrogate oriented.

kaitlynrmiller said...

This sounds hilarious. However, I think it's worth pointing out that Mercedes Lackey's Fortune's Fool has a very similar main character. This seems to be a very different book, but I would focus more on the rest of the story and not merely his role as an Idiot.

I thought it was pretty obvious that the dragon is one antagonist, though.

Laura said...

It's telling if you laugh out loud just reading his synopsis. I would TOTALLY buy this book. Now.

His line about himself at the end was even giggle-worthy.

Clever.

Meridith said...

This looks spectacular, and brings to mind The Whipping Boy, but for adults. I'd start reading in Barnes & Noble aisles too!

Lydia Sharp said...

Yes! If you're going to pitch a novel as a "comic (anything)" you better show how damn funny you are. This query did just that. Awesome.

NATASHA YIM said...

This is really funny. Great voice! Segorian and his world sounds intriguing. I'm not much of a fantasy reader, but would take a gander at this book just because it promises to be really funny, and I love humor.

Verona St. James said...

Kind of reminds me of the plot for "Guards! Guards!" by Terry Pratchett. Really liked the voice on this one, though.

Cornelia Grey said...

This sounds very nice, but... the basic concept, under the fantasy layer, is brilliant and fun and already been done.

I'm not sure about America, but in Europe Daniel Pennac's 'Malausséne' series [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Pennac] is hugely popular, and the basic concept is that Benjamin Malausséne is the whipping boy for the shopping mall where he works - anything that goes wrong is blamed on him, he's fired in front of the customer and then walks right back in. Then things spiral out of control and a hilarious mess ensues.

As soon as I read the concept of this query, it screamed to me exactly because Pennac's books are so original and hilarious it's impossible to forget them. I'm afraid most euopean readers would instantly recognise the plot and go 'WTF'?

Cornelia Grey said...

Actually, now that I think about it better, in the second book Benjamin has been fired and now works for a lady called Queen Zabo, a publisher.

I'm sorry, but anyone knowing Malausséne's novels would instantly think of a plagiarizing of that concept, even if there was none.

Imogen said...

How odd - this didn't strike me as funny at all, but I'm clearly in a minority there. Nothing's so personal as a sense of humour.

peladon said...

And the more recent comments highlight an eternal issue. In another environment I have a character called Sephiranoth, and everybody who comes across him tells me I must have stolen it from Sephiroth in Final Fantasy. I've never played a single version of that game, and had never _heard_ of Sephiroth!

The concept for the Idiot came from a newspaper article I read when I was about fifteen ( rather more years ago than I care to count :-) ), about a restaurant in New York that emplyoyed a special waiter just to be fired. When a customer complained, they hauled the guy out and tore him up in front of the customer, then fired him on the spot. He walked out the front, in the back, and waited for the next customer. Did Daniel Pennac read the same newspaper article, or come up with the concept independantly? I don't know... and I'm really not sure I would care. Not if I liked what he wrote. An earlier comment compared Segorian to one of Mercedes Lackey's characters. And what does this show? Well, to me it shows that nearly anything we can think of or write about has already been done. I used to be European, and I never heard of Mr Pennac. But, of course, I may be lying :-).

This is not intended in any way to offer excues or mitigation. If, in the event anybody ever read CoT, they decided it had to have been plagiarised, then that would be their view and no more or less invalid whether I agreed with it or not. I'd still be interested to know whether they liked it or hated it :-).

As to Queen Sonea? Well, many fantasies involve Kings and Queens. And those who work for them. The name? Sonea is just someone I know... and I like the name. Well, and the person it's based on...


The Idiot

Angela Robbins said...

i was laughing the entire time i read this, but when he got to his "qualifications," i about peed my pants! not so good when you're at work,btw...

lodjohnson said...

Most original query I've every read. Brilliant . . .

Robert Michael said...

Terry Pratchett, my first thought as well. Comic fantasy sort of all sounds similar.

I would read a fair bit until it got tired. 51,000 words sounds about right, though. It seems the author has the chops, too. The idea that tackling a woman problem would trump fighting a dragon is just the perspective one would need to have in a comic fantasy.


WORD VERIFICATION: "pingle"

Sounds like a name for a new tennis ball brand.

AJ Leahy said...

This reminds me of Patricia C. Wrede's books. They were books that I read as a kid and they are book that I still keep on my shelf. Assuming the query is as good as the novel, I'd say FTW sums it up nicely.

Claire Dawn said...

At Alaska, I agree. Very Terry Pratchett.

I read THE COLOR OF MAGIC yesterday, and I couldn't help thinking how it broke just about every rule. But I couldn't put it down.

That's what it's all about!

g3n3ricusername said...

@Cornelia Grey

the concept of whipping boy has been done time and time again. In fact, there is even a term for it. Imagine that.

I thought this was very amusing, and I would definitely read it.
I always thoght comedy authors get off easy; if you can make your novel funny, you can make your query funny, and that is usually all you need. If you are not a comedy author, you might be able to write spectacularly, but it's harder to make your query reflect that.

Jaleh D said...

I sure hope someone buys up this story, because I want to read the whole thing now. Hilarious! I agree with Tahereh. That's the sort of story I'd start reading at the bookstore after reading that on the book jacket. Then buy a copy, and keep reading while I'm walking out of the store.

Survival_Mama said...

I would never read this kind of book.

Based on this query, I would do everything short of steal this book to read it. Bummer it's only 51,000 words.

There better be a Book 2, and when does it hit the shelves?

Nice work.

Matthew AT Banning said...

Wow!

Like they say "There's an exception to every rule. Even this one."

I believe we just found our exception.

And yes, I would read this too.

T.L. Bodine said...

I'd totally read this, also.

Also maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I thought the plot was fairly clear -- town has a dragon problem and when they can't think of who else to throw at it they send the Idiot?

Either way, looking forward to seeing this in print. If you can write a query this funny, I KNOW the book has to be hilarious.

morphine-moniza said...

oh love it. Your voice is like pratchett's. And that's the best compliment i could give anyone.

BookendGirl said...

Funny, witty, and intriguing. It got a little confusing somewhere in there, and just a hair shorter (I found myself kind of drifting near the end) and you would have perfection.

Patrick O'Leary said...

Okay, Prattchet was actually my second choice, but I can't remember the author's name for the first. It was from an anthology of dragon stories, but more for the subject than the tone.

Anyway, a very funny query for what sounds like a very funny book. I'd at least read through a couple pages to see if it lived up to the promise. But I can definitely see this as a query that works.

Oh, and as a married man myself, I loved the author bio.

Mr. Write said...

Very nice. I agree with the first comment that I would sit down and read it in the aisle. Probably finish there, too. Maybe a bathroom break, but 51,000 words? Not a problem. I imagine I would walk away with a satisfied smile and a wish it had been 91K. Good on ya.

Zoe said...

I thought the 5th paragraph was a bit gimmicky (especially the allusion to Ghostbusters), but everything else I loved. The writer has a clever way of twisting phrases, almost like Lewis Carroll or James Barrie, and it serves very well to define the character.

Sometimes fantasy takes itself too seriously. I appreciate this approach.

lahn said...

Love this -- I'd read it in a second. I hope it gets snapped up. Thanks!

Hannah said...

Wow, loved this! Must read it. I hope the book is just as well-written.

Uma said...

ahahaha! the scapegoat!

Sherrill said...

Me too! I loved the query! I'll love the book!

Rachel6 said...

I googled the title, hoping that I'd find it's already published and I can READ IT ALREADY!! Segorian sounds like an awesomely hilarious hero.

I've heard it said that all the stories have been told. That said, your "retelling" is definitely something I want to read.

(And on accidental plagiarism, I once named a character Johnny Walker. Apparently, that's a type of whiskey...)

peladon said...

'Tis the nature of the game :-).

For those that have expressed interest, I can only suggest that they don't strain their Google-muscles too much. Thus far Segorian lives in the land of form rejections. And that is in no wise a complaint. Just, as the lead line says, 'the nature of the game'.

I remember a piece I read (sadly not the author). The Agent who wrote it suggested that a lot of people think the trial of an Agent's life is all the bad writing that they have to suffer. Au contraire, she said. In fact, she saw a lot of very good writing. But her job was to find the on, two, three submissions that would put bread on her family's table. To pick, sometimes not the best, but the ones that would bring dollar signs to the eyes of a publisher and delight her bank manager.

Does that mean I think CoT is a great piece of writing not yet bringing up dollar signs? Well. That would be arrogant, right? And there's no such thing as an arrogant male, right?

Oh. :-P.

Suffice to say I have some seven chapters of the sequel done. Why write a sequel to a book that hasn't rung dollar signs yet? Well - why not? :-).


The Idiot

Tanja said...

The world needs more Segorians; and this is reason enough forn the book and its sequel to be published asap.

Melody said...

I. Want. To. Read. This.

It took one line for me to be wondering if this ever got published, and by whom, and where can I get a copy, please, because reading this would make me exceedingly happy. :)

matt said...

DITTO!

I read something similar to this in a critique group, and it was a hoot. Problem is, the author quit about a quarter of the way through the story. Just left us hanging!

I'd love to read this.

Graeme Smith said...

It's funny how things turn out. With apologies to Bobby Darin - things lie a Query to Shark... :-).
In August 2010 I sent this Query to Our Lady of Teeth. And today? Today it's available as an e-pub. You can find it at MuseitUp Publishing, and Amazon.com.
My thanks to everybody here - and especially to Lady Shark :-). Without here, Segorian might still be thinking a dragon was his biggest problem...
'A Comedy of Terrors'. Take a look - and see if it lived up to the Query :-).

The Idiot
or
Graeme Smith
www.graeme-smith.net