Saturday, May 10, 2008


Dear Query Shark:

When Katie Bennett went to Florida she expected to have a great time--what she got were friends who hate her, a boyfriend she put into the hospital, and a lust for blood.

When Katie became aggressive, and attacked a guy in a bar--she thought that she'™d grown up. When she bit her boyfriend during sex--she thought that she'd developed a fetish for biting. When she lured women into dark alleys and seduced them for their blood--she knew there was a problem.

Katie's parents got word that she was in a motel room in Daytona, Florida. They flew down that night, only to find that Katie had gone to the hospital to be treated for an illness-an illness which does not exist. After her parents forced her to leave the hospital, they removed all evidence of her existence. Once they had Katie back, they had to convince her that they were vampires, and she would become one too.

PAINS OF CHANGE is a 90,000 word Fantasy novel. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to your response.


Katie is a vampire. And?

This is set up. I see "she became a vampire/lesbian/killer/apple pie biker babe" 100 times a week. The important thing to mention is what happens next, why it matters and what's at stake.

Form rejection.


Josh Everett Ryan said...

I wish I saw apple pie biker babes a hundred times a week...

Kristin Laughtin said...

Agreed. Even one more sentence could have made the conflict clearer- OK, she's a vampire, she kills people, but then what? Why's it matter?

(Unless the conflict is trying to figure out why she's killing people, period. Then the fact that she's a vampire is just the outcome)

Jess Melton said...

I believe this one probably comes down to an ‘isn’t it obvious’ type of conflict. What I mean by this is that perhaps the author thought that the conflict would be so obvious she need not mention it. It is like a lot of first installments of books or movies, it is the origin story essentially. The protagonist has to come to grips with their powers and how it changes their life and how they decide to use their powers.

The problem with this is that it has been done to death in books and movies. Having said that, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be done again, but an interesting plot twist or conflict resolution could be spelled out in the query.

R. Lyle Wolfe said...

You see this idea many times because everybody has a similar story to tell.
We see a really good vampire movie on tv and get "inspired".
A writer's only hope is that the agent saw the same movie and is convinced that the world needs another sucky (humor intended) novel.
Holy Crap! I started to write a faux hookline, but then I realized that it would provide a great hook for my sci-fi novel.

Marian said...

The part where she bites her boyfriend and then thinks that she's developed a fetish... that didn't ring true to me. Biting is something you do deliberately; if my mouth suddenly chomped down on anyone of its own volition, I'm not sure I could dismiss the act as a sexual fetish. Also, I guess Katie isn't the typical vampire who's burned by sunlight and who doesn't have a reflection? That might have been a hint too.

R. Lyle Wolfe said...

You know, if this query had reached Jodi Reamer four years ago, then we'd be talking about how jealous we are that it's on the best seller's list.

Just_Me said...

It's a matter of timing, isn't it? Every YA author can bemoan the fact that JKR published Harry Potter first but, there it is, she wrote the book before anyone else invented Quidditch and the rest if history.
The problem really isn't that the author can't write, but that they've written the wrong story. In my critique group we have the same problem, I'll read over a piece and realize it was done 20 years ago by Asimov. Maybe the author has never read Asimov, maybe they're paying homage, but either way it isn't original and being original is a must if you want to publish at the moment.

Vampires were the up-and-coming thing 6 years ago. Now we have vampire slayers, vampire soccer moms, vampire waitresses, and vampire socialites, and they're rounded off by a whole bevy of fallen angels, demons, werewolves and other things that should go bump in the night. After six years and probably several hundred titles devoted to the idea you really have to reach to get something new with vampires.

It's time for the next new fad. I vote for sea monsters. I haven't seen a good sailing book in ages....

R. Lyle Wolfe said...

Just Me~

Not being argumentative: But I bemoan the fact she took a premise that's been around for centuries and rewrote it into a hit book.

Hell, even Nickelodeon was in on it before JKR (If I'm wrong, then please inform me so that I don't continue to be an idiot.)

Remember: Aargh! Real Monsters?

Harry Potter=Ickus
Ron Weasly=Krumm
Herimone Granger=Oblina

talpianna said...

It seems to me that somewhere along the line she might have NOTICED that her parents were vampires. And shouldn't Mom have explained it--perhaps as part of the lecture on menstruation?

As for new supernatural beings--I saw the zombie meerkats first!

Jamie Hall said...

There are some great novels where a character develops a power and/or enters a new lifestyle, and that's all that really happens.

So, I'm not saying this premise couldn't work. I've seen it work. Two of the best werewolf novels I've ever read were basically about someone becoming a werewolf, and nothing else really happening.

The problem is that pulling off this feat requires incredibly good writing. If "X" happens to the main character, and nothing else really happens except for the character dealing with "X" for the rest of the novel, it is going to be hard to sell it. This is especially true in the case of vampire novels, which have been glutting the market since the early 1990s.

Agents are going to see untold numbers of queries for vampire novels where nothing of note seems to happen other than a person becoming a vampire. And, if requested, most of these will prove to be essentially pointless and unsalable to publishers. You can easily see why agents would reject your query.

What is the solution? Well, one solution is to make sure that something other than set-up happens in your novel.

Another solution is to mention the things that happen later on in your novel in a way that really lets the spirit and voice of your writing style shine through, so that some agent might feel that this light-on-plot problem won't matter because your characterization is so good, or because the sheer quality of your writing draws interest of itself.

Good luck!

C.J. Redwine said...

I agree that fresh conflict is needed. Maybe Katie's vamp skills morph into something else. Maybe she really wants to be a vampire but can't change to be like Mom and Dad. Maybe her parents refuse to turn her ...

Or maybe the conflict could be centered on something else entirely. I think that's one of the reasons Harry Potter worked so well (sigh, yes, one of many reasons...) - the conflict wasn't about Harry's struggle to come to terms with being a wizard. He had his personal struggles, his relational struggles, and some baggage to deal with but the main conflict was the eternally interesting good vs. evil.

I agree that it takes a really strong vamp series with additional outside conflict now to even get in the door because there's so much on the shelves. I wish you happy brainstorming and good luck with your writing! =)