Friday, June 1, 2012
Punch My Query - June 1st, 2012
(Note: That is not actually me or anyone I know. Thanks google!)
Welcome, one and all, to the first ever Punch My Query! Today, the lovely Amanda (@AmandaBurckhard on twitter) has volunteered her query for us! Thank you Amanda. Let's jump right to it, shall we? My thoughts will be in purple!
To Alita, senior year means high school graduation and Princeton here I come! (This is a good first sentence - but the change in tense with the ‘I’ is jarring. Cute, but jarring.) That is, until she accidentally unleashes the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (Okay! You’ve got my interest!)
When she suddenly develops weird empathic, telekinetic, and clairvoyant abilities on her eighteenth birthday, the powerful combination draws a sadistic cloaked man who stalks and kidnaps her. (There are too many vague things here. ‘Suddenly develops’, ‘weird’, and the telekinetic/clairvoyant description doesn’t really tell me what she can DO. Reading minds? Levitating? You might want to list specifics just to give us an idea.) But the mysterious Alexareus (who? We need to know who this guy is from the get-go.) frees her from the man’s clutches and tries to teach her to control the stupid (A nice bit of voice with this word, but maybe you could use something more powerful.) powers that will be the death of her perfect GPA (is that really all she‘s worrying about? With this sentence, you paint her as a girl who only cares about her grades, not the way the powers affect her relationships with family, her sense of self worth, and her identity.). She falls for him. Hard. Harder than smacking the sidewalk after a ten story fall. (This is an unnecessary sentence, but I can understand the need to draw a metaphor. Metaphors mostly waste space in a query unless they are REALLY original and breathtaking, which this is not.)
But happiness (Happiness? What happiness? There was happiness? Falling hard for a boy is happiness even when you’re confronted with huge power and responsibility and learning to control them? Hm.) is short lived with a power mongering psycho (who exactly is this psycho? What happened to the other psycho in the previous paragraph? Are they the one and same?) after her. The cloaked sadist returns (Ah, see, there. Use this first. Don’t confuse your reader with that previous psycho reference.) and despite her wariness (wariness is not a strong enough word, and every time you talk about how your MC feels, you need to write it in her style, voice, tone), he manipulates (how? Need specifics that make us empathetic toward your MC and hate this antagonist more) her lack of control and releases the Four Horsemen. (I feel like this should be the beginning of the story. The Four Horsemen are what drew me in and what makes her special. Telepathic powers are overdone, but the Four Horsemen aspect has only been done a few times.) Rioting ensues (how? Does her town go crazy? Are they mad? How do they know about the Horsemen if they’re rioting? Or are they rioting because the Horsemen are manipulating them to riot?), diseases ravage livestock, and murder rates skyrocket (where? In her town or the country or the world? Again, more specifics.). As the world dissolves around her (dissolves is not strong enough, you need punch here), she discovers the horrible origin of her powers: she’s the product of a wager between God and Lucifer. (This threw me for a loop. You never mentioned Lucifer. The Four Horsemen aren’t strictly in league with Lucifer - they’re simple the heralds of the end. However, if you’re using this as the reason for her powers, it’s your choice. My job is to crit the query, not the story.) She’s a pawn in their bet (how? Does she have to do something to win the bet? Who’s pawn is she; god or the devil?), and the winner (How does one win?) receives dominion over the souls of Earth.
Now she's the only one who can tip the scale of celestial rule (why is she the only one?) and force the riders back into their eternal prisons (Ah, that‘s why. Try to move this part up). Except that means sacrificing Alexareus. The riders have him, and they vow that if they have to go, so does her love. (This is a great ending. You've stated the stakes. Always end with a problem - something that needs to be solved.)
THE UNLEASHING, complete at 75,000 words, is a YA paranormal suspense sprinkled (do you want to say sprinkled, or maybe a more punchy word? Woven? Layered? Laced?) with steamy romance.
All in all, this is a decent query. I feel most of the confusing aspects are due to the story, and not the query itself. Let’s try and rewrite it with what we have here.
High school senior Alita sees herself at Princeton; taking tests, meeting boys, not developing psychic powers, not crushing on a boy who saves her from a psycho who wants said powers, and definitely not unleashing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
(Your first sentence needs to tell the agent who your MC is, and what your hook is. Blending these two can be tricky, but that’s exactly what you need to do in the first sentence. Make us like/relate to your character’s tone, and then tell us what the hook is. The most unique aspect. In this case, it’s our MC awakening the Four Horsemen. Again, there are so many elements in this book and some I don’t know since I didn’t read the book, and since we can’t change that, we’re going to work with the elements that make it stand out.)
The telekinetic abilities she’s developed on her eighteenth birthday aren’t just going to ruin her Princeton dreams - they’ve earned her a stalker who wants her powers, baited her, and used her lack of control over them to unleash the Four Horsemen. Murders, disease, and insanity ravages her town. But it’s not all doom and gloom - a dreamy boy named Alexareus tries to teach her to control her powers.
(Here we’ve outlined the consequences of the first paragraph - we’ve fleshed out things a bit. Not too much, not too little. Keep in mind you always need to weave how the story affects your MC. In this case, we kept the Princeton aspect in the forefront.)
But she can fix it all. She can send the Horsemen back to whatever stinking hellhole they came from. All it takes is sacrificing Alexareus.
The Horsemen will take her love with them.
(I didn’t elaborate on the god/devil bit, simply to keep the query punchy. In fact, you don't need to know about god/the devil at all in the query. Leave the logistics for the story. Again, ending with a question/the stakes is always good.)
THE UNLEASHING, complete at 75,000 words, is a YA paranormal suspense laced with a heaping helping of steamy romance.
Overall, this was a great first query to start with - it shows many of the mistakes a beginning querier might make. Thank you Amanda for being a great sport, and I hope you've all learned something about making your queries punchier!
Also feel free to yell at me if you thought I was too harsh.
See you next Friday with another Punch My Query! If you wish to enter your query, please see this post for details.