Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stella Telleria's Current Query II Critiqued

I got up late today and had the strange sensation of driving to work after the sun was up. Daylight is a strange and fickle companion.

Ahem.

Anyway, let's get work. Here's Stella's revised query, this time with my feedback, in red.

The letter:

Dear Agent,

When badass former Marine, Mia Mitchell, steps into a dark alley to pull a few thugs off their prey, she finds the fight she’s been looking for. I added the been, because otherwise it's not clear she's been looking for a fight for some time, and not only that night. The problem is the prey proposes she take up another fight, and a button-click later she awakes on an Earth-like parallel world. Huh? I'm confused. This is vague, and I don't know exactly what's going on. These are aliens or people from the parallel world, right? And what does this button belong to? It's a part of some device? That’s one mad left-hook. This line is still killer, but it unfortunately actually packs less punch now (pun intended). Before, it could be taken both literally and metaphorically, but now that we have more specifics in front of it, it doesn't have as much double meaning. I'm not saying the specifics aren't good, because they are (you need more, in fact), but I'm just pointing out how it changes this line a bit.

The scrap leads to a cryptic job offer any sane person would refuse. I'm still undecided on this. The job offer is still vague to me, but you get to it in a moment, and it does set up some great characterization in this next line. So, she takes it. She’s got nothing to lose. Turns out the other side of the rabbit-hole leads to a matriarchal utopia where freedom doesn’t exist, and fighting for it means execution for either gender. Mia finds herself with an underground syndicate of men longing for freedom. She’s been tasked with The impossible job they've offered her is training them to fight, but not all agree they need her to show them the way. After all, she’s the enemy. Do you understand why I changed that? I want to see it made perfectly clear that the training and the job offer are the same thing. Otherwise, the vagueness of the job offer gets lost in the shuffle, and an agent might stop reading.

Eben, an ex-slave, is trying to understand Mia’s odd views of freedom. You've done a good job of moving this final paragraph a bit more toward Mia's POV, but you might need to reword it even a little more. He’s also complicating her exit strategy. If she leaves, the power struggle within the syndicate may make their battle for freedom impossible. That Eben doesn’t want her to go only makes things worse for stoic Mia. Haunted by nightmares and post-traumatic stress, unsure who to trust or how to get home, their collective fight for independence becomes her last hope for salvation. But before long, she discovers all is not what it seems. Reality checks never bounce. The rest of this is pretty friggin' good. That last new line, in particular, is so full of voice, I love it.

THE MALE AMENDMENT is a 115,000 word speculative/romantic novel with series potential and duelling POVs. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Stella Telleria

In summary, there's not a whole lot to summarize. You took my (and my reader's) advice, and you ran with it. I think this query is much improved, and is very very close to where it needs to be. Keep working on the opening, and add a few more specifics, and you'll be there.

That's it.

What do you all think?

20 comments:

Sarah said...

This sounds like an awesome story, and I think Matt's feedback is spot-on. It has some really cool lines, but it's not specific enough to allow them to have their intended effect. You as the author know what you're referring to, but I have no idea, so it's hard to picture until we get to the part about her having to teach a bunch of guys in a parallel universe to fight. In other words, the "prey" needs a face, and so does the job-offerer. You don't have to name them, but are they the same person? Are they people at all? Does the job offer just come from a voice on high? If you can clarify (concisely!) what's going on prior to that, then I think you'll have something highly intriguing here.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

You are getting closer, Stella. You just need to be less vague (as Matt and Sarah pointed out), and the query will be ready to go. Great voice! That's usually the hardest thing to capture in a query.

Talli Roland said...

I'm with Stina - I love the voice! I just need more specifics to fill in the blanks.

becca said...

nice work

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I'm super impressed with your feedback, Matt, and Stella's willingness to keep changing until it is just right.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Love the voice. This version is much better, it's almost there!

Nancy Thompson said...

Yes, great voice here. I do agree that the button-click reference is a bit vague. The one thing that tripped my up though was the line about the utopia where freedom doesn't exist. The way you have it reads as an oxymoron. How can it be utopian if freedom is non-existent? I think you need to be careful about mixing those two references in one sentence. Overall, though, the story sounds fantastic. I think you're almost there!

Sarah Ahiers said...

Yep i'm with matt. If you can just clarify the beginning where Matt pointed out, i think you'll be good. The voice is really great in this query

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Is marine supposed to be capitalized? I don't know so I'm drawing attention to it. I also am confused as to the second sentence and as Matt has pointed out, I think there needs to be more clarification.

I don't think the Alice in Wonderland metaphor belongs in this query UNLESS your story is an homage to that story.

Other than that, I think this query is really good.

farawayeyes said...

Seems like some excellent advice to me. I love that 'reality check' line.

Good luck with this.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Great job Stella. I did get confused in paragraph 1 and had to read it a few times to get it. So if you tighten it up a bit, you'll have a great query. Thanks for sharing it with us.

DL Hammons said...

Ditto to most of the previous comments. The voice shines through, which in my opinion is the first thing that's easily lost in a query, but there's too much confusion here to warrant a request. I didn't read the first version, but this one doesn't seem that far off from being ready.

Joshua said...

Yep, hit the nail on the head there, Matthew. Much improved from the prior.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I do remember that killer line although agree it's not as powerful now. Need to go back and read the original version.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I like Matt's suggestions, though there are a few places that are still a little confusing to me even so. Love love love that last line.

Elise Fallson said...

Great improvement from the first, and love the last paragraph! I don't have much to add from what has already been said, just that it's looking good, just a few more tweaks and you'll get it!

maine character said...

Like everyone said, more specifics.

And maybe it's just me, but this alliteration was distracting:

The problem is the prey proposes...

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Excellent critique, Matt. I really did like that "mad left-hook" line and I wondered why I liked it less this time. You're right. The sentence before disconnects it to the fight scene at the beginning of the paragraph, so it doesn't carry its punny punch. (ha) A little more tweaking would be good there.

Stella Telleria said...

Thank you again, Matt, and everyone!! I was wondering a few things and would be forever grateful for some feedback.
#1- Does the Alice in Wonderland mention bother anyone else? I was debating taking it out.
#2- Does it feel like there should be more of a hint of romance in the Eben paragraph? Is it understood that he is the love interest?

Thank you!!!

Elana Johnson said...

I think I'd like to read this book! Matt does such a great job at the critique, that nobody else needs to do anything! That said, I don't think you need to specify that is had dueling POVs. I did that once in a query and the Query Shark Janet Reid said to take it out. So FWIW.