This morning we have Patchi's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.
Dear [Agent name],
Last year, you showed interest in my novel The Legacy of the Eye If it was published, this goes in italics. If it wasn't, ALL CAPS. (Jane Austen's Persuasion meets 1984 in space). I am now seeking representation for my YA fantasy SHROUDED GODDESS.
Seventeen(-)year-old Sophie spends her days hiding her tribal heritage and fending off her baron-to-be cousin's groping attentions. She yearns for the freedom the tribes enjoyed before the Easterners invaded from across the sea.
Hmm. Okay, this isn't bad, but as I often see, most of this is the situation Sophie finds herself in, moreso than the CHARACTER she is.
One thing I think people often forget when they write queries is that CHARACTERS exist before STORIES. STORIES are important, of course, and they are a fundamental part of human culture, but STORY is nothing without CHARACTER. And what I mean by that is more than voice and arc and style and pluck and so on. I mean that as writers, we must remember that our CHARACTERS are people. They have a life before their STORY starts, and in order to really make our readers care about them, we've got to show them what kind of people our CHARACTERS are.
So, how does that relate to your query? Well, we get a little sense of Sophie from her situation--she's an aboriginal person living in a colonized state, and her cousin is both attracted to her (creepily, it seems) and about to become a baron. This is all well and good, and the most important detail here (when it comes to CHARACTER) is that she is constantly "fending" him off. This tells us a good deal about who Sophie is. What kind of person. What her CHARACTER is.
But you could do more. If you really want to get your reader to sympathize with your protagonist and care about whether or not she succeeds, introduce her to them with plenty of personality before you go into what's going on in her plight.
According to her grandmother, the only way to save the tribes from Sophie’s ravaging uncle is by awakening the Water Goddess, whom no one has seen since the invasion. Cousin, grandmother, uncle ... so it's all a family affair? This is getting a little confusing. They're all tribal people if they're all related, right? So where are the invaders? Her uncle and her cousin are serving the invaders as puppets or something? All Sophie has to guide her are the old stories and songs her grandmother taught her. And Gavin, of course. Sophie used to think he would save her from a forced wedding to her cousin, but her uncle rewarded Gavin's marriage aspirations to Sophie with a public flogging, his baronet father executed for treason, and his manor burnt to the ground.
Okay, this is getting interesting. We have a potential love interest, and he's being persecuted by her own family, who are in power (even though we don't exactly understand how or why), and that certainly sets up some great potential conflict. If you could just make the politics a little clearer, I think you'd be in good shape here.
Finding the Water Goddess is the easy part; getting help isn't. Not only is the goddess powerless, she is more interested in fashion than politics. Whoa. Nice twist. Her advice is for Sophie to seek help elsewhere, and that’s not a reply anyone wants to hear. Sophie's only hope to save the tribes and herself is to use her unexpected water-controlling powers to find another Goddess, one nobody knew existed, in a land with more scars than her uncle can lash out onto those who oppose him.
This doesn't really end on a sadistic CHOICE note, but you've sort of got one implied there. She can hunt for this other goddess, or try to convince the one she already found to step up. Not the toughest choice ever, but it could work.
SHROUDED GODDESS is a 63,000 word YA fantasy set in a world that mirrors South America during the Portuguese colonization of the 16th century. With Avatar waterbending Whoa. You mean Avatar: The Last Airbender? If so, that's AWESOME. in the rainforest, this novel It's not technically a novel until it's published. Right now it's a manuscript or a story. will appeal to fans of Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
So, in summary, I see two main problems with this query.
First, is the lack of sympathetic characterization of your protagonist before you get into the plot and conflict. I already went off about that for a while up above, so I'll move on to the second point:
The invaders. You bring them up in your opening hook, and then never mention them again. It seems to me that the uncle and the cousin are somehow working with or serving the invaders, but it's not actually certainly clear. Is that right? If so, you should probably clarify it a little better in this query. You've got the room.
What do you all think?