Friday, October 10, 2014

Andrea Franco-Cook's Current Query Revised - Critiqued

Today we have Andrea's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.

The letter:

Dear Agent,

Soledad Mendoza is mankind's last hope. Okay, again, this is vague and a bit cliche. Who is she? I mean as a CHARACTER? At least that's what the winged Mayan god who shows up after her father's death tells her. But she is an unlikely hero. The young English professor doesn't understand why a god would choose a person whose weakness for scotch makes her a prime candidate for a twelve-step program. Growing up in the sleepy town of Charleston, West Virginia never prepared her for anything like this.

Hmm. Something about this is difficult to connect with. You've got all the necessary details, inciting incident, hook-ish premise, a character we can sympathize with, but ... for some reason it just feels off. 

I think the problem is that you're presenting this in the wrong order. Tell me about Soledad's teaching and scotch drinking and missing her father before you get to the god. Remember: almost all stories begin with an innocent world, in which a character may be suffering, but the major conflict of the actual plot of the story is not going on yet. Then an inciting incident occurs, and their world is flipped on its head. That kind of opening in a query, a kind of innocent world in which you can really deliver a sense of CHARACTER, will start you off right, get the reader to care about your CHARACTER, which will then make everything that comes after automatically that much better.

In the 1500s the Mayan God secretly entrusted her conquistador ancestor with the Ouroboros Amulet, a weapon containing the power of Heaven, which only one Mendoza descendant can wield. I'm not sure you need this. Don't get bogged down in too much detail. Just give us the good stuff. Too bad, her father took the amulet's location to his grave. Like this.

That's only the beginning of her troubles. She learns that her late father's friend, U.S. Senator Earl Edmondson, is aligned with a malevolent god who will assure ensure? the politician's ascendance to the presidency. Knowing that his only obstacle is the amulet that Soledad seeks, the senator turns his dark eye on her.

This is actually pretty good. A little wordy, but full of specificity.

As her enemies converge, the winged god offers a strategy to help, but his motives aren't exactly noble. Soledad discovers that she is merely a pawn in a supernatural game of treachery. If she is to stop Edmondson from ascending to the White House, she must find the amulet and the strength within herself to defeat him, or there will be Hell on Earth.

This is pretty great. Not exactly a sadistic choice, but you do end with a nice sense of either/or.

Pawn of The Gods PAWN OF THE GODS is a completed 95,000 word Urban Fantasy novel, and it is the first of a planned trilogy. This tale of an ordinary English professor caught in a battle between good and evil, flashes between the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries, blending Spanish history with Mayan lore and apocalyptic Christian beliefs.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Andrea Franco-Cook

Okay, in summary, this is definitely an improvement. In fact, I think you're pretty close.

I would focus on the first paragraph, and if you can get it into the kind of format/order I suggested, so we really get to know your character first, and then once we care about her, BAM! you hit us with this winged god showing up, and suddenly her comfortable world of sipping scotch and grading papers becomes exciting and scary as hell.

After that, maybe a few tweaks here and there, but the final two thirds of this query are pretty good as-is.

That's it!

What do you all think? Anyone want to take a crack at rewriting Andrea's opening paragraph?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yeah, the first paragraph tripped me up. That one line is wordy and seems out of place.

mshatch said...

I agree with starting out with character. Who is our mc? What does she want? Where is she at? Then throw in the inciting incident/conflict.

Patchi said...

I like how you added the Mayan god to the start of the query, but Matt's comment about the vague opening and odd order makes sense to me. I think you could start with:

English professor Soledad Mendoza has a weakness for scotch and lesson plans, until a Mayan god shows up in the sleepy city of Charleston, West Virginia, after her father's funeral.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

You've got to get rid of that comma after "Too bad."

As it stands, you're saying, "Too bad. Her father took the amulet's location to his grave." And you're incorrectly using a comma to splice the two sentences together.

What you actually mean is a short-hand form of: "It's too bad that her father took the amulet's location to his grave."

Thus: "Too bad her father took the amulet's location to his grave."

Sheena-kay Graham said...

The first paragraph needs a lot of work. The rest of the query has potential and I'm certain with a full revamp this query will be ready to snag an agent.

Jay Noel said...


Soledad Mendoza was an ordinary scotch-drinking English professor going through the motions in the sleepy town of Charleston, West Virginia. When the winged Mayan god appears after her father's death, Soledad is forced to become an unlikely hero.