Friday, February 1, 2013

Patricia Moussatche's Current Query Critiqued

Welly well, readers. It's Friday, and you know what that means! Patricia's query again, this time with my feedback, in blue.

Here we go:

Dear [Agent Name],

David and Catrine, top governance I don't understand this word in this context. graduates from the Academy of Demia, are more than friends and schoolmates--they are a team. At least until the day she kisses him on the way to their proposal defense. Proposal defense? Is that the name of a class? Some assignment they have to complete? It is the kind of kiss that makes a guy forget his speech. So the proposal defense is the speech? I'm not sure I'm clear on that. Catrine steps in to salvage their pitch, and earns for herself the directorship of the new program they proposed. Which is?

Except for some minor vagueness, and a few details that need to be clarified, this opening isn't bad. It improves on the strengths of your old version, and clues us into David and Catrine's relationship with more oomph, I think. The only thing is, you need to think about your inciting incident. Generally, it should be the hook that concludes your final paragraph. I suppose you could argue that the kiss is it, or even the directorship, but I think the key to the premise of this story is really the tattoo, and what it means as far as the potential to splinter David and Catrine's relationship.

When David notices the tiny tattoo hidden beneath Catrine's hair, he is convinced she is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not exist on their school-planet. David is appalled by the discovery that a single family has been ruling Demia in secret since colonization. Demia is the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It is supposed to value merit, not birthright.

I wouldn't change a thing about this paragraph. You've taken your premise, stakes, and inciting incident, and distilled them down into a very succinct summary.

As the utopia he has always cherished crumbles into a school-boy’s fantasy, fantasy or nightmare? David realizes his parents want to institute marriage on the planet by wedding him to Catrine. So, no one got married before? I'm not quite clear on that. They want to crown him the first king of Demia. If he exposes the ploy, David will ruin both his and Catrine's chances of ever governing their planet. He can only hope his governance degree will be worth something at the other end of the galaxy. This comes a little out of left field presented this way. The way you had it written in the old version is actually a little better. But Catrine cannot forget him, nor does she believe Demia can prosper without him. And she might just be the bait to lure him back home.

This final paragraph isn't bad, but I think the whole third paragraph is actually worded better in your earlier draft. If you combined that with the first two from here, you'd be in great shape.

THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, complete at 86,000 words, is science fiction with romantic components. I would prefer the word elements to the word components, but I suppose that's just semantics. LEGACY has a literary bent and was inspired by Plato’s Republic. It will appeal to those who think Jane Austen should have penned 1984. This kind of comparison sounds cool, but I have no idea exactly what you mean. I kind of like it anyway, though, even if I'm not sure why.

Okay, in summary, I really think you're getting close here. Tweak the first paragraph with my suggestions, which should be:
  • Clarify what the proposal is, what it means, and whether Catrine's directorship means David is out.
  • Characterize your protagonists a little more. One word of personality can go a long way.
  • Consider introducing David by himself at first. I realize this is a dual POV story, but queries tend to work best when they open with one character for us to care about.
Then, once you've got your opening paragraph tightened up, I think optimizing this query would be very easy. Simply use the perfect middle paragraph from this version, and the perfect final paragraph from the one I critiqued last fall, and there you go - query magic!

That's it!

What do you all think? Be sure to read the old version for comparison. Otherwise, have a great weekend!


JeffO said...

Interesting story, but I do have a couple of comments. One, I got through the first paragraph without a sense of who the POV character is. You introduce David and Catrine. She kisses him, the next sentence is open-ended, then she steps in and bails him out. So I'm thinking it's Catrine's POV and story, until the next paragraph, when it firmly roots in David's POV. So you might want to tighten down on that a bit.

As Matt says, second paragraph is quite good. You lose me a bit on the third. I don't quite get the marriage thing. And you hop POVs at the end of the query. If David's your guy, stick with him until the end.

Good luck!

Eliza Tilton said...

I got a littl confused in the first paragraph. Could it be whittled down to just a graduation ceremony on their school planet?

I found the first version a bit easier to understand in some areas ( like the first king portion) but this one is summarized much nicer.

In my novel, I have three different pov's. I did the query from the mc and stated at the end it was told from alternate pov's. You could do that to clarify

Karen Baldwin said...

I'm with the other commenters. (is that a word?)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Agree with the comments about a little confusion. And were there no marriages before? Who is the main character?

Mia Hayson said...

I love the comparisons at the end and the general premise! The only part that got me was what the ceremony/proposal was. I felt really close to understanding what it was but I just fell short. I feel like some more detail there would be fabs! :)


Al Diaz said...

Interesting. I had not clear whose POV was either. And I also wondered if there had not been any marriages before.

Slamdunk said...

I had to go back and read yesterday's initial post since I missed it. I do like the line about Jane Austen and 1984. I think that resonates with many potential readers, and motivates them to at least give it a look.

Patchi said...

Thanks everyone.

Matt, I prefer the previous third paragraph too. The opening paragraph is the one that drives me crazy.

The more details I put in, the more confused people seem to get...

Demia is based on Plato's Republic. There are no marriages and the kids at the Academy are brought up without the concept of family. They only learn who their parents are and which planet they came from at graduation (when they turn 18).

Part of me wants to start the query with that then move to the second paragraph that everyone loves...

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Interesting story, Patricia. The opening was a bit confusing to me. I'd rework that first sentence, concentrating on what I (said agent, publisher) will need to know. Focus on the NEED. It kind of felt like you left out a detail, something that makes this story unique. Other than that, Matt is spot on! Best of luck with this!!!

Patchi said...

Would this work or would I be shooting myself in the foot?

Demia is a planet dedicated to academic pursuits, colonized according to Plato's Republic. Children are sent to the Academy at the age of two, where they are raised without concepts like marriage and family. Only at 18 do they learn who their parents are.

When David, the top graduate from the Governance Program, notices the tiny tattoo hidden beneath his best friend's hair, he is convinced Catrine is next in line for a hereditary throne that should not exist on their school-planet. David is appalled by the discovery that a single family has been ruling Demia in secret since colonization. Demia is the center of knowledge in the galaxy. It is supposed to value merit, not birthright.

Then David discovers his parents are conspiring to crown him the first king of Demia by marrying him to Catrine. He is sure his leadership skills can be better employed bringing peace to the turmoil at the other end of the galaxy. He does not want to be part of a deceitful government, but can Demia prosper without him? And how long can he evade those who are determined to lure him home? Catrine might just be the bait he cannot resist.

THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, complete at 86,000 words, is science fiction with romantic elements. LEGACY has a literary bent and should appeal to those who wish Jane Austen had penned 1984.

mshatch said...

I think starting the query with David and Catrine is essential since they are the main characters. What I'd like to see is a little more about their individual characters in that first paragraph combined with the clarification Matt suggested. Character, conflict, and choice.

Unknown said...

I had trouble connecting the first paragraph to the next two

Steve MC said...

I had a few of the same issues. Like “their proposal defense” - I had no idea what it meant till later on in the paragraph. You could change it to “on the way to pitch their defense proposal.” Could also trim “they proposed.”

You could have a bit more lead-in with David's reaction, like this: "As he tries to uncover her secret, David is appalled…"

You could also trim "into a school-boy’s fantasy."

But yeah, it's getting better.

Finally, I had no idea what Plato's Republic meant until you mentioned it, and I like how Patchi incorporates it to set the scene.

Angela Brown said...

To Patchi - it looks like the revised version in the comments addresses much of the confusion experienced from the original version. I'm wondering if there is a way of weaving some of the information in so that you're introducing your characters: Something like, "As with other children, David and Catrine grew up on the planet Demia with no concepts of marriage of family, etc...

Just tossing out a suggestion. Hoping anything shared today helps you nab that dream agent :-)

KayC said...

The one POV in the second query above was much clearer to read, but like Angela, I'd like to see the situation on their planet explained as you introduce David. Perhaps something like "David has spent the last sixteen years at the Academy of Demia (& a brief explanation of what this entails - merit over birthright). Now he is about to graduate and discover who his parents are." Or something along that line - but in a better way!

Just another suggestion to add to the confusion. Good luck!