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Dec 24, 2010

Query Critique #4 - Spark

Spark by Darcy


Query:

Dear Ms. Agent:

Pretending her father’s disappearance hasn’t left a gaping hole is becoming as automatic as breathing to seventeen-year-old Ember Carroway, but breathing is about to get tougher than rawhide with the emergence of two magnetic love interests, and the revelation of her own mystical ancestry.

Should dodging cupid’s arrow become an Olympic sport, Ember gets the gold. That is, until mysterious newcomer Cade arrives, holding all the allure of a Krispy Kreme to a Weight Watchers disciple. Then there’s sexy, uncomplicated Kai, whose attention getting tactics range from mud wrestling to an accidental boob grab. All this pales in comparison to the shocking discovery that the two opposites share a common bond—they are Elementals.

Ironically, so is Ember. Which proved to be as surprising as her first period.

Elementals are humans of Nymphi descent possessing rare gifts to manipulate earthly elements. As Light Bearers, Ember and Kai have the ability to heal by channeling life energy, while Cade’s talents seem as ambiguous as his past. The trio must work together to stay alive and avoid eternal damnation from the hungry creatures that draw near. Ember may just have a shot “out” of hell if she can survive a murder of maniacal crows, an amnesia-inducing forest, and the ghastly Depascors bent on siphoning her life. The phrase “kiss of death” has never been so literal.

SPARK is a YA paranormal romance with dollops of humor completed at 85,000 words. This novel will appeal to those enjoying the imaginative, romantic, and often dangerous worlds of Melissa Marr and Becca Fitzpatrick.

I am a member of the RWA. I would be delighted to provide a full or partial manuscript upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Redline:

Dear Ms. Agent:, [This is a letter, you shouldn’t use a colon here.]

Pretending her father’s disappearance hasn’t left a gaping hole is becoming as automatic as breathing to seventeen-year-old Ember Carroway, but breathing is about to get tougher than rawhide with the emergence of two magnetic love interests, and the revelation of her own mystical ancestry. [This is a long sentence – you can ask anyone who knows my writing, I love using long sentences – but I think you should break it up a little. That being said, “a gaping hole” is a bit common and marginally vague in this use. Later on you talk about her dodging cupids arrow… perhaps you could say “hasn’t torn her heart in two” or something to that effect. I’m assuming that her father’s disappearance (which I read as abandonment) has been the reason that she’s standoffish about relationships. Also, I don’t like automatic, maybe you could use something synonymous that isn’t such a choppy word. I like the connotation you get with rawhide, but I think that “tougher than rawhide” is an awkward use. I don’t think of rawhide as tough, I think of it as hard (and slobbery when we’re talking about a dog treat) and I don’t get difficulty from rawhide… what if you changed it to something like “but breathing is about to get tougher than chewing through rawhide with the emergence…”?]

Should dodging cupid’s arrow become an Olympic sport, Ember gets the gold. [This sentence structure feels awkward to me. Mostly because you’ve got something that is hypothetical “should dodging… become … Olympic sport,” followed by something that does happen “Ember gets the gold.”This could be fixed by saying “Ember would get the gold.”] That is, until mysterious newcomer Cade arrives, holding all the allure of a Krispy Kreme to a Weight Watchers disciple. Then there’s sexy, uncomplicated Kai, whose attention getting tactics range from mud wrestling to an accidental boob grab. [uncomplicated, mud wrestling, and accidental boob grab, don’t really go together in my opinion. The latter two sound a little like complications to me.] All this pales in comparison [I’m not really getting the connection to the above things paling… I might change that to “She is shocked to discover…”] to the shocking discovery that the two opposites[See my notes for this] share a common bond—they are Elementals.

Ironically, so is Ember. Which proved to be as surprising as her first period. [Okay… this has a bit of an eew factor. Unless there was something remarkably surprising about her first period (which should be noted, if there is) I might find something else to put here.]

Elementals are humans of Nymphi descent possessing rare gifts to manipulate earthly elements. [This sentence seems like a disclaimer. If you feel this is really necessary, I’d reword it to sound less clinical, but if you’re okay with ditching it, I’d suggest doing that and simply starting the next sentence with, “As Light Bearer Elementals.] As Light Bearers, Ember and Kai have the ability to heal by channeling life energy, while Cade’s talents seem as ambiguous as his past. [See notes] The trio must work together to stay alive and avoid eternal damnation from the hungry creatures that draw near. [I don’t really get what pulls the three together or what is drawing these “hungry creatures.”] Ember may just have a shot “out” of hell [is she in hell? Wouldn’t that technically mean she’s dead? You might want to clarify this.] if she can survive a murder of maniacal crows [Are the crows being murdered? Are you suggesting that a group of crows is called a murder? Should this be “survive being murdered by maniacal crows?], an amnesia-inducing forest, and the ghastly Depascors bent on siphoning her life. [I have to say… with this sentence and the next, the Depascors seem a little like Dementors.] The phrase “kiss of death” has never been so literal.

SPARK is a YA paranormal romance with dollops of humor completed at 85,000 -words. This novel will appeal to those enjoying the imaginative, romantic, and often dangerous worlds of Melissa Marr and Becca Fitzpatrick. [I’d leave off the dollops of humor. Your query doesn’t really point to the mss being humorous, and I’d let the agent decide for themselves if they think it’s funny after they’ve requested a partial.]

I am a member of the RWA. I would be delighted to provide a full or partial manuscript upon request.

[I always suggest to make this its own, stand alone sentence.]Thank you for your time and consideration.

Notes:

The number one thing that I see as a problem with this query is that I have no real sense of plot. What is the conflict? Where does the story begin, what is the problem and how are they going to solve it? Those three questions need to be answered in order for this query to be clear.

The name, Ember, seems a little strange (in an earlier query you make it seem as though her mother knows... wouldnt she be a fire elemental with a name like this?) Also, Light is not technically an element. Just sayin'

“…the two opposites...” – in the paragraph this sentence ends, you give us a brief description of both Cade and Kai (each time I type/read these names together I go to Cobra Kai)… but there’s nothing in those descriptions that screams opposites to me. They’re Elementals… Give us a hint to their different traits in how they are… You say that Kai is a “Light Bearer,” is he also bright… comforting… extremely pasty? Cade’s ambiguous talent could be hinted at too (I’m going to pretend he’s a fire elemental for my purposes) does he have hot, passionate embrace that threatens to melt her? Is he hot headed? I could go on…

“the ability to heal by channeling life energy” – from this query I don’t understand how the ability to manipulate light is conducive to healing through channeling life energy. Perhaps you could explain that a little… or, you could leave that part out of the query and simply designate them as light bearers… since this ability isn’t brought up in the query again.

2 comments:

  1. Man Amy, you're pretty good. I'm going to be paying close attention to your blog next year, in the hopes of lending a hand. There is nothing that makes me happier than helping another writer out, and you seem to be pretty good at it.

    Merry Christmas!

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  2. Many thanks for the valuable insights Amy! I began working on my query the end of Nov. I found my first versions lacked voice and the secondary ones are perhaps too much world and not a clear definition of plot. I really believe your critique has helped me clarify and tighten the latest version. Critiques can be challenging, but if you can get over yourself, there's so much to be gained. New Year, new query:)

    Thanks again!

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