QueryDice #11.1

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours!

This query was previously Diced here.

Dear Ms. Ruth

Jaden might live in a small town, but she has everything, family, friends, love, and a set of wicked daggers. It’s all taken from her when men in camouflage cloaks burn her city in search of four children born the night of the Blood Moon.

I see what you’re trying to do here. You wanted to give us a sense of atmosphere–the small town–you wanted us to know Jaden was once very fortunate and now is not–the conflict–right from the get-go. You’ve accomplished this, but I’m still not pleased with this paragraph and here’s why:

For one thing, I don’t see what the daggers have to do with anything. For another, I know from the word “cloak” that this is fantasy, but I get no sense of world-building. I would have appreciated some mention of the fact that this is not the world we know, but instead some other, different world.

Jaden has heard of the four; they have the power to defeat the sorceress queen and save the dwindling race of Forest Folk.

In the last sentence above, I almost want to stop reading because I don’t know what the Forest Folk are, why they are important to anyone, much less to Jaden, why the sorceress queen needs to be defeated and what would happen if she was. This query needs deeper world-building.

Definitely not a destiny Jaden wants, but a destiny that’s hard to argue against when everyone she loves sacrifices themselves for her escape.

You’ve lost me. What destiny doesn’t Jaden want? From what is she escaping?

And even harder when she meets Logan, a man who claims to be her protector. She feels a strange connection to him which terrifies her, because his camouflage cloak is identical to those of the men who destroyed her life.

Logan has been protecting the four children of prophecy for the last eighteen years—by staying as far away from them as possible.  He doesn’t want the job, especially when it involves protecting the same four kids his wife is hunting.

How can he protect the children by staying as far away as possible?

He’ll fight. (Fight whom?) He’ll even die for his people. (Why would this be necessary?) But he won’t face that betrayer again.

What betrayer? His wife? Is she the sorceress queen?

Except, it’s never that easy. As the last remaining Protector, Logan alone can locate the four. But when he finds dagger wielding Jaden, his duty to protect becomes a harder task; she threatens to kill him because of his unique cloak. A cloak Logan’s wife would know how to duplicate.

It seems like you’ve meant the last sentence to be heavy-hitting and compelling, but it just confuses me. Are you saying his wife duplicated his cloak and then gave the duplicates out to men who are now hunting Jaden? Why would she do that? And why would he care if others had his cloak? Why is the cloak important at all?

I would reject this query because I still don’t have a firm handle on the motivations of the characters, and I still don’t completely understand the world, its limitations and its conflicts. I fear that this might continue through the manuscript.

[redacted] is a 105,000 word fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Posted on April 12, 2012, in Advice, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, slush pile and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’ve been given this same sort of advice with regards to world building in my MG fantasy query. But whenever I add little details about the world, I get told, “That’s nice world-building, but it’s not really relevant to the query.”

    The mixed messages are really confusing! Does anyone have any examples of queries with good world building, or know where I could learn to do it well?

  2. Lauren,

    Thank you for taking the time to go over my query letter. Feedback that shows my weakneses, while painful, really helps me to know where I need to focus improvement. I feel lucky to have had an agent give opinions on my query. Here’s to the rewrite.

    Thanks again for this opportunity.

  3. I really feel for you because I have struggled to get my 100k fantasy down to a one page query. I can’t say I’ve nailed mine but I do have some thoughts for you. I’d cut out what you don’t need- the small town reference and the bit about the cloaks and even the wife. I can tell it’s important to the story but its just too many issues, IMO, for the query. Use the space to explain what the Blood Moon is and that Jaden is one of the Forest Folk- (i’m assuming she is) And put the fact that logan is the only one who can locate the kids with the fact that he stay aways away together in one sentence to make that issue clearer. Hope that helps. I do like the story.

  4. I feel like this query would be stronger written in only one view point instead of two. As it is, this if from both Jaden and Logan’s view points. Keeping it in Jaden’s view point would seem less confusing and keep the query more coherent.

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