QueryDice #52: Attack of the Cliche
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.
Dear Ms. Ruth,
For sixteen-year-old Brynn Hartwel prophetic dreams are like living in Cloverdale, painful, annoying and there is no way to get around it. <– This is a personal preference, but this first sentence is a huge turn-off for me. It’s not that the content of the sentence is problematic–because it’s actually interesting–but rather the technical errors tell me this manuscript must be a complete mess if even 250 of this author’s words can’t step in line.
They started when she was six, got worse after her father’s death and became a secret when her mother forced a psychiatrist on her. Now with Junior year on the horizon Brynn knows she is two years closer to escaping Cloverdale and hopefully leaving all traces of her dreams behind. <–why would leaving Cloverdale put an end to the dreams? Leaving out important bits of information like this just make me think the manuscript has plot holes.
Then all hell breaks loose. <–this is a cliche. For the record, I would stop reading right around here. I was already on the fence with the missing commas, but this pushed me over.
Her ex-best friend is found murdered and due to another one of her prophetic dreams, Brynn knows she’s next. At this point, I’m wondering what is special about this story. We’ve all heard the story of the teenager with paranormal abilities whose friend got murdered and now she’s next…what makes your story better than all the other stories just like it? But the killer isn’t your average, small town sociopath. He’s part of an ancient society of demigods, has gone rogue and is wickedly determined on seeing Brynn dead. Okay. As if on cue, you answer my question: a wicked demigod. That’s kind of cool, except you left out some really important bits of information: why would he want Brynn dead, and why has he waited so long?
But he isn’t her biggest problem. Griffin is. With his pouty lips and devilish charm, Brynn is suddenly fates fiercest opponent and will do anything to stay alive. Wait, wait. Are you telling me a love interest is more problematic for Brynn than a sociopathic demigod whose only goal (that we know of) is to kill her? I don’t buy it, and now I don’t like your main character because she seems to have her priorities in a woeful mess. Lucky for her Griffin has a secret of his own and everything from Brynn’s dreams to her father’s death is connected to Griffin and The Society of The Devine. A society created of demigods, a society created to rule man in secrecy and a society in which Brynn had been purposely hidden from till now. The staccato-style of these sentences is dramatic, but what they contain is anticlimactic for me. Since I don’t know anything about Brynn that is very specific to her and is rooted in my own world, and because of the aforementioned priority crisis, I don’t like her one bit. The world in this query is not unique enough to make me sit up straighter. This needs some salt.
Brynn was born a Devine oracle just like her father. But he refused to have her torn from her family to live a life dedicated to The Society so he made a deal with The Devine to hide her true identity.
All of the information in the last two paragraphs except for Griffin’s name, his status as a love interest and his pouty lips and devilish charm is unnecessary and confuses the plot.
But nothing stays hidden forever. A rival group of demigods is after her and she must put her faith in three young Devine warriors sent to protect her.
As the secrets, lies and betrayals pile up no one is safe and not even a Devine oracle could predict that the true threat to The Society is the one person they are trying to protect, Brynn.
The last few sentences here are very confusing. I would reject this query letter on that alone. Author, the best thing you can do for this query letter is to start over: tell us the following things:
1. Who is your character? What makes her different from everybody else in the world, aside from her paranormal ability.
2. What does she want? If she wants nothing and life is grand for her, what throws a wrench in that?
3. What is in her way?
4. How does she set about circumventing that?
5. What is the single element of your book’s world that makes it different from Earth?
And tell it to us in fewer than 250 words.
[redacted] is a young adult, paranormal romance novel complete at 100,000 words.
Thank you for your time.
While this query letter needs some serious work, don’t get discouraged. We all have to start somewhere, and this is yours. Save it. Because when you write something better, the improvement you see will be your reward for your hard work. Best of luck, author, and if you re-write, let us see!
Posted on June 26, 2013, in Advice, book publishing, conflict, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, rejection, slush pile, submissions, voice, writers, YA and tagged characterization, cliche in query, conflict development query letter, conflict in ya, dos and donts, how to write a query letter, Lauren Ruth, making your query interesting, making your query stand out, queries, query, query example, querydice, slush pile, standard query format, voice in ya, writing, ya, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on QueryDice #52: Attack of the Cliche.