Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your "hook." I call the last line the "sinker." You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.

Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You'll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Seventeen-year-old Fiona Archer has always found sanctuary deep in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest. Until the day it's invaded by a psychotic woman who attacks her, and uses magic to invade her thoughts, leaving Fiona temporarily blind. I like the hook here we get a good sense of isolation and genre, and also being temporarily blind is an interesting concept. However, it also raises questions - temporarily blind as in, she was blind for a little bit but is better now? Or is she blind for the remainder of the story? I also think it's bit wordy - does the woman have to be "psychotic"? Also, if she uses magic to invade Fiona's thoughts and blinds her, I think you can take out the phrase "attacks her." That's kind of assumed. Overall the hook just needs some cleanup.

In the wake of the vicious attack if the attack is "vicious" we don't need the "psychotic" in the hook, also eliminating "attack" above will get rid of the echo here, her family reveals that they know the woman responsible – only, she's no ordinary woman. Phaedra's an evil Queen, with a personal vendetta of her own. If it's a personal vendetta, it's assumed it's "her own." Fiona's family are Guardians to an ancient and unique breed of beings: A warrior race who bear swirling tattoos upon their skin as marks of their courage and bravery. Okay, that's cool - but why in the world to warriors with swirling tattoos for bravery and courage need people to guard them?

And now Fiona's expected to protect them. But Fiona is no ordinary Guardian. We're assuming here that Fiona never knew her family had any magical elements? I'd consider putting this element into the hook - something like, "Fiona never knew her family wasn't normal, until blah blah blah." Obviously don't write that, but you get the picture.

With the powers of the elements at her fingertips, Fiona's abilities as a Guardian soon surpass anything her family has ever encountered. But these new powers come with a price, and Fiona's sacrifices won't matter if the ancient war spills into the human world. So what can Fiona actually do? The powers of the elements are at her fingertips - ok great, but what does that mean? She can cause forest fires and then make it rain to put them out? What's the price that these powers come with? What are the sacrifices she's making? Why would the war spill over into the human world anyway?

Now, she's caught in the middle of a war between Phaedra, who wants to use her as a weapon - and the handsome warrior who holds her heart, and a powerful secret of his own. How is she caught in the middle if she has no ties to Phaedra? When someone is "caught in the middle" I assume it's b/c they have loyalties on both sides. But here I assume she hates Phaedra, so how is she in the middle? The handsome warrior is coming out of nowhere here, and I need to know more about this powerful secret rather than use it as a teaser.

The concept is definitely here but I feel like the stage isn't totally clear. We start very woodsy and isolationist, and we touch on the elements being important, but we don't really know what this war is about or how it could spill over into the human world in the first place. Tell me more about what they're fighting for, and what our MC's powers are. Also, I'm really intrigued by the temporarily blind issue, but it's dropped like a hot potato. How long is she blind? What's that all about? Why did Phaedra want to invade her thoughts in the first place and why does that matter enough to put it into the hook?

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