Saturday, February 2, 2013

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.

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!

Influenced by comic book heroes, Jason Conner’s dream was to become a hero Echo here with "hero" I think you can safely cut "heroes" from "comic book heroes" and still get your point across and show the world mages can use their powers for good. But thanks to the International Mage Council (IMC) and their army called the White Knights, no dream is possible. I'm a little thrown here - you say that Jason is influenced by comic books, and he wants to become a hero, which automatically has me envisioning a contemporary setting, but it can't be with a Mage Council, or any kind of acceptance of mages at all With a growing anti-mage sentiment, hope for any future is lost. Jason didn’t want to give up hope "hope" echo, but his dream was completely shattered with the murder of his parents when he was just a boy. Why would the death of his parents when he was young shatter his hope- and which hope specifically? His hope to become a "good mage," or just hope / will to survive in general? Now 18 years old and with no hope "hope" echo again of a future, Jason’s only wish is justice for the death of his parents. No longer caring about his academics, Jason begins a life-changing quest to hunt down the murderers across England, taking the law into his own hands. But is it really justice? Hey look at that - here's your hook. But it's at the end of your para. Everything preceding this isn't hook-y enough. Dead parents, dreams dashed, a bad controlling power - that's all well and good, but nothing original. Here you've got it, he's going to get vigilante justice, which goes against hero qualities. Get this front and center.


Silent and reserved, 19 year old Gray Maelstrom, unnecessary comma only wants to live a quiet life of peace with his brother Jako and his lover Sarah. He always believed he could adapt to the IMC’s unfair treatment of mages. The last thing Gray wants is to join you need a "his" here or "a" deranged father’s crusade if it means helping the man who took him away from his mother when he was a boy. I had to read this sentence a few times to untangle it. It's convoluted But everything changes when the IMC strikes and Sarah is murdered by the White Knights. Unable to forgive the IMC, Gray’s grief morphs into a hunger for vengeance. Joining his father’s crusade against the humans, Ok wait - so mages and humans are different things entirely? I thought humans could be mages, also, I wasn't sure from the first reference to "father" if his crusade was for or against the IMC. Now I get that it's against, and also implied that all IMC members are humans, but I had to untangle all that Gray begins his quest to avenge the deaths of his loved ones, forgetting that his choices have consequences.

Set in modern day England, HEROES: VENDETTA is an 111,000 word character-driven science fiction and fantasy for YA. Emotional, dark, epic, and with a bit of teen humor, the story shows us how hatred consumes an individual, teaching us there is a line between justice and revenge. Great line here, could be used for a hook The world of X-Men meets the world of Final Fantasy. <-- not a complete sentence here.

It looks like there's some great stuff at work here, but I had to mine it out of the query, and that's not what you need a query to do. I think the line I marked in your last para there could have a lot of hook qualities about it, also the concept of choices having consequences. It sounds like the biggest question of the book is what these choices to pursue and eye for an eye mentality means for your characters, how it will change them as people in ways they probably don't want. But again, I had to mine that feeling out of the query while trying to get past some things I'm not understanding.

Biggest questions- are humans and mages two entirely different things? How do these two characters that you've mentioned above relate to each other? Without the obvious shared background, there could technically be two mini-queries up there. Do they end up working together? Tell us that. 

There's a possibility for great depth here but you need to get that front and center. The details that are being thrown out early on can be a turn off, but if you can hook them with a great concept, they'll want to keep reading to see the details of how it will be delivered.

3 comments:

T.J. said...

Great advice. My biggest issue was that it felt medieval, instead of set in contemporary England.

SeaShepherd said...

I've recently posted a second revision of my query on the AQ site. I've made plenty of changes and now have the right hook. ;)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Yep! I can definitely say that our Slasher for this week did a great job implementing the advice for something unique and well-meshed.