Query #5 October 2014


Below is the fifth public query critique I’m offering up on the blog. This will happen once a month (as long as I get a response). I choose one query per month. If your query is not selected one month, it will be in the drawing for the next month. Please do not resubmit unless you’ve made significant edits. To enter, see the rules here. If you want a guaranteed critique (plus line edit) of your query or synopsis, private ones cost $35 each.

My comments are in blue below. To read the original query first, simply read only the black text.

Dear –,

In Mithos, where white magic is fueled by purity and black magic by passion, True Love is known as the Intolerable Sin. So are all virgins magical? It’s the most unstable and dangerous source of magic in the world. The punishment is simple: a quick death.  This is a great premise. I’d include “by assassin” at the end of the last sentence, otherwise I might assume they are tried and/or executed.

Martia is a Love Child, the daughter of True Lovers.  How did her mother stay alive long enough for her to give birth? Did they assassinate the father, wait until the mother had her, and then assassinate her? You don’t have to answer all these questions in your query—they’re simply ones I’m asking. Raised within the walls of Siris Academy, she’s been taught to hate both True Love and herself. I’ll expect that this comes in later, that you’ll tell me somehow she’ll learn to accept or even love herself. If you suggest that your novel has the armature of theme and character development, don’t drop the ball. Now that she’s graduated, Martia is out in the real world, doing what the Academy trained her to do: assassinate those who’ve committed the Intolerable Sin before [the consequence of what happens if true lovers touch].

Then Martia meets Narin, the eldest son of Mithos’s empress. When their eyes meet, the world freezes—Narin is her True Love. I’d replace this cliche with more of an interaction, more of an emotional response. Make Martia active, not the passive recipient who things happen to. Martia refuses to fall under the lulling not sure why you chose this word here… spell of the Intolerable Sin. She knows a mere caress between True Lovers could send out a flare capable of eating through skin and bone. This should occur earlier. It’s the stakes, the consequence. I want to know it beforehand, so when you tell me that she’s found her True Love, I’m already going, “No! Either they’ll be killed or they’ll kill a bunch of people!” Make dramatic irony work for you. But Narin is convinced they can learn to control their wild new power. What convinces him? Why should we believe him? Why should she? Because of his kind words and gentle smiles, Martia starts believing she’s more than a brutal executioner. This doesn’t make sense to me. His actions shouldn’t affect her identity. Her reactions to his actions should affect her identity. Make her an active heroine. After the Academy discovers her crime, I want details of when the crime occurs. Show me that it’s happened in the query. her choice must be made—kill Narin as she was trained to do  It’s not that—it’s ignoring her feelings and assassinating her true love to cover up her “sin”, or give into the black magic,  again, I want to see that there could be at least some hope of survival here. betraying her past and risking her future.  Not only her own future, but the future of everyone, right? It’s not just suicide, it’s a mass murder suicide. Someone who is even considering that doesn’t seem like a sympathetic character, unless we’re given a real reason to believe it can work.

Complete at 90,000 words, [TITLE] is a stand-alone romantic fantasy with series potential. It may appeal to adults who enjoyed the intricate world found in POISON STUDY and the forbidden love in DELIRIUM while they were teens. The [however many pages the agent’s sub guidelines require] have been included in the body of this email. Thank you for your time and consideration. Might include author names of your comp titles.

This premise is fresh and intriguing, but the second paragraph needs to hint at the stakes (the consequences), and the third paragraph needs to be edited for precision. This query is very close to being irresistible.

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