1. RVS
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    RVS New Member

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    Query Letter THE BATTLE FOR EREMUS (YA Fantasy/Adventure) - Any comments greatly appreciated

    Discussion in 'Query & Cover Letter Critique' started by RVS, Jul 2, 2016.

    This is not my first draft of my query letter. I've been working with members at AgentQuery Connect (A great forum with great people) to fix up my original letter. Here is my latest draft:

    -

    Hello Agent XYZ,

    The civil war that rages in the kingdom of Arisia never affected Hunter Ashdown. All he wants in life is to explore the land, free from the memories of his dead mother and his missing father.

    Hunter didn't realize he had the gift of magic until an agent of the rebellion nearly killed his sister. The leader of the revolution, Maelstrom, had sent the agent to bring Hunter and his rare magic to his side of the war, but had injured Hunter's sister in the process.

    Hunter quickly comes to realize that Maelstrom will stop at nothing to convert Hunter to his side, including hurting his family. Not wishing to endanger his family further, he leaves his town, accompanied by a gruff war veteran named Aaron.

    Aaron is convinced that Hunter’s skill with light magic can aid the kingdom in its plight against Maelstrom. He trains Hunter in the art of magic, helping him become stronger as a magician. Hunter makes good use of this training, evading Maelstrom’s attempts to capture him. Aaron guides Hunter to the desert fief of Eremus, where the kingdom prepares for a potential onslaught by Maelstrom’s forces.

    Until then, Hunter has been fighting to protect himself. Now, it isn’t just his life on the line, but the lives of thousands of soldiers desperate to hold onto their homeland. Hunter soon finds himself in the thick of fighting, using his abilities with light to heal injured allies and disorient enemy soldiers. Despite these efforts, the battle takes a sharp downturn for Eremus’ defenders. Hunter questions his heroism as Aaron suggests a daring plan, one that could mean victory for Eremus, but would mean almost certain death for Hunter and those he loves.

    I read on AgentQuery that you are very interested in fantasy novels, especially those with well-developed characters. (Example sentence that reflect agent’s interests) The Battle for Eremus is an 110,000 word (don’t worry, it will be cut down in the coming weeks) standalone novel with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration!

    -

    Any comments whatsover are very welcome to this post. The more input I get, the better my query could shape up. Thanks again to anyone reading this. I'll be sure to critique others' query letters as well.

    :)
     
  2. FireWater
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    FireWater Active Member

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    I've read that query letters should have a powerful first sentence. Of course you don't want to get long-winded and create a run-on, but it's better to convey as much as possible in sentence #1 about who the MC is, their stakes, who they are, how they might be affected by things, etc.

    Something like: "Hunter Ashdown, an orphaned young man unaware of his gift of magic, just wants to explore his homeland of Arisia to escape his grief, while remaining unaffected by the civil war raging through the land."

    You can definitely word it much better than I did, but you see what I mean.
     
  3. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Welcome to the forums. :) Query letter writing is actual hell, so my thoughts are with you!

    Unfortunately, I think this one is a scrap and re-do. It has too many irrelevant details and not enough relevant details. It mentions too many characters. Most crucial of all, your protagonist comes off totally passive and I have no desire to "meet" him by reading your pages.

    A breakdown:

    The civil war that rages in the kingdom of Arisia never affected Hunter Ashdown.

    I'm afraid this is a weak opening. You don't want to start with your protagonist being passive, which is what Hunter is here. Tell us what DOES affect him, not what doesn't.

    All he wants in life is to explore the land, free from the memories of his dead mother and his missing father.
    Again, this doesn't paint him in a great light. He sounds aimless, wandering around all day trying to ignore what's happened to him. And since his parents are never mentioned again, they don't need to be in the query.

    Hunter didn't realize he had the gift of magic until an agent of the rebellion nearly killed his sister.
    Okay, HERE'S your start! However, too vague: tell us what exactly his gift is (what magic can he perform?), what the rebels are rebelling against, and why they wanted to kill his sister.

    Queries should be in present tense as much as possible. "Hunter doesn't realise he has the gift of magic until an agent of the rebellion nearly kills his sister."

    The leader of the revolution, Maelstrom, had sent the agent to bring Hunter and his rare magic to his side of the war, but had injured Hunter's sister in the process.
    (Side note: How attached are you to the name Maelstrom? I think it might cause a few rolled eyes among agents...)
    So the sister is just a side effect of the agent coming for Hunter? Cut her out of the query then; she doesn't need to be there. Just tell us agents of the rebellion are hunting Hunter for his magical gift.

    Hunter quickly comes to realize that Maelstrom will stop at nothing to convert Hunter to his side, including hurting his family. Not wishing to endanger his family further, he leaves his town, accompanied by a gruff war veteran named Aaron.
    Hunter hasn't done anything active yet. Someone else reveals his magical gift and now someone else drives him out of town. I hope he's more active in the novel, but even if he's not you need to make him sound more like a hero in this query.

    Where does Aaron come from? Why is he accompanying Hunter? Is he on Hunter's side or Maelstrom's side? Does he even need to be in the query? You've already mentioned five characters (Hunter, his sister, Maelstrom, the agent, Aaron) and that's two too many for a query.

    Aaron is convinced that Hunter’s skill with light magic can aid the kingdom in its plight against Maelstrom. He trains Hunter in the art of magic, helping him become stronger as a magician. Hunter makes good use of this training, evading Maelstrom’s attempts to capture him. Aaron guides Hunter to the desert fief of Eremus, where the kingdom prepares for a potential onslaught by Maelstrom’s forces.
    So where has the agent gone? Now it's just Hunter and Aaron?

    I assume you mean light magic as in the opposite of dark magic? My first interpretation was light as in the opposite of strong.

    Hunter didn't care about the civil war at the beginning of the query and now he's walking into a battle. Why does he suddenly care? Okay, he wants to evade Maelstrom, but isn't the best way to do that to lie low and wait for the war to be over?

    Until then, Hunter has been fighting to protect himself. Now, it isn’t just his life on the line, but the lives of thousands of soldiers desperate to hold onto their homeland. Hunter soon finds himself in the thick of fighting, using his abilities with light to heal injured allies and disorient enemy soldiers. Despite these efforts, the battle takes a sharp downturn for Eremus’ defenders. Hunter questions his heroism as Aaron suggests a daring plan, one that could mean victory for Eremus, but would mean almost certain death for Hunter and those he loves.
    Again, why does Hunter suddenly care about these strangers?

    A protagonist shouldn't "find himself" anywhere: he should make things happen. He's still passive.

    Potential death isn't a good enough stake. I know it seems like the ultimate stake but agents see soooo many queries that end in this kind of choice that it's lost all impact.

    I read on AgentQuery that you are very interested in fantasy novels, especially those with well-developed characters. (Example sentence that reflect agent’s interests)
    Don't take your information from AgentQuery; take it from the agent's website, which may be more up to date. And don't mention AgentQuery in your query.

    Obviously you can take or leave as much of my critique as you like, but my advice for your next draft is:
    • Cut down the number of characters. No more than three should be mentioned by name: protagonist, antagonist, sidekick/love interest. That's all. Only a couple more can be mentioned in passing (e.g. parents, sister, the agent).
    • Clearly explain the main conflict of the novel. Right now I have no idea what the core conflict is.
    • Clearly explain the stakes, which shouldn't be "Hunter could die."
    • Give me a reason to care about Hunter.
    • Make Hunter active from start to finish, so things happen BECAUSE of him instead of TO him.
     
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  4. RVS
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    RVS New Member

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    • I'll take your advice. I'm not really attached to the name Maelstrom, in fact, I've been trying to think up a more suitable name. That'll be fixed. In addition, I'll make sure things are in the active voice.
    • However, I've found that many others like my opening statement. I'll change it to active voice, but I think I'll keep the sentence's content the same.
    • I'll also explain the type of magic he can perform.
    • Good idea not to mention AgentQuery; I'll fix that.
    • I'll think up some ways to make the stakes different. I realize what you are saying about potential death being weak.
    • I'm not sure I should cut down on the number of characters. His sister is important, for Hunter's concern for her protection is what caused him to flee. Should I just condense his mother and father into one entity? (ie parents). I feel like the line will lose some of its impact if I do so.
    • I have a question, though. How would I make it so you (or any other reader) would care about Hunter? Should I include some character traits? Or are you looking for specific plot events to make you care?
    Thanks
     
  5. RVS
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    RVS New Member

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    Ok, I see. It's just that I wanted to keep it short and simple rather than putting too much in that opening sentence. I'll fit some more details in there.
     
  6. Lady Mars
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    Lady Mars New Member

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    Your letter sparked a desire in me to read your novel! That's great! However I do agree that the fist sentence could be a little bit more conclusive as to who exactly this protagonist is.
     
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  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's already in active voice. :)

    That will only make a negligible difference - there will still be far too many characters mentioned.

    Making him active will fix that; readers like protagonists who do things. But yes, it'd also be good to get a sense of his personality.
     
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  8. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree that this could be boiled down into something more intense.

    Look for opportunities to pack a lot of information into a single sentence - like, "The leader of the revolution, Maelstrom, had sent the agent to bring Hunter and his rare magic to his side of the war, but had injured Hunter's sister in the process." and "Aaron is convinced that Hunter’s skill with light magic can aid the kingdom in its plight against Maelstrom." could be combined into some version of "Both sides want to use Hunter's rare light magic to further their goals, and don't care who gets hurt in the process." or something similar.

    I'm not sure whether your note in the final paragraph about cutting down the length is just for us, or is for the agent, but if it's for the agent? No. Don't send the letter until you're done working on the story. (The more I think about it, the more I think the note was just for us.)
     
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  9. RVS
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    RVS New Member

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    Yeah, the message of cutting down the length was just for forum readers.

    I'll try to make these sentences more intense. The only thing I'm worried about is making cluttered sentences that basically turn an agent off. I'll see what I can do.

    Ok, will do. I'll try to add some more in there.
     
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  10. Tusitala
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    Tusitala Member

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    "I have a question, though. How would I make it so you (or any other reader) would care about Hunter? Should I include some character traits? Or are you looking for specific plot events to make you care?"

    Like other commenters have mentioned, making Hunter more active will help. Specific plot events are great, but we don't care what happens to him as much as we care what he does about it.

    Luckily, there's an easy way to kill two birds with one stone--include the specific plot events that give us a glimpse of his character. What choices does Hunter make? What does he DO that makes him special/unique/likable?

    I'm going to use Hunger Games as a quick example. If you say "Katniss Everdeen must fight in the Hunger Games," then it summarizes the book, but doesn't tell us anything about the character. But if you say "Katniss Everdeen takes her sister's place in the Hunger Games," then we not only see that she's an active character, but we also get a better idea of who she is and what she cares about (which makes us care about her more).

    Another example: "After his aunt and uncle are killed, Luke Skywalker finds himself on a mission to aid the rebels". That describes the plot, but doesn't tell us anything about Luke. Or you could say, "After his aunt and uncle are killed by the oppressive Galactic Empire, Luke Skywalker joins the Rebel Alliance on a mission to cripple the oppressive regime". That tells us much more about Luke's motives and goals, making him more interesting and giving the story direction.

    You already have a few moments in the plot that I think you could focus on to help provide more insight into Hunter's character--like him deciding not to join Maelstrom, him deciding to leave home to protect his family, or him deciding to join the fight in Eremus. Focusing a little more on his choices/goals and less on the events that happen to him might make us like Hunter more AND consolidate your plot.
     
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  11. RVS
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    RVS New Member

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    Thanks all for the helpful comments! Here is my latest update (I do hope it's better):

    -

    Hello Agent XYZ,

    THE BATTLE FOR EREMUS is an 110,000 word YA Fantasy novel similar to (a book that this agent has sponsored).

    The distant civil war that rages in the kingdom of Arisia never affected Hunter Ashdown. All he wants in life is to explore the land, free from the memories of his dead mother and his missing father. Hunter didn't realize he had the gift of magic until Maelstrom, the leader of the rebellion, attempts to capture him. Hunter quickly comes to realize that Maelstrom will stop at nothing to convert Hunter to his side, including hurting his remaining family, and so he flees his town. While on the road, Hunter trains in the art of magic, fighting off Maelstrom’s attempts to capture him. Hunter believes that his particular form of magic, light magic, can aid the kingdom in its plight against Maelstrom. Hunter journeys to the desert fief of Eremus, where the kingdom has been preparing for a potential onslaught by Maelstrom’s forces. Hunter finds purpose as he realizes he and his magic may be the key to Eremus’ victory. Until then, Hunter has been fighting to protect himself from Maelstrom. Now, it isn’t just his life on the line, but the lives of thousands of soldiers desperate to hold onto their homeland. Hunter soon finds himself in the thick of fighting, using his abilities with light to heal injured allies and disorient enemy soldiers. Despite these efforts, the battle takes a sharp downturn for Eremus’ defenders. Hunter questions his heroism as a daring plan is implemented: one that could mean victory for Eremus, but would test the limits of his morality.

    I read on your agency’s website, (name of site), that you are very interested in fantasy novels, especially those with well-developed characters. (Example sentence that reflect agent’s interests) THE BATTLE FOR EREMUS is a standalone novel with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration!

    -

    I realize Maelstrom is a pretty sucky moniker for the antagonist. If anyone could help me come up with a better name, I'd be very thankful. As usual, any comments at all are very helpful.



    Thanks!
     
  12. RVS
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    RVS New Member

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    Here's another draft:

    -

    Hello Agent XYZ,

    I am seeking representation for THE BATTLE FOR EREMUS, an 110,000 word YA Fantasy novel similar to (a book that this agent has sponsored).

    16-year old Hunter Ashdown, an orphaned teenager with an insatiable curiosity, was never affected by the Arisian civil war. This changes when Maelstrom, the leader of the rebellion, attempts to capture him. Maelstrom knows that Hunter is of a lineage of powerful magicians, though Hunter is unaware of the fact. Maelstrom will stop at nothing to convert Hunter to his side, including hurting his remaining family, and so Hunter flees his town. While on the road, he accidently discovers that he is adept in light magic, and wields it to fight off Maelstrom’s minions. He believes that with this power, he can aid the kingdom in its plight against Maelstrom.

    Hunter journeys to Eremus, an Arisian desert fief under siege by Maelstrom’s forces. He aims to cripple Maelstrom from ever taking control of Arisia, for he experienced the horrors Maelstrom can cause. Even as he fights bravely, the battle takes a sharp downturn for Eremus’ defenders. Hunter questions his heroism as a daring plan is implemented, one that can take out the bulk of Maelstrom’s forces at once. If he can learn to control his magic, he may be able to save Eremus and its people. If he cannot, the kingdom will fall.

    THE BATTLE FOR EREMUS is a standalone novel with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration!

    -

    Thanks for any input guys!
     
  13. Infel
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    Infel Active Member

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    "The civil war that rages in the kingdom of Arisia never affected Hunter Ashdown. All he wants in life is to explore the land, free from the memories of his dead mother and his missing father."

    I like this opening. Others might disagree, but I think it's strong. It tells me that there's a problem, but that Hunter has never had to worry or care about it. It tells me that conflict is all around, but the MC is unaware or unwilling to knowledge it. The second line tells me, as others have mentioned, that he's aloof, inactive, and stagnant. That's not a bad thing, from where I'm standing.

    But it's a bad thing if it stays that way. In the very next paragraph, I want to read about how Hunter is forced to care. I want to see him react to his sister almost being killed. I want to see a conflict that was previously unimportant to this kid become the most important event of his life. And I want you to show me, not tell me.

    What you have right now is a description of events; that's boring. You have names that aren't important and places that I can learn about in the book, later. If this is a query letter, the only thing that matters is enticing the agent to ask for pages. You don't have to tell me the whole story. Does Hunter even want to save Eremus? Does he care about the people? Why? What has made him change from not being affected by the civil war to suddenly wanting to fight in it? Those are the kinds of emotions I'd like to see. From that first line, I know Hunter is a kid who seems like he'd rather forget. If you want me to read this book--or represent it if I were an agent--I'd like to see why it's worth following Hunter on his journey.
     

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