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Public Critique: POSSESSED Query II

Hello everyone! Sara has rewritten her query based on your fabulous comments. Please give the rewrite a look and offer any further advice or constructive criticism you may have. If you're interested in having a query, synopsis, or excerpt posted on Lit Rambles for critique, check out my contribute page.

POSSESSED
(query)
Supernatural Thriller
By Sara Kjeldsen

Dear Agent,

Nineteen year-old Gabriel awakens in a bright room. Only moments ago he was trapped in a haunted forest. Or so he thinks. Two people in long, white coats unstrap him from a reclined chair. They tell him that he volunteered at the White Horizon Research Facility for a classified psychological study two weeks ago. The reality that he had known before was only a product of radiation, electrodes, and drugs.

He is not supposed to remember who he is or what he has done. The experiment is a failure. His memory of the real world returns along with the angry voices that have plagued him for five years. He knows what they want with him. He is a murderer.

One of the other volunteers - Gabriel`s cousin, Adeline - suddenly goes crazy and escapes the facility in a violent rage. Gabriel and two of the other particpants overhear the doctors debating on whether or not to euthanize the rest of them. Gabriel, Julia, and Caleb barely escape. To make matters worse, Adeline will not rest until she kills all three of them. Wherever they go, she finds them.

Gabriel will have to find a way to keep himself - and his new friends - alive without reverting back to murderous ways.

Possessed is a young adult supernatural thriller with a final word count of 56,000 words.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work.

Sincerely,

Sara Flower Kjeldsen

11 comments:

  1. This is a lot different than your previous version. The beginning I remember from before had quite a hook. Yes the first part needed cleaned up, but there was a powerful statement right up front. This version is very slow to get started and the beginning is all set up. The third paragraph has some of the conflict and tension.

    I’m sorry, but this one has me yawning and I know you can do much better given what you offered before. Maybe take the excitement of the first version and the clarity of this one and mash them together.

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  2. I'd take out the word "on" before debating.

    I haven't read your previous query (from the other commenter, I'm assuming one was posted on this blog)but, the way this query reads, I'm a little confused about the whole situation.

    "the reality that he had known before" are you talking about being trapped in the haunted forest? What does being trapped in the haunted forest have to do with the plot?

    I can see the elements of what could be an interesting story. Based on what's here, I'm a little confused as to what the story is about.

    The mentioning of Julia and Caleb seems useless. We haven't heard of them before. In order for me to want to read the book, I have to feel emotionally invested in one of the characters listed in this query, and I don't. Not yet. You spend a lot of time explaining Gabriel's experience of waking up in the research facility (more than a third of the query is dedicated to this). You can cut it down to a sentence or two. Spend the rest of your valuable query space for making us care about Gabriel. What are the high stakes? What is he going to lose? I like the idea of the doctors debating whether or not to euthanize the rest---WHY is Gabriels cousin involved to begin with?

    This doesn't quite flow yet. Oh yeah, "murderous ways"---I'd scratch that. It sounds clunky.

    Good start:) I think you can make it even better. I hope this is a little helpful.

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  3. It's so hard to know what to put in a query. One person told me that the hook didn't start for her until Gabriel woke up in the lab - while others are hooked by the historical back story. I think I will mash the old and new queries together and hopefully come up with something query-able.

    Thanks for the comments. :)

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  4. Yeah, I totally feel for you. I've been working on my query letter for the last couple months. I'm still not satisfied, but I have faith the time will come when I know it's perfect.

    The same will happen for you:-) It just takes a lot of time and probably distance. Once you can look at your book more objectively, the query will come a little easier. I'm hoping that for myself, anyway.

    Good luck.

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  5. Thank you. You, too!

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  6. Sara, it looks to me like you have a particularly tricky ms to write a query for, as it appears you are playing with a few layers of reality.

    What really stands out to me here is the fact you immediately burrow into the weeds of your story, so to speak. We wind up with micro glimpses of your manuscript, instead of a macro understanding of your story as a whole.

    On a more detailed level, I picked out a couple of sentences that worry me:

    They tell him that he volunteered at the White Horizon Research Facility for a classified psychological study two weeks ago.

    "They tell him that he..." is very clunky and unnecessarily long. I'd really try to get into the habit of cutting excess and simplfifying your language as much as possible.

    He knows what they want with him. He is a murderer.

    There's a logical leap you're making here without taking me with you. I understand that murderers might be interesting to scientists in general, but saying that he is a murderer does not explain what they want with him. Do they want to cut open his brain? Use him to murder more people? I don't know. I think part of the trick of a query is staying up and above the weeds, giving us an overview of the geography, but then diving down to grab a detail that will illustrate the flavor of your ms. The reason why these scientists want a murderer could make for a flavorful detail.

    One of the other volunteers - Gabriel`s cousin, Adeline - suddenly goes crazy and escapes the facility in a violent rage.

    Suddenly goes crazy? There has to be a more enticing and sophisticated way to describe what happened.

    Overall, I still think you have a cool, compelling - and unfortunately complicated - concept here. Don't get me wrong - if that complicated concept is well executed in your ms, than that's great, but it definitely makes it more difficult to write a query letter, imo.

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  7. Hi! I didn't read the first run-through, but this is intriguing. I think it could be summarized a bit more. I read somewhere (from an agent) that the best thing to do is not mention any secondary characters, at least by name. They want to focus on the main character and not have to remember other people. Focus on the feel of the book.

    Anyway, this great for me to read. I am at the query stage also. YIKES!

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  8. Here's my suggestion:

    Nineteen year-old Gabriel is not supposed to remember who he is or what he has done. However, the White Horizon Research Facility experiment fails and his memory of the real world returns. Along with the angry voices of those that he killed five years ago while fighting in the Napoleonic War.

    Everything Gabriel thought was real turns out to be a product of radiation, electrodes, and drugs – including his identity. He is not a soldier. He is a cold blooded murderer. He and two of the other participants overhear the doctors debating on whether or not to euthanize them. They escape, but so does Gabriel’s cousin, Adeline, and she wants them all dead.

    Gabriel will have to find a way to keep himself - and his new friends - alive without reverting back to murderous ways.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you all for the helpful comments and Sarah, thank you for the suggestion. :) It is a huge help to me!

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  10. I'm late to this, and I don't remember reading your previous version, but I just wanted to check in and offer my support. This version does feel too flat and synopsis-y for a query, and that is something to watch out for. You've gotten some great suggestions, though, and I know you'll be able to work through this. Query-writing is tough.

    Good luck!

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