Query Critique Winner

Monday, February 9, 2015

Congrats to Amber, who was lucky #8 this time around!

Dear Ms. Pestritto, Hell shouldn’t terrify a demon, but Jay Adams can’t think of a worse fate. Life in a sweltering abyss is enough to drive anyone insane. But, unless he can tempt a final human to sin, Hell is exactly where he will end up. Manipulating one girl shouldn’t be a problem but things aren’t as simple as he expects. His assignment, Devon, wants nothing to do with him. She has more important things to deal with – like graduating high school and getting away from her alcoholic father. But the harder Jay tries to get close to her, the more his feelings grow. Loving his assignment can’t end well. Not when it means dragging her down a path to damnation. When Jay fails to complete the mission, Hell doesn’t just come for him. They want Devon, too. By telling her the truth about demons, Jay unknowingly played into his boss’s hands. Devon wasn’t assigned by chance and, now that she’s a liability, Jay’s boss has the justification needed for revenge. Jay is left facing the hardest decision imaginable. He can stay and protect the girl he loves, or run and save himself. At 85,000 words, DARKNESS WHISPERED is a YA Fantasy with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely,Amber Riley

And here is my critique:

Dear Ms. Pestritto, 
An eternity in Hell shouldn’t terrify a demon, but Jay Adams can’t think of a worse fate. [Does this mean Jay is a demon?  Or he can't imagine a worse fate for demons?] Life in a sweltering abyss is enough to drive anyone insane. [The idea of sweating eternally doesn't make me think "road to insanity."  Can you put a better depiction of the agonies of Hell here?] But, unless he can tempt a final human to sin, [What do you mean "final"?] Hell is exactly where he will end up. [So he's not in Hell yet?] 
Manipulating one girl shouldn’t be a problem but things aren’t as simple as he expects. His assignment, Devon, wants nothing to do with him isn’t so easily lead astray. She has more important things to deal with – like graduating high school and getting away from her alcoholic father. But the harder Jay tries to get close to her, the more his feelings grow. [I’m a little confused about what Jay is doing here.  Is he posing as a human and going to Devon’s high school?  Is he invading her dreams?  Let us know more about the plot here.] Loving his assignment can’t end well. Not when it means dragging her down a path to damnation. 
When Jay fails to complete the mission tempt Devon, Hell doesn’t just come for to punish him. They want Devon, too. By telling her the truth about demons, [When did he do this?] Jay unknowingly played into his boss’s [i.e. the Devil?] hands. Devon wasn’t assigned to Jay by chance and, now that she’s a liability [How is she a liability and what about her is so special to Hell?], Jay’s boss has the justification needed for revenge [Revenge on whom?]. Jay is left facing the hardest decision imaginable.: He can stay and protect the girl he loves, or run and save himself. 
At 85,000 words, DARKNESS WHISPERED is a YA Fantasy with series potential. 
Thank you for your time and consideration. 
Sincerely,
Amber Riley

This is a good start, but there were a lot of things about this query that left me confused.  There are  holes in the way the story is shared, and I was left uncertain as to what this is about.  There are some intriguing ideas here, but overall, this pitch isn't accurately getting the heart of DARKNESS WHISPERED across.  Clarify who Jay is and his role as a demon, as well as what happens when he is sent to make Devon sin.  We also need to have a better idea of what is at stake here: why is Devon special to Hell and what unleashed on the two of them once Jay fails his mission?

What are your thoughts, everyone?  Do you have any suggestions or comments to help Amber with her query?  I think she may really benefit from your thoughts, since I will be the first to admit that heavy sci-fi/fantasy is not my area of expertise!

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for your suggestion and thoughts.

    Perhaps explaining how Jay came to have such an unusual (for a demon) dislike of hell would help the reader better understand his character and predicament.

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  2. Without reading Carrie's comments annotated version:

    First, you must put in paragraph breaks (maybe it was lost in translate?). Reading it as a block of text made me feel out of breath and discombobulated. There were some issues with flow and I'm not certain if it's because of the actual wording or the formatting--it felt either like there were a few things missing, or out of order.

    I also think you need to look at your sentence structure a little. They seemed a little choppy, and there are definitely some places where you can join two together and improve the way it reads. Good luck!

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    Replies
    1. The non-spacing in the original query is my fault...or rather, my computer's. I was able to separate the paragraphs in my critique but not in the original query--I have no idea why!!

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  3. I like how Devon has problems and goals of her own. Sometimes the heroines in romantic fantasy books have a tendency to seem like they are just waiting to fall in love, but that isn't the case here. I agree that we need to know more about Jay though. But the fact that we all have questions about him shows that he's intriguing!

    I am assuming his boss is the devil? If so, does that perhaps complicate their relationship past an employer/employee one? Maybe you could use a different word at least one of the times.

    When you are smoothing out some of the sentences, I would look at the last one: "He can stay and protect the girl he loves, or run and save himself." I think the reader can put together the two choices from reading the rest of the query, so the way this is phrased feels a little obvious and you may be able to reword it to be more gripping.

    Sounds like an interesting story! Best of luck with it.

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