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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Query Workshop 26-The Curiosity

Title - The Curiosity
Genre - Horror (historic)



Revision 1

Dear Unicorn Bell,
Anthropology Professor Duncan Clarke discovers, inside an antique journal, a drawing of an emaciated child with terrified eyes. Intrigued, Duncan becomes determined to unveil the identity of the strange child.

Soon, Duncan realizes he's on the verge of an anthropological breakthrough; the child is an alleged 19th century Haitian Voodoo Zombie. Now Duncan must authentic the findings before he reaps the rewards.

However, unlike his usual research, this case challenges everything he thought he understood about science, the human body and the depravity to which a desperate man would sink.

Sucked into a dark world, Duncan begins to change from a conventional professor to one who would risk his family, his job and even break the law to find out the truth of the past.

Finally, when faced with the horrific truth, will Duncan's choices lead him to scientific glory or inextricable hell?

The Curiosity is a 110,000 word historic horror frame story that takes place in both 1865 London and 1990 England as Duncan Clarke brings into his day a macabre tale from the past. It can stand alone but I am exploring the concept of a sequel or two, as the conclusion of the story easily lends itself well to that.

Original
Dear Unicorn Bell,

Professor Duncan Clarke, head of the anthropology department at England's Cambridge University is looking forward to a restful two-week sabbatical when on his way home he stops at a private residence to pick up a donation of strange artifacts and journals for his department.

When a disturbing drawing of an emaciated young boy with terrified eyes falls out of one the journals, Duncan is immediately mesmerized  and dives into the journals to discover the identity of this horrific looking child.

What Duncan is to learn from the journals is like no other anthropological find he has ever come across. They reveal the century-old recorded case of Henri, an actual Haitian Zumbi. The journals, belonging to a Victorian London curiosity dealer named Edward Walker, document the boy's rescue and his attempted rehabilitation in England, where he is kept in seclusion, nursed and studied by the eccentric Mr. Walker.

On the verge of an anthropological break through, Duncan becomes obsessed with trying to authenticate the tale he reads in Edward's journal, using the devices at his disposal as a department head together with the clues that seem to be lying at his fingertips inside the crates of artifacts, if only he can piece the bizarre facts together.

As Duncan gets deeper into the journal and the strange facts of the case, he begins to change from a by-the-book professor to one who will risk his family, his job and even break the law to find out the truth of Edward's Zumbi.

Finally, Duncan's curiosity will alter his life in ways he never anticipates when in the final conclusion he realizes his obsession has damned his life forever.

The Curiosity is a 110,000 word historic horror frame story that takes place in both 1865 London and 1990 England as Duncan Clarke brings into his day a macabre tale from the past. It can stand alone but I am exploring the concept of a sequel or two, as the conclusion of the story easily lends itself well to that.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

20 comments:

amathenia said...

Some may knee-jerk and say zombies have been done to death, but I like that you are taking the genre back to its voodoo roots. I would DEFINITELY read this, but I'm a sucker for zombies and historical English settings. Would an agent/publisher react the same way? A think a little pizzazz and showmanship could liven up the query and hook a reader.

Huntress said...

I’ve cut all phrases that detract from your storyline, IMHO, and boiled it down to the essence.

Professor Duncan Clarke, pick up a donation of strange artifacts and journals for his (anthropology) department.

When a drawing of an emaciated young boy with terrified eyes falls out of one the journals, Duncan discover the identity of this horrific looking child.

Duncan learn century-old case of Henri, Haitian Zumbi. The journals (belonged to a) curiosity dealer document the boy's rescue and his attempted rehabilitation in England, where he is kept in seclusion, nursed. And studied. *Inserted by Huntress*

As Duncan gets deeper into the journal and the strange facts of the case, he begins to change from a by-the-book professor to one who will risk his family, his job and even break the law to find out the truth of Edward's Zumbi.

Finally, Duncan's curiosity will alter his life he realizes his obsession has damned his life forever.

The Curiosity is a 110,000 word historic horror frame story that takes place in both 1865 London and 1990 England as Duncan Clarke brings into his day a macabre tale from the past. It can stand alone but I am exploring the concept of a sequel or two, as the conclusion of the story easily lends itself well to that.

Of course you need to edit grammar and punctuation in my above crit since cutting the words out jumbled it up. But try cooking it down to under 200 words. Add phrases sparingly.

Excellent premise, btw. Love, love, love this.

Melanie Cossey said...

Thanks for your critique, can you elaborate on "Pizzazz and showmanship?" :D

Melanie Cossey said...

Thanks! :D

abuckley23 said...

I agree with Huntress. The initial query is wordy so boiling it down to it's essence is advisable. The concept is a great one although I had to look up Zumbi.

amathenia said...

I've been privy to the first chapter of this. You must read it.

Melanie Cossey said...

Thank you, I'll take a stab at revising it. Glad you like the concept too, and thanks amathenia, when I do the edits on the second chapter you'll get to see that too. :)

Melanie Cossey said...

Oh dang it... that should have read "zonbi" I'll try again later. :)

mshatch said...

This is a tough one! Huntress has probably said it best - but let me add that I am very much intrigued!

Melanie Cossey said...

Thanks mshatch! I'm seeing the light now... thanks everyone for your encouragement about my storyline. :)

Sam F. said...

This sounds awesome! I'm a sucker for anthropology/archaeology, so I'd definitely read this.

My only recommendation: Shorten some of the sentences. All of them are so long that they slow down the query. A few short sentences here and there would help add that "pizzazz and showmanship" that amathenia mentioned.

Charity Bradford said...

Before reading anything I can see it's too long. It doesn't all fit on my screen. Then it reads more like a synopsis than a query. Here are my suggestions for tightening:

Professor Duncan Clarke, head of the anthropology department at England's Cambridge University, is looking forward to a restful two-week sabbatical when a new acquisition changes his life. *don't use that it's cliche, but it's just to give you an idea.*

The donated journals contain the anthropological find of his life. They reveal the century-old recorded case of Henri, an actual Haitian Zumbi. Duncan becomes obsessed with authenticating the journals at the risk of losing his family, his job and his freedom by breaking the law to find out the truth.

*I'd cut everything else*
Now you have to add some voice and a few details so that we feel this is a horror novel. Why is Duncan damned by the end? You may have to define Zumbi so we know what that is and why it's important.

Krystal Wade said...

Sorry I'm late to the party. Submissions editors see queries every day, so you need to immediately draw them in. The problem I'm having with your query is wordiness. The first paragraph is ONE sentence and doesn't pack a punch. Additionally, you have too many paragraphs.

I like what Charity posted above me (short and to the point). I would make your first paragraph even shorter: Professor Duncan Clarke discovers a disturbing drawing of an emaciated young boy in the journals [you need to name these journals because this rewording will make people say "what journals?"].


Jambo said...

Hi there
I think the other posts have hit it, its too long but it is an awesome premise, and I would totally read this. Best of luck, cheers Julie Anne Grasso

Melanie Cossey said...

Hmmm you want me to tell why Duncan is damned at the end? To do so would be to give away the whole ending. Are we supposed to give away the ending in our queries?

Charity Bradford said...

Well, that is a problem. :) No, don't give away the ending in the query.

Huntress said...

"Excellent" - Mr. Burns, The Simpsons

Great revision. Super, super.

My comments and stylistic changes:

However, unlike his usual research, this case challenges everything he thought he understood about science, the human body,*needs a comma here* and the depravity to which a desperate man would sink.

"...Duncan's choices lead him to scientific glory or inextricable hell?

Try a different adjective than ‘inextricable’. Maybe bottomless? Blackest? It is immediately understood. Even editors have to go to a dictionary every now and then.

Good job

Melanie Cossey said...

Thanks Huntress... "inextricable - incapable of being disentangled, undone, loosed, or solved" The key theme to my novel. So I need that particular word, or another like it. :)

mshatch said...

I think this is better, more concise, tighter. Here are my suggestions for improving:

I think you need to shorten the first paragraph, and end with this sentence: the child is an alleged 19th century Haitian Voodoo Zombie.

Now Duncan must authentic the findings before he reaps the rewards. (reap the rewards is cliche, find a new way to say it)However, unlike his usual research, this case challenges everything he thought he understood about science, the human body and the depravity to which a desperate man would sink.

Sucked into a dark world, (what kind of dark world? Even a word or two could add a nice spark here)Duncan begins to change (this first part is good but this next part is a bit dull. maybe being specific about what Duncan sinks to doing would liven this bit up) from a conventional professor to one who would risk his family, his job and even break the law to find out the truth of the past.

Finally, when faced with the horrific truth, will Duncan's choices lead him to scientific glory or inextricable hell?


(hope this helps!)




Melanie Cossey said...

OK thanks mshatch, but I'm a little confused... risking his family, his job and breaking the law isn't specific enough about what Duncan sinks to doing? This is already slightly over 200 words, I don't think I have the room to be more specific than that... what would you suggest?