An unselfish wish made on the horn of a unicorn will come true. Our wish? To support the writing community by giving constructive tips and criticism through submissions. Check out the submissions tab for more information. We can survive the crucible of fire together.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Query Workshop 5--What Silence Heard

Title: WHAT SILENCE HEARD
Genre: YA thriller with elements of fantasy


Revision 2

Dear Agent:

Staggering away from her emptied village, Nyah knows she was left behind on purpose.  The entire silent world is hers, but for an actor and scribe, it’s a gift she can’t accept.

And then she finds another.  Shade, a left-behind from a different village, is as gentle as he is evasive.  He's determined to bring together and provide for all of the left-behinds, to ease his remorse about cursing them to this barren world. 

Only they're not as alone as they first thought.  The loved ones who abandoned them, cruelly transformed and vicious, are returning for something.  There are nine left-behinds, but there should only be eight.  A vision of Nyah's little brother tries to warn her, but she can’t accept that her life will be ripped apart because of a baby, again. 

The left-behinds must fight together or sacrifice the one who was never meant to be there.  Either way, the existence of the ninth ensures their failure.  Nyah and Shade, denial and guilt, will see to that. 

Set in the wilderness of a pre-industrial civilization, the left-behinds run from the obvious danger, but discover it is impossible to run from themselves when silence is their most steadfast companion.

WHAT SILENCE HEARD is a YA thriller with elements of fantasy, and is complete at 80,000 words. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, Me
Revision 1


Dear Agent:


Staggering away from her emptied village, Nyah knows she was left behind on purpose.  The entire silent world is hers, but for an actor and scribe, it’s a gift she can’t accept.

And then she finds another.  Shade, a left-behind from another village, is as gentle as he is evasive.  He's determined to bring together and provide for all eight left-behinds, to ease his remorse about cursing them to this barren world. 

Only they're not as alone as they first thought.  Some of the loved ones who abandoned them are returning, cruelly transformed and vicious.  A vision of Nyah's little brother tries to tell her why, but she can’t accept that her life will be ripped apart because of a baby, again.

Either the left-behinds fight together or sacrifice the one who was never supposed to be there.  Either way, the existence of this ninth left-behind ensures their failure.  Nyah and Shade, denial and guilt, will see to that. 

Set in the wilderness of a pre-industrial civilization, the left-behinds run from the obvious danger, but discover it is impossible to run from themselves when silence is their most steadfast companion.

WHAT SILENCE HEARD is a YA thriller with elements of fantasy, and is complete at 80,000 words. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, Me


Original
Dear Agent:

Staggering away from her emptied village, she knows she was left behind on purpose.  The entire silent world is hers, but for an actor and scribe, it’s a gift she can’t accept.

And then she finds another.  She renames herself Nyah, and discovers the stillness makes it easier to recognize treasure.  Shade, a left-behind from another village, is as gentle as he is evasive.  As they navigate the emptiness together, the other left-behinds rally around them.  The world isn’t as quiet as Nyah first thought.

Then some of the loved ones who abandoned them begin creeping back, cruelly transformed and vicious, and the left-behinds are their quarry.   Monsters are coming to rip Nyah’s family apart, again, to collect the one who doesn’t belong.  There are nine left-behinds, but there should only be eight.  Shade knows this, because he’s the one who chose them.  Nyah knows, because she’s been through this before.   But admitting what they know means accepting the pasts that led them here.

The left-behinds have to either fight together to the inevitable end, or sacrifice the ninth and give up everything they discovered was worth fighting for when the world disappeared.  Either way, the existence of the ninth ensures their failure.  Nyah and Shade, denial and guilt, will see to that. 

Set in the wilderness of a pre-industrial civilization, the left-behinds run from the obvious danger, but discover it is impossible to run from themselves when silence is their most steadfast companion.

WHAT SILENCE HEARD is a YA thriller with elements of fantasy, and is complete at 80,000 words. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely, Me

6 comments:

Suzi said...

Cool story and great title.

Here are my comments/questions.

You use 'know' three times in the 3rd paragraph. I think the first two are good, but I'd try change the third.

In the 3rd paragraph. Are the monsters the same as the former loved ones now cruelly transformed and vicious?

"The left-behinds have to either fight together to the inevitable end" I would delete inevitable.

"everything they discovered was worth fighting for when the world disappeared" Can you tell us what those things are? It would make the stakes stronger.

Charity Bradford said...

The first sentence draws me in because I need to know why the village was emptied and why she was left behind. It also sets up some world building in a very non intrusive way--great job.

The first two sentences of Paragraph 2 feel listy. Do we need to know that she has renamed herself? Just start with Nyah finding Shade. Is he the treasure? That part confused me.

Paragraph 3--There is something wonderfully compelling hidden in this paragraph, but it's getting lost in the words. "Then" is back to listing. Try to avoid that. The query should flow as well as the story. Maybe drop the entire first sentence. We don't have to know who the monsters are in a query. If you drop that the rest is much stronger. I'd also cut "But" from the beginning of the last sentence.

Paragraph 4--Suggestion: "The left-behinds must fight together or sacrifice the ninth." I'm not sure what they discovered that's worth fighting for. If its important you can clarify, but I think the most interesting part is what comes next. "Either way, the existence of the ninth ensures their failure. Nyah and Shade, denial and guilt, will see to that."

Love everything about paragraph 5.

Huntress said...

Prepare yourself. This crit might seem harsh but it is only my opinion. Nothing is written in stone.

I need more meat to your query. Confusion is rampant, IMHO. Below are the details that jump out to me:

Staggering away from her emptied village, she *I need a name here-Huntress* knows she was left behind on purpose. The entire silent world is hers, but for an actor and scribe, it’s a gift she can’t accept.
*Is the gift the ‘silence’ or that she was left alone? Why is it relevant that she is an actor and scribe?-Huntress*

And then she finds another. Shade is as gentle as he is evasive. the other left-behinds rally around them. The world isn’t as quiet as Nyah first thought.

*The third paragraph was a total flyby for me. I think you’re trying for mysterious but this has no meat to it-H*

The left-behinds have to either fight together to the inevitable end, *and what is that?-H*

or sacrifice the ninth and give up everything they discovered was worth fighting *cliché-H*
for when the world disappeared. Either way, the existence of the ninth ensures their failure. Nyah and Shade, denial and guilt, will see to that.

Very confusing. I need more clarification. Be specific. How are the ‘left behinds’ surviving? What is in their past that makes them a target?
‘…accepting the pasts that led them here…’ is a cliché term thoroughly disliked by jaded agents. It doesn’t say anything.
‘…it is impossible to run from themselves…’ is another clichéd phrase.

In a query don't try for mystery. You're looking to hook a reader. Give them something that entices, a fact that is easily understood. World building comes later.

Jeannette said...

I'm getting a sense here, and maybe it's just me, that I still suck at queries... ;) But thank you for your comments, so very much (I appreciate the warning Huntress, before you laid into it. I made sure I was sitting down).

I just sent off a revision, so hopefully, hopefully, please oh please hopefully, it's better. My hang-up has always been giving away my plot, but obviously that's hurting me instead of helping.

Thanks again, and I hope I get some feedback on the new query!

Loralie Hall said...

I see the underlying idea in this, and it looks like a fantastic story, but I'm afraid I'm still confused:

Nhay knows she was left behind, but does she know why her village was emptied? If finding out is part of the main plot, I think just a couple of words to say she doesn't know would help. If she already knows, a quick mention of that would help instead.

I like the idea of her not liking the silence because (if I read this right) she's lost the people she shares her thoughts and art with.

Did Shade actually cause this, or does he just think he's to blame, and how does we know there are eight left-behinds total? Is this a prophecy, or just something they stumble on? Later in the query, that number eight seems important.

Nyah's life will be ripped apart by a baby again...how did it happen before? Does that mean she resents her baby brother for being born? Something else?

And then we get to the existence of a ninth left-behind. why isn't there supposed to be a ninth? How did they appear all the sudden? And how does this ninth ensure failure?

It's true that it's important to make the reader curious in a query, but be careful of raising questions that just confuse them before the story starts.

This is what I see as the base story. All of Nyah's village is gone (because...?) And there are eight people total who are abandoned like her from other villages. Another of them feels like the empty villages are their fault. Now they're haunted by ghosts of their past.

And then suddenly there's a ninth survivor who's a problem (because...?) and they don't need any more problems. Nyah and Shade's guilt is causing enough.

I'm not sure if this helps. It sounds like you have a haunting story, and I wish you the best of luck with querying ^_^

Jeannette said...

Thanks for your comment Loralie. Since you summarized my query well, and asked exactly the questions of the story that I hoped would be asked, I'm going to consider this a pretty good version! Working with 250 words isn't easy, but even though you said you were confused, I think you got exactly what I'm saying! :) Thanks for your encouragement, and same to you if you're querying!