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Monday, April 22, 2013

Query Critique - INGENICIDE

As promised, I have a query critique for you! Thank you to my brave volunteer.


Dear Agent,

Analyzed. IDed. Mentored. That was Sibyl Kenschild at age five.

In the year 2089, education has been reinvented. Prodigies run rampant in every imaginable work field. Now sixteen, Sibyl has trained as a Space Manipulator to design rooms that evoke the deepest stirrings of human emotion. A strong beginning. It sounds like an interesting world. But when the Genocide reaches Virginia, it’ll take not a Space Manipulator, nor a genius, but a traitor to survive. I don't have enough information to understand this last sentence yet. Of course, I know what "genocide" means, but I don't know what it means in this context or why she has to be a traitor to survive. What is the goal of the "Genocide"? How does it conflict with Sibyl's goals? If it were the Holocaust, the goal of the Genocide would be to eradicate all the non-Aryans, and Sibyl would be Jewish so her life is in peril. That's the type of explanation I'd like here.

So when Sibyl strikes a bargain with the perpetrators of the Genocide, she is prepared to sacrifice her values to play their game. This concerns me somewhat because the character doesn't sound very heroic. A heroic character could potentially sacrifice their values and work for the bad guys, but they'd need a good, heroic reason. Of course, I'm not saying your character isn't heroic, they just may not be coming off that way in the query. Four Space Manipulators will have to create unparalleled rooms for the Normals’ headquarters. Only the best of the best will be spared. As she grows closer to her competitors—in particular, a troubled but gentle boy who designs chillingly twisted rooms—Sibyl is not sure if she has what it takes to win. And if she does, she might not be cold-hearted enough to ignore the fates of her peers.

INGENICIDE, at 65k, is a YA light scifi with a hint of the socio-political and a streak of survival-esque adventure that is reminiscent of HOW I LIVE NOW by Meg Rosoff and BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys. The story is also historically inspired by themes in the Civil War, the Cold War, the Holocaust, and the Cambodian genocide. It has enough strings untied for sequel potential. To pare down the query, you could go without the last two sentences in this paragraph. The first sentence in this group is also "telling", let us notice the parallels instead of telling us straight out.

I've been a hobby writer for four years. My background in the visual arts—I was a national gold medalist for the Scholastic Art and Writing awards—has also helped me with the interior design aspect of the novel. You probably can leave out this paragraph. It's stuff to be proud of, but probably not relevant enough to take up words. The Scholastic Art and Writing award might be relevant if it's recent. Also, I've read that you shouldn't call writing a "hobby" in your query. :) Even if it is a hobby, consider it to be your career when querying.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration!


Thanks for sharing your query! You have a strong start and it sounds like an interesting world. I can tell you, I've never heard about a story where teens fight to the death in an interior design competition. :) If I was reading this as an agent or editor, I might be skeptical as to whether or not that plot could work, but it's unusual enough, that I would be interested to know more.

If I understand what you're saying, Sibyl's primary goal is survival, and the antagonist "Genocide" wants her dead. In order for Sibyl to meet her goal she needs to design the best rooms. If that's not right, I encourage you to re-work the query, focusing on the central conflict. 

As I mentioned, I do have some concerns as to whether or not Sibyl is sympathetic enough in this query. You mention that she isn't sure if she is cold-hearted enough to watch her peers die, but that doesn't seem like enough to make her a real hero. I would like to know more about her motivation to "sacrifice her values to play their game."

So guys, what do you think about this query?


mshatch said...

Aside from what's been pointed out I'm concerned with the comparison to Shades of Gray, which, unless I'm mistaken, is x-rated and I'm not sure if pubs are ready for an that sort of YA yet.

Charity Bradford said...

I agree with Sharon. I'm still confused what these rooms have to do with anything. Why are they needed? Why are they so important? It sounds like at some point she has to try and design a room in order to stay alive and those who don't win will die. Kind of Hunger Gamesish even if they aren't killing each other personally.

I also thought Genocide was a space ship or something the first time I read it because of the way you wrote the sentence:
"But when the Genocide reaches Virginia"
I don't think you would capitalize it if referring to the act of killing off a group or race of people. And you say "the Genocide". Sounds like a specific thing that's traveling to Virginia. So maybe clarify a bit more.

The story sounds like it has lots of potential though.

cynthiarox66 said...

I think you're thinking of 50 Shades of Gray :) Between Shades of Gray is a YA historical fiction about the deportation of Lithuanians.

Aldrea Alien said...

"Kind of Hunger Gamesish ..."

That was my first thought and I've only watched the movie.