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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Kiss of Fire Query

   
Author Topic: Kiss of Fire Query
Rose Red
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Hey Everyone, I am trying my hand a query and probably failing miserably. This query would mostly be used to get the book reviews on some blogs. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Thanks!!

Joclyn Despain hates her birthday.

On Joclyn’s fifth birthday an allergic reaction sends her into a coma for six months. When she wakes her eye color has changed from green to silver and the right side of her face is plagued with an ugly scar. Joclyn’s father is convinced something much more sinister then an allergic reaction has marred his daughter and runs away to find answers, leaving Joclyn and her mother alone. Joclyn can only blame herself for his disappearance and hides herself and her abnormality from everyone, even her best friend, Ryland.

Joclyn’s world is turned upside down on her sixteenth birthday when her father makes his first contact by sending her a cursed stone and referring Joclyn to what she can only assume is a cult. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man; Ryland is keeping a dark secret; and unexplainable things have started to happen around her. Joclyn finally begins to gain some stability, when Ryland finds her mark. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it.

Joclyn is plunged into a race for her life where the impossible becomes possible, and everyone she thought she knew is anything but normal.

Can Joclyn adapt to her new life, and find the strength to save Ryland before he is tortured to death by a man who will stop at nothing to find Joclyn’s location?

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Rose Red:
Hey Everyone, I am trying my hand a query and probably failing miserably. This query would mostly be used to get the book reviews on some blogs. Any feedback would be much appreciated.

Thanks!!

Joclyn Despain hates her birthday.

On Joclyn’s fifth birthday an allergic reaction sends her into a coma for six months. When she wakes her eye color has changed from green to silver and the right side of her face is plagued with an ugly scar. Joclyn’s father is convinced something much more sinister then an allergic reaction has marred his daughter and runs away to find answers, leaving Joclyn and her mother alone. Joclyn can only blame herself for his disappearance and hides herself and her abnormality from everyone, even her best friend, Ryland.

Everything up to this point is back story.

quote:
Joclyn’s world is turned upside down on her sixteenth birthday when her father makes his first contact by sending her a cursed stone and referring Joclyn to what she can only assume is a cult. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man; Ryland is keeping a dark secret; and unexplainable things have started to happen around her. Joclyn finally begins to gain some stability, when Ryland finds her mark. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it.
There seems to be an awful lot going on in this paragraph. It makes it feel disjointed. Can you concentrate on just one or two things?

quote:
Joclyn is plunged into a race for her life where the impossible becomes possible, and everyone she thought she knew is anything but normal.
[/quote

Three cliches in one sentence.

[quote]Can Joclyn adapt to her new life, and find the strength to save Ryland before he is tortured to death by a man who will stop at nothing to find Joclyn’s location?

You said this was more for book reviews than agents. Nevertheless, many agents hate rhetorical questions.
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shimiqua
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Hi Rose Red!

[Smile] Glad you found Hatrack.

Summaries like this are tricky, because it's hard to put an entire book into a few paragraphs. I think you might be trying to put too much info in the summary.

Joclyn Despain hates her birthday. Good first sentence a bit of a hook here. Good

On Joclyn’s fifth birthday an allergic reaction sends her into a coma for six months. you might want to show that this is speculative. Also you may want to shift this backstory into past tense When she wakes her eye color has changed from green to silver and the right side of her face is plagued with an ugly scar.

So far, I'm still hooked.

Joclyn’s father is convinced something much more sinister then an allergic reaction has marred his daughter and runs away to find answers, leaving Joclyn and her mother alone.

You could simplify that to When Joclyn's father leaves to find answers,...

Joclyn can only blame herself for his disappearance and hides herself and her abnormality from everyone, even her best friend, Ryland.

A bit too wordy here.imo

Joclyn’s world is turned upside down cliche on her sixteenth birthday when her father makes his first contact by sending her a cursed stone and referring Joclyn to what she can only assume is a cult.

Again too wordy. Tie back to the first birthday sentence. Bring it into the present. Take out the extra "can only", for "she assumes."

Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man; Ryland is keeping a dark secret; and unexplainable things have started to happen around her.

Sorry for being nit picky, but the grammar here is weird.

*



* I think you should stop here. You don't want to tell the entire story, just give away enough that the reader is hooked. I'd suggest a rewrite. Give a few more clue to Joclyn's character, like you could mention her hiding behind baggy clothes and a surly attitude. Mention the long board, mention Ryland's extravagant wealth. Say the things that make your story different.

Suggested format of information:
Birthday line.
Fifth birthday, establish speculative and father's abandonment.
Sixteenth birthday, hiding mark from best friend, magical gift from father, then layer in the dread as people start watching her and weird things start happening.

And stop.

~Sheena

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MattLeo
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So this is a jacket blurb, not a query? In that case it's about twice as long as it ought to be. In any case, it has too much detail, too much back story, too much synopsis.

Boil it down to the essentials. A good blurb tells us about the problems the inciting incident creates for the main character, ideally why those problems are particular to the character, and the complications the character faces in solving them (antagonists, or dilemmas posed).

Here's an example from Jim Butcher's Storm Front:
quote:
For Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name.
At under 50 words, this is a near perfect blurb. The opening sentence isn't back story, it gives us a picture of the status quo before the inciting incident, which will turn Harry's problems on their heads (he'll be *too* busy). We also get a picture of the main complication of the story: an unknown opponent who has the advantage because he knows who Harry is.

We also get the sense that Harry is an active protagonist, and that's important. We want to read about characters who do things, not have things done to them. I strikes me in your blurb that a lot happens *to* Jocylyn. This may be calculated to raise reader sympathy, but where that is concerned, less is more, at least until you're well into the story.

So I'd say focus on the inciting incident -- the receipt of the stone, and how this changes the MC's life. Things that were hidden (Ryland's secret, her deformity) are revealed. We don't need to know how she got the deformity. We need a clearer picture of the antagonist (the tall blond man with one black shoe) and complications (Ryland in peril).

It's not really clear what Jocyln's problem is. She's sixteen, and she finds out the world is stranger and more complicated than she thought. That's true of everyone; it's not clear how coming to terms with that will help Ryland.

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Rose Red
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Meredith - Thank you for your feedback. While pointing things out that are wrong is nice it would have been great to here more about why. Say 'this is back story' does nothing to help and only confuses me more.

MattLeo - I stated in the OP that this is a synopsis that will be used to request review from bloggers. Most bloggers request 200-300 words. You gave me some good feedback but I am confused if you are giving these thoughts for a jacket blurb or a synopsis. Either way I can totally use what thoughts you have given me - thanks!

Shimiqua - (I still think its hysterical you use that name still). I agree - I think I have a bald spot from writing this stupid thing. I wouldn't even be doing this if my sister wasn't on the rampage. As I said before - I am failing miserably at this. Thank you again for suggesting this place. I'll have to hang around a bit and see if it grows on me or not [Smile]

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by Rose Red:
Meredith - Thank you for your feedback. While pointing things out that are wrong is nice it would have been great to here more about why. Say 'this is back story' does nothing to help and only confuses me more.


Sorry to have confused you. Generally, in a query, you want to focus on the actual story (what happens after her 16th birthday). Therefore, you limit the back story to only what is absolutely necessary to make the rest understandable--which is nearly always a lot less than you think you need.

I know I often start early drafts of queries with too much back story. Here, you've got almost half of the query before the real story even starts.

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Rose Red
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quote:
Sorry to have confused you. Generally, in a query, you want to focus on the actual story (what happens after her 16th birthday). Therefore, you limit the back story to only what is absolutely necessary to make the rest understandable--which is nearly always a lot less than you think you need.

I know I often start early drafts of queries with too much back story. Here, you've got almost half of the query before the real story even starts.

Thanks for clarifying - that makes a lot more sense.
This is literally the first one of these I've ever written. Even when I submit overlays for scripts to theatres they require a lot more detail then is required here. I'll figure it out eventually lol
I'm hoping to be able to re write this after the kids go to bed.

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Rose Red
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Second take. This is really rough. I am not sure I like it (it feels too short, don't know why).

Input appreciated:

There is something wrong with Joclyn Despain, and even she is unsure what it is. She spends her days hiding behind large clothes and a disgruntled mood in a desperate attempt to blend in and hide an ugly scar that chased her dad away. But even with all she does she still stands out; after all weird things just happen around her. And being best friends to the wealthiest boy in the state, Ryland LaRue, doesn’t help her cause much.

Her desperate attempt to disappear is shattered when her dead beat dad sends her a cursed stone for her birthday. He refers Joclyn to what she assumes is a cult saying that her ugly deformity has given her some form of magical powers. Now, Joclyn is being stalked by a tall blonde man, befriended by mysterious girls, and Ryland’s father is threatening more than just her friendship with his son. Joclyn finally begins to gain some stability, when Ryland finds her mark. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it.

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Jess
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two thoughts: The part where Ryland has a secret seems to come out of no where because I thought she was the one with a secret.
And I was confused about Ryland's gender until the very end when there is a he. I guess I assumed and pictured in my head best friend being a girl.

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Jess
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Okay I just read the second attempt. I think the voice might be a tiny bit stronger in the first one, but the hook at the end of this one is pretty awesome.
Maybe show the weird things that happen to her. Do balloons follow her around? Glass explode? Puppies start doing the macarena? give the reader something concrete so we can picture it.
Also, I'm not sure where the befriends mysterious girls part fits in. it's not reference to after or before and just seems to bog down your word count.
Cool that this is your first query. They are beasts. I'm up to draft 25 or 26 on mine (I'm sorta obsessing over it though. I'm sure yours won't take that many drafts [Smile] )

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Rose Red
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You are very right, Jess - the voice seems super week right now.

Here are those subtle changes, now to go try to respond to other posts. I feel like such a noob lol

There is something wrong with Joclyn Despain, and even she is unsure what it is. She spends her days hiding behind large clothes and a disgruntled mood in a desperate attempt to blend in and hide an ugly scar that chased her dad away. But even with all she does she still stands out; after all weird things just happen around her. Normal people shouldn’t be able to throw their enemies ten feet in the air and fall fifteen feet without getting hurt. Even without all the abnormalities, being the best friend to the wealthiest man in the state, Ryland LaRue, doesn’t help her cause much.

Her desperate attempt to disappear is shattered when her dead beat dad sends her a cursed stone for her birthday. He refers Joclyn to what she assumes is a cult saying that her ugly deformity has given her some form of magical powers. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and Ryland’s father is threatening more than just her friendship with his son. Joclyn finally begins to gain some stability, when Ryland finds her mark. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it.

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Tryndakai
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From the first draft to this latest, I'm certainly noticing marked improvement. Each draft is more engaging and more cohesive than the one before it. I'm gonna take a moment and nit-pick on the grammar, if you don't mind . . . [Wink]

quote:
There is something wrong with Joclyn Despain, and even she is unsure what it is. She spends her days hiding behind large clothes and a disgruntled mood[,] in a desperate attempt to blend in and hide the ugly scar on her face that chased her dad away when she was small. But even with all she does[,] she still stands out; after all[,] weird things just happen around her. Normal people shouldn’t be able to throw their enemies ten feet in the air and fall fifteen feet without getting hurt. Even without all the abnormalities, being the best friend to the wealthiest man in the state, Ryland LaRue, doesn’t help her cause much.

Her desperate attempt to disappear is shattered when her dead[-]beat dad sends her a cursed stone for her birthday. He refers Joclyn to what she assumes is a cult[,] saying that her ugly deformity has given her some form of magical powers. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and Ryland’s father is threatening more than just her friendship with his son. Joclyn finally begins to gain some stability, when Ryland finds her mark. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it.

I tucked some of the information from the first draft back in, because I felt it was missing . . . although really, that sentence about her hiding and her dad leaving is probably a bit *too* long. And I only lengthened it . . . [Razz] (but of course, my re-writes are only suggestions. [Wink] ) Anywho, break up that sentence a bit if you can, so it's less stream-of-consciousness and all-in-one-breath like.

On another note--I agree that samples of the "weird things" happening around her are nice . . . but the samples you chose seem to paint a different picture for me than I think you're trying to give. She sounds more like a reluctant super-hero than a beleaguered teenager. Not to say she shouldn't have those powers, by any means--rather, it seems to me that those kind of examples would be fun to see her discover/develop *after* the real trouble starts, when she's beginning to realize that supernatural stuff might be real. As opposed to before, when she's still in denial and trying to be "normal"--super strength might put an early kink in that mentality. Plus, that's not "weird stuff *happening to her,*" that's "weird stuff *she can do.*" *happening to* would be more like Jess's examples--things that happen *around* her, fairly consistently, for no apparent reason. And it doesn't have to be the world behaving oddly, as in Jess's examples--actually, her falling 15 feet without harm fits this mold fine. It's just coupled with the extreme martial arts skills that it sounds too obvious too early . . . Anywho, let me know if I'm just not making any sense at all. [Razz] I do tend to ramble and have a hard time defining what I mean.

My final little issue is: if the scar is on her face, and is all that disfiguring, how could she *possibly* have been even passing acquaintances with Ryland for so many years, and he not see it *at all* in all that time? No matter how much hair you keep in your face, now and again it'll shift enough to see what's underneath. I would personally assume that *everyone* who knows her knows about the scar, despite her best attempts to hide it. Just, for most people, it's simply awkward, and just one more reason not to try too hard to befriend that weird, anti-social girl who has somehow managed to catch the eye of the cute rich guy . . . Ooh, jealous. [Wink]

So, for Ryland's big reveal to make sense, I'd think either he would have to have recently learned the secret behind the mark, or else the scar would have to be located elsewhere. On her shoulder, maybe. At most on her neck, where she can keep it covered *most* of the time with scarves and such . . . After all, silver eyes are odd enough, for a more visible deformity. Or if you really want/need her face to be disfigured, *and* Ryland to have more of a history with the mark, then I might suggest the scar be big enough that only *part* of it shows on her face, so Ryland doesn't recognize it until the key moment, when he sees the rest . . . which can be on neck/shoulder, or perhaps around to the back of her head, where her hair really *does* have a chance of keeping it consistently from view . . .


Haha, sorry, I do talk a lot sometimes . . . [Razz] Feel free, of course, to take my opinions with as much salt as you'd like. They're just my reaction, and may or may not coincide with other readers' opinions, so do with them what you will. [Smile]

Good luck. [Big Grin]

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Tryndakai
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Oh yeah--(Sorry, me again [Wink] ) I forgot to mention: I do particularly like the quicker, less-detailed way you mentioned her dad being gone, without excusing it with his quest for answers. It's more informative of how Joclyn herself views his "abandonment," and fleshes out her character. So good move, there. [Smile]
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