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Thread: The Infamous Query Letter
June 13th, 2008, 12:31 PM #211
I might be able to help you shrink it down, if you answer the questions I asked. You have what appears to be a fairly straightforward plotline, and a back story that is not that complicated. The gist of the prophecy is clear. What isn't clear is what the brothers' initial homelife is like, what they know at first about the prophecy and what sets them off travelling, and who the various factions are. Since I don't have the information, I can't condense it. You can't tell me if there's an East kingdom, West kingdom, and elves? You can't tell me if the Westerners are human or not? (Twisted, mutated humans perhaps, but they either started out that or are something else.) If you cough up the info, it might be fairly easy to order it.
June 14th, 2008, 07:53 PM #212
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- May 2008
so basically there are two realms in the east (well 3 but the third one doesn't do much in this book). Anyhow we have the humans and elves, the elves being the guys who are afflicted by this curse. The prophecy was revealed by an elven seer. Around the time of the revelation alot of shifty stuff began to happen to the west. Knowing that the foretelling was no good, the elves sent word to the humans who can be considered their allies.
Around this time the savages raid the town.
The human guys get all worried and decide to send a party to the elves to seek counsel. Along the way they stop off at the ravaged village so that the newly crowned king can offer condolences to his subjects. It is around this time that a general who is close to the twin's father(since he was in the military) comes to know of the prophecy. So basically the twins are taken to the king and set of with the royal escort to the north in order to further understand their purpose.
In the west are the orcs and another race of semi-mutated elves. (They used to be quite normal but were of a lower sociel standing than their counterparts and were gradually reduced to slavery and prejuidice which resulted in a revolution and the old wars).
Sorry i didn't make it clearer before. Anyhow, that is the rough outline of what ya asked for, hope it helps. (typed this in a rush, ignore the poor quality and any errors )
June 16th, 2008, 11:01 AM #213
Okay, what does the prophecy say, essentially? Obviously there's something there that indicates the boys have to go talk to the elves.
And you didn't answer my questions about the boys' father, how the boys are living in their village, and the werewolf.
Last edited by KatG; June 16th, 2008 at 11:03 AM.
June 16th, 2008, 01:32 PM #214
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- May 2008
Their father was for the most part absent, and when he was around, any interaction consisted of rigorous drills and rigid discipline. Here is an excerpt which should give you a brief idea of the relationshiphope it isn't too long)
Arrain was quick to check himself, smiling encouragingly at Varrin in silent apology. He supposed it was their father's fault, the man was too caught up in his military career to pay much attention to his own family. Their mother had died at child birth and hence, the two brothers had grown up with minimal care. Of course their father had made sure that they would be given a good education, the best in fact, for most of the village sent their children to the local public school, not to the highly respected scholars academy. Nevertheless, their father had barely ever spent anytime with his two sons, and when he had, it had been awkward; his militaristic approach spared no time for entertainment or bonding, no time for jokes or stories or songs. It had been a strict dogma, rules and more rules fueled by a rigid discipline.
Discipline, that was their father's core value, he had tried to drill this into his children at a very young age. For the past two years the two brothers had barely spoken to their father, the relationship was strained and on the verge of breaking. The title 'father' was only a formality now. They had put up with it for almost sixteen years, a harsh timetable filled with drills, rigorous study and then, more drills, sparing only five hours of sleep each day. It had been quite clear to both the twins, that their father wanted them sworn into the military at an early age, he wanted is legacy to continue, he needed it to be continued, the honor, glory and recognition of service was an addiction to him. The brothers, however had completley different plans.
Arrain was a rommantic, a scholar and poet, not of the helpless kind, in fact he was very succesful in wooing any girl that he set his eyes upon. His grades were perfect, and while he showed tremendous prowess in the field of sports, he longed to be a great actor and perhaps perform in the courts of the great king Lind-Therwin himself. Varrin on the other hand was a rather obnoxius child, his grades had been borderline average and while he too displayed a briliant talent for sports, he never wasn't able to augment it with any persistence, no dedication to one thing, his mind could never stay fixed on the task at hand; preffering instead to wander the pathways of magical fantasy lands that he shaped within his head. He was a day dreamer with no plans for the future as of yet. As a scholar at the academy had put it, 'Varrin is a ripe field of crop, the potetial unlimited, yet he still does not have the drive, the iron will, the scythe to harvest this potential'.
And so two years ago, the brothers had decided that they had, had enough and decided to rebel. They spoke out their minds in front of their father, hiding nothing. He had taken it well, shocked at first, yet accepting, as if he knew that it had to happen. He had nodded, and then walked out of the room, without a word. Over the course of the next couple of years he had barely spoken a word to them, indeed almost never spending anytime at the house. He would walk in one day, clad in his brilliant armor set, sitting tall and proud in the saddle of his preening stallion, providing the nosy neighbours with a decent chunk of gossip for the next week or two. All the grandious pompousness would however be shed, along with the lucent plated metal armor as he entered his forsaken household. There he would sit in the half light, his heavy face shadowed by the past. For an hour or two he would blankly gaze at the long, cluttered fireplace cabinet, basking guiltity in his own overpriced glory before silently slipping away into his untoched room and falling into a troubled sleep.He would leave early the next morning, and the brothers would find no trace of him; in truth not caring about his whereabouts all that much. Perhaps two or three months later, maybe even six, he would return, unannounced spending another day or two in shrouded monotony before dissapearing all over again.
Arrain had completely severed his relationship with their father. He would ignore the man's pressence and go about his daily routine without as so much ackownledging his father's curtailed visits. He would not reply to any of the salutations that were offered in formality. To him, they had no father. Varrin, on the other hand was different. During the first few months of their father's absence he had timidly admitted to Arrain that he missed the man. When a bluemoon rose into the sky and Ebonlocke returned, Varrin would go as far as to smile at his father, sometimes even hugging him. However as Varrin had begun to slip into his self imposed shell of exile, exchanges between his father had grown less frequent and more stressed- general questions inquiring about the man's health, barely audible comments about the weather that were swallowed by the tense silence. Soon it had boiled down to single verbiage, salutations such as 'good mornings' and 'good nights' that had further deteriorated down and simplified into a single 'morning' or 'night'. "
Well the prophecy has not been fully deciphered. The true, 'deeper' meaning can only be understood/ seen by the people around whom the prophecy revolves/ the ones it has chosen. So the twins are to travel to the source of the prophecy where they will confront it and be able to fully understand their task. (its sort of like an ethereal, abstract being.)
There is also a sort of twist that i plan to put in at the start of the first book (which will probably never happen ) but i do start to give out a few hints to the readers at the end of this book. Basically, Varrin and Arrain are infact NOT the chosen ones and Arrain actually starts to go insane after his vision with the prophet ethereal being thingy. While i don't directly say this @ the end of the book, his mood does start to change and he pretty much slips into seclusion.
I was wondering if i should mention this 'twist' at all in the synopsis or query?
oooo, ya, concerning the werewolf: He is pretty sarcastic and carefree in manner and it can be seen as comic interlude, but i just wanted him to have a sorta unique attitude and nothing more.
Thanks again, sorry if i missed out anything
Last edited by December88; June 16th, 2008 at 01:37 PM. Reason: forgot about the werewolf!
June 17th, 2008, 09:42 PM #215
Sorry, December, it's a bit crazy in my neck of the woods at the moment.
I wasn't after village life, but the boys' family life info, specifically why are they in the bordertown? Is the father there or absent? If there, is he abusing them? Are they teens or grown-ups? Do they work in some way as farmers, noble landowners, carpenters? Are they supposed to go into the military? Your text excerpt more or less answers these, but you could have just said it in response to my questions.
But lastly, what does the fragment of prophecy they have say that causes the king to send the two boys to the elves? Who the boys are and who they become because of the prophecy-atrocities issue is your story, so I'm trying to get the initial info on that from you, because then you can have a sentence or two on it.
Since the fact that they aren't the chosen ones is probably a major plot point of a potential sequel, I don't think you need it here. The unravelling of both brothers, though, which is pivotal to your first plot, should probably come up.
I would suggest calling the werewolf not a satirical werewolf, but a satirically-minded werewolf.
If I get a chance, I will give you a summary bundle and you can then work with it as you see fit. Might be a few days before I can get to it, though.
June 18th, 2008, 12:40 AM #216
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- May 2008
No worries, you have been a great help thus far so take your time
Basically the prophecy speaks of two twins of greatly contrasting personalities whos mother dies while bearing them . The seer who first managed to see the prophecy does not fully understand it. He realises the danger it brings with it but isnt able to decipher the finer lines. Since the brother's are suspected to be the twins in question, they are taken to the elven seer(by the king and his entourage) in order to confront and fully understand the prophecy.
Hope it helps, really late and typing this last minute
thanks again for all the help so far!
June 20th, 2008, 08:34 PM #217
So, okay, still kind of confusing, but nudging in this direction:
Scarred and then rejected by his father, a prominent military commander, when he wouldn't follow in his father's footsteps, Varrin Ebonlocke wants deeply to escape his life and the hinterland village in which he lives. But that escape comes in the form of a raid by a band of quasi-human savages and news of a prophecy of the elves, a foretelling of coming war from lost races in the West, that seems to center on him and his equally troubled twin brother Arrain.
So that's the first part maybe. For the other parts, I'm not sure what to suggest for putting next. You have three things -- that the elves cannot fight (due to the curse) -- do the humans know that part?; Arrain's vision/spirit encounter, which turns him toward insanity and which shows Varrin might become the leader of the enemy, dividing the twins; and Varrin's encounter with the blind elves where he learns things are more complex and his discovery of the needed object. You can possibly put the first and third together if the humans don't know about the curse re the prophecy, and it's Varrin who finds out this information. But if not, then it might come earlier. The second point probably should come before the third, so you have that Varrin may turn evil, oh wait, no he just found out the truth bit. But, you could also structure it the other way around. (Sounds like Varrin's plotline comes first?) It should take about two paragraphs.
If there aren't a lot of warrior characters, or at least a few who are prominent, that might be worth a brief mention. You have a fairly straightforward central plot structure -- journey, fork into two plotlines, so second paragraph can start with trip north and go into one of the brother forks, third paragraph covers the other brother's fork. The plotlines tear them up, so you want to present that.
That paragraph about the weight of battle, I think you could keep some of it, but it could be dropped to a concluding sentence. It's hard for me to judge what details are key besides the shock each brother goes through, since I don't know a lot of them.
June 21st, 2008, 01:40 AM #218
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- May 2008
I like the opening paragraph.
The humans do know of the elven curse (but they do not know of the atrocities that were commited by the same elves).
I think i will definitely go ahead with what you suggested and put Arrain's vision in before Varrin's meeting with the blind elves and possibly go ahead and explain the elven curse in a paragraph before i speak about Arrain/ Varrin's encounters.
There are a few prominent warriors that can be considered central to the story.
-So basically you're para first for a nice intro.
-Explanation of the elven curse.
-Speak a little about the warrior-heroes
will work on it and post it up here, thanks for the advice again
June 21st, 2008, 10:55 AM #219
If you set that up, I might be able to make suggestions for refining it.
As general issues for everybody dealing with queries -- December's initial problem was describing a lot of lore. But lore without world context gets confusing and world context can get elaborate. So usually, the better way to go in is to focus on the characters, providing world context through who they are and their situation. Varrin is the protagonist, seems like, with Arrain the secondary protagonist. So focusing in on who Varrin is and what he is dealing with, could then give an intro into the world, the plot, the lore.
Obviously, I didn't use a lot of the info that December gave me in condensing for those two, long sentences. But I did need to know that information to figure out Varrin's situation in order to give a condensed description of it. As authors, you have all the information. If you can sort out what is central to the main characters -- why you wanted to write about them, what they are like, what emotional dilemmas they face in relation to important events of the plot, then you can focus in on those details.
Emotion has a great deal to do with it. It's what distinguishes one orphan shepherd from another, one prince from another, one vampire from another and one space marine from another. By what they feel and how they react, we understand a particular character's personality and a good bit about your world and your themes. It will not have the same poetry as your writing, but they aren't looking for poetry in the query letter. They're looking for information about the emotional core of the story and the characters, even in a comedy, even in a high action war story.
If anything I suggest or talk about seems contradictory in any way, let me know, as I don't mean to be.
June 21st, 2008, 11:18 AM #220
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- May 2008
You are completely right, im too afraid of writing in an informative way because i fear that iam making everything sound too bland. Hence i find it necesscary to add in some description and sub consciously keep putting in more than i should.
I like your point about trying to focus in on the characters and perhaps trying to explain in a way that is relevant to them. If there is extensive world building and loads of lore it is going to be hard to briefly explaining one thing without making it sound very vague.
July 12th, 2008, 02:01 PM #221
It was recommended that I post the first two paragraphs of my Query here. I would like to thank those who have already helped me in this forum. I think the first paragraph has what I was looking for overall. The second I am still curious of. Your opinions and anything that you feel just does not sit right is greatly appreciated. Here it is:
A kingdom under hidden attack, the Holy Order that once stood for good and equality has fallen under the influence of corruption by a mysterious figure, one that has the ear of the hailed peoples Emperor himself. This is what Hunt, a well tempered young common citizen in the waning feudalistic lands of Bestel, learns of. What comes threatens not only Hunt and everyone in the land, but the very morals and trust of everything once thought of as pure and truthful.
FACING CORRUPTION is the first in the Epic Fantasy trilogy PATHWAYS OF A HERO and totals 210,000 words. PATHWAYS OF A HERO: FACING CORRUPTION, while very unique and quite different plot wise, is easiest to compare to Terry Goodkind's WIZARDS FIRST RULE. When Hunt, an even headed young commoner looking for a better life learns that his simple father is more than he seems, and that a malicious dark figure has plans to make their lives a living hell until Hunt's death, his life is turned upside down. Though thanks to some new friends and a informative crazy eyed old man, they learn that they must go against all odds and cleanse the Holy Order of the lies and corruption that has spread, revealing truth to the swaying Emperor. Though things are not always as they seem and the future is never set in stone...
The second paragraph may be a tad too general, though this is why I would like a second opinion other than myself and the ones I have known for all my life. I also see that the relating line to another book could be a good thing and could be not so. I learned this from an agent so this is why I have a book relating, though I wonder if it sounds to confusing.
Anyway, thanks for the help, I appreciate the time taken to read it. Cheers to ya all!
Side Note: Is an "informative crazy eyed old man" to cliche and common? I am trying to purposely not name names except for the main character.
Last edited by SpToku; July 12th, 2008 at 02:07 PM.
July 14th, 2008, 06:47 PM #222
Okay, let's see where this can go. First up, relating your novel to a well-known author in the same field. This is called referencing. The reason that the agent suggested it is not to paint your novel as a clone of anyone's, but as a short-hand way of talking about your approach, to say that it's in the general ballpark or tradition of an author stylistically and in terms of general content, so that they know what sort of narrative they might be dealing with. (Referencing from authors is one way also to get a clear idea of a book from the author, since authors have a very hard time describing their work usually.) When you reference, it's a good idea to mention two to three authors, instead of one.
However, referencing tends to work better when you are making an oral pitch to an agent or editor at a conference or event, and can clarify things. In query letters it can work, but at this point, Goodkind is probably not one to use, because while a bestseller, he's very controversial, plus he's one of the older authors now. Unless stylistically you feel that you are close to a couple of authors, I would not bother to reference.
There is no earthly reason not to use the names of the other characters. You just have to be clear who the people are. Names are a lot easier to keep track of in a description than old man and mysterious figure. But the names have to have context. "hailed peoples" -- we don't know what that means, for instance. If you have a term or title that is special to your world, you'll have to explain it briefly if you want to use it in the description.
I would suggest that you start with Hunt and give more details of your world and more of plot. I do think both paragraphs are too general. You might want to try starting with something like:
"In the waning, feudalistic lands of Bestel, Hunt is a commoner, little valued or regarded, hoping for a better life. When he learns his father's secret, however, he becomes the target of a powerful figure, Name, who leads the Holy Order (is it just called the Holy Order?) and speaks in the ear of the Emperor himself."
That saves you a few sentences and gives you more room to tell what happens to Hunt in the plot and about the evil guy, etc. I'm a little confused how the Holy Order can stand for goodness and equality in a feudalistic society. I think someone brought that up in your other thread. Feudalism is inherently unequal. Or did Bestel once have a more democratic or socialist society, and the corruption of the Holy Order turned it feudal? Because that might be important in the description.
I think the title for the book, Facing Corruption, is maybe a little problematic. It's very dry, kind of non-fictiony. But others should weigh in and see if they like it better.
July 15th, 2008, 09:41 PM #223
First off: A big thanks to you Kat, I actually have not cared for the title all that much and had been thinking of changing it for some time (plus I have talked to some others and they also, believe it or not, thought it was dry.) Also from your advice I have reworked the query entirely. Tell me what you think and thanks for your help and time! If anyone else has some thoughts I would completely appreciate it as well, thank you.
NOTE: This is the main paragraphs, bio and others will be taken care of amply.
PATHWAYS OF A HERO: SHADOWS OF CORRUPTION, at 210,000 words, is the first in a series about a hidden war within the waning feudalistic lands of Bestel. A war set underway by Jedly Velswoop, a dark figure that secretly has sway over the Emperor himself, and has corrupted the Holy Order of White Blades who have helped to defend the land, using them as mere pawns. In the middle of this conflict we find Hunt and his friend Mark, given no last names as was their station in life, living in the simple, sheltered, commoner Province of Nelway. With Mark developing the dangerous magical abilities of a Majest and Hunt being illegally trained, by his kind father Peter, in the codes and morals of the renowned White Blades Order, things were far from simple.
Sadly, all this was the least of their worries when Peter reveals to Hunt that he indeed is not his true father, but that Peter himself is a warrior of the Holy Order and has been preparing him because of a dark vision. A vision in which the powerful Majest, Jedly, would sacrifice Hunt and a mysterious woman named Elizabeth, representing the end of order and the reign of chaos for their world. Though, things only get worse, from Peter being stabbed in the back by a unknown armored figure, to Hunt's friend Mark being kidnapped and insanely turning on him later, it seemed that Hunt's life was taking a turn for the worse. But, thanks to a crazy-eyed old Majest named Malyus Conwell, Uriah Ulthen, a Holy Warrior trying to live up to his fathers reputation, and other helping hands along the way, Hunt is able to pull through. With this they must set out to show truth to the Emperor, purging the lies that he has been fed, all beginning with the the cleansing of the Holy Order...
Last edited by SpToku; July 15th, 2008 at 09:44 PM.
July 23rd, 2008, 12:05 PM #224
Well this gives us a lot of new information. Hunt is not just a commoner who learns important information, but a Chosen One. And we learn about Mark, who plays a big role.
So again, you may need to rethink this and really look at what your plot is, what's in it, and how it is structured. I would again suggest building the story description around Hunt, not Jedly and the Order. The Chosen One is a familiar role, so who is Hunt? What is he like? How is he effected by what happens at the different stages of the story? If you sort of work from that orientation, the description is likely to read stronger.
Also look at how much is there that had to be pried out of you. If you have developments that are emotionally powerful and highly relevant -- such as a major character going insane -- that's the sort of information you probably most want to get across.
July 24th, 2008, 08:13 AM #225
I just had to write a 100 word synopsis for a 160,000 word novel. At first I thought it would be like "The Exorcist in 3 minutes performed by Bunnies" but actually it was a pretty good exercise.
Possibly a good starting point for someone wanting to write a cover letter because you can only fit the absolute most important things into 100 words. Then if you have 200 word or 300 words, then it's easy to see what other important things need to be said to flesh out that 100 words.