Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Query Hop Critique 5

Rena Olsen used to enter my contests and now she's helping to run them! Ain't life wonderful!
Keep in mind that feedback is subjective by nature. What does and does not catch the eye is going to vary by person. Each writer must weigh the comments they get against their own judgement and make the changes that resonate with them.

The Holiday Query hop is still taking entries, see here for details.  
The random number generator picks 16!
Sixteen-year-old Tia’s convinced her mom and those villagers were wrong about the grandfather who died before she was born. He wasn’t a monster. The real monsters were the ones who killed him. She knows, because she found his lab, the one they did their best to burn to the ground. She read his journals. She secretly rebuilt his machines. (Axe this paragraph. Too much backstory. You want to start your query where the action is, which the second paragraph does beautifully.)

When her elusive crush, Frank, is killed in a car crash, she sixteen-year-old Tia snatches his poor, torn body (from the crash site? from the funeral home?) before they can embalm him. She hauls his parts and pieces (this pulled me out of the query because it’s kinda gross. Exactly how many parts is she hauling? Eeek! Maybe just “parts” or even switch to “remains,” which would encompass all his parts and pieces.) to her grandfather’s tower. Under the cryptic guidance left for her in the journals (if you delete the first paragraph, you will need to explain which journals she’s using), she patches him back together. Lightning erupts, and she reanimates Frank. (I love the last part of the sentence, but I wonder if the lightning causes the reanimation or if it’s just to set tone. If it causes the reanimation, connect the two. “Using the power of a lightning bolt, Tia reanimates Frank.”)

Those cats that disappeared? Tia’s pretty sure coyotes got them. And that old lady has it wrong. (Has what wrong? Are there strange things other than disappearing cats going on in the neighborhood?) Tia knows Frank. He’d never hurt a soul. So what if he takes off every night? He needs his space. Stuff like that keeps a relationship fresh. Sure, he stumbles around during the day, and she tries to ignore the fact that he’s not quite Frank anymore. Well, maybe not even a smidgen like Frank anymore. Because he’s the guy she always wanted, and he tells her he loves her. All the time. (I’m torn about this paragraph. The voice is fantastic, but it almost contradicts itself. Tia knows Frank, except he’s not anything like Frank anymore. I would start with why she might ignore everything that’s happening. She’s excited she’s finally with her crush. He says he loves her. {Could add something there too, as far as how he says it. Is his tone flat, mumbled?} I love the lines about him needing space and keeping the relationship fresh. I think you could cut down the mentions of weird things happening in the neighborhood.)

But, when Frank’s possessive attitude—well, frankly, it’s a frightening attitude—becomes more than she can bear frightening, Tia must decide if she loves Frank enough to keep him alive, or find a way to bury him good. (Stakes don’t feel urgent enough. Do others notice Frank is missing? Is he normal looking enough that they don’t suspect? With strange things happening in the neighborhood, do they look for someone to blame? What else is Tia giving up if she buries him for good?)

Complete at xx,xxx, REANIMATING FRANK, a WIP,  is a young adult contemporary fantasy in the vein of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’m a member of SCBWI and RWA.

(Include a paragraph indicating that you’ve attached materials per the agency guidelines, and always thank them for their time and consideration.)

I really love the concept of this story. I think with a little tightening and higher stakes, you’ll have a really strong query. The voice shines through in the query, which is difficult to accomplish. 


Daughter of a wandering pastor, Rena Olsen never knew the answer to the question, “Where are you from?” Attending her third school by fourth grade, she found familiarity and comfort in reading, and when she figured out she could create her own stories, that was it. She hasn’t stopped writing since her first story, about an anthropomorphic tooth going on an adventure through a school, won the state of Iowa contest for her age group. Now she spends her days playing games and saving lives as a school therapist, and in the evenings she dives into the fictional worlds in her mind. She also spends more time reading than sleeping, and has absolutely zero regrets. Rena is represented by Sharon Pelletier of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. 

Twitter: @originallyrena

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Michelle, for hosting the Query Hop.

    I'm so psyched WIP query was drawn for a critique!

    And thank you, Rena, for your great suggestions. I'm glad Tia's voice shines through.