Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #20

Dear Ms. Smith:

Sure, eleven-year-old Rell dreams of doing bigger things than weeding the corn field. He means being allowed to go all the way to Marketown by himself like his big brother, not becoming a mage.

A mage storm, destructive remnant of the Great Mage War, rages across his home and catches Rell too far from shelter. Rell thinks he's going to die, instead, the storm infects him with magic. That's big all right, but it's not so good. Angered by his brother's taunts, he almost sets the family barn on fire. He needs help learning how to control this magic. So Rell sets out alone to find someone who can teach him.

That's a problem when all the mages were supposedly killed in the Great Mage War. It's an even bigger dilemma when the first teacher he finds turns out to be a homicidal charlatan. Becoming a real mage is going to be a challenge. But it's only the first of many as a new idea grips Rell: a new mage might just be able to repair all the things magic once destroyed.
MAGE STORM is a 55,000-word middle grade fantasy and potentially the first of a series. Readers of John Flanagan's RANGER'S APPRENTICE series will enjoy MAGE STORM.

At the flicker of green light, Rell raised his head from the row of corn he'd been weeding and glanced up across the open plains. Maybe it was nothing, just a trick of the light or a reflection. Everything was some shade of green or yellow in that direction except the line of clouds on the horizon.
In the next row over, Da said, "Back before the war, we'd have had a mage spell the seeds before we planted. Then the corn would grow faster than the weeds and choke them out. Things were easier then."
Rell grimaced. Once Da got started on what things were like before the war, he could go on all day. Weeding the fields was boring enough without that. "Yeah, well, all the mages are dead," he muttered under his breath. He glanced over toward the blackened stumps of what used to be the family's orchard. And a good thing, too. He knew better than to say that out loud, though.
Rell caught another flash out of the corner of his eye. Orange. He'd swear to it. There were a lot fewer things on the plains at this time of year that could be that color. He jumped to his feet, brushing the heavy clay soil from his hands and tossing his head to get the unruly brown hair out of his eyes.
A bolt of red lightening forked down as Rell watched. He waited for it, but there was no thunder following the flash.


Karen Clayton said...

Your concept sounds like a fun read. But I don't know what a mage is. Perhaps work the definition in sooner for those clueless souls like me.

Opening line is good. I enjoy the description.

I also love the Ranger Apprentice series so then I'd enjoy your style too. Good luck.

Hong said...

Like the poster above, I don't know what a mage is.

My main concern is the mage storm that's changing the main character's life. If things are happening to the MC without a reason, it shows the MC as a reactive protagonist. So right now, I don't understand why a mage storm is taking place.

It'd be more interesting to see that the MC caused a mage storm because of something he did.

I'm not getting a feel of his personality in the first 250 words. What's special about him? Why should readers care reading his story?

Good luck!

GSMarlene said...

Cool - I know what a mage is, so this sounds exciting!

I love the first paragraph in the query, but from there it turns into more of a synopsis. The query needs to tell us what the story is "about" not a step by step of what happens.

In the last paragraph, the problem is set up well, I think the only thing you need to add is what happens if he doesn't find a teacher.

In the first 250, I love his voice and reaction to his Da angsting over the past. I definitely would read on to find out why he thinks it's good the mages are dead. Strong start!

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I would think that this would be submitted to an agent who represents fantasy work.

If they didn't know what a mage was then I personally wouldn't touch them with a barge pole.

That said, just what is so special about Rell? Why did the storm imbue him with this magic, sure people have been caught out in them before?

The first paragraph of the query drags the eye a bit and could be tightened up.

I think the first page reads just fine, though I'm surprised that neither Rell nor his father recognise the onset of the storm immediately, surely they are used to them?

It's the query that is the problem, is drags and there is no urgency. It make the story sound less than it probably is. It needs tightening up and a the pace speeding up a touch. It's too matter of fact, put some urgency in it.

Christine L. Arnold said...

Maybe it's because I read and write a lot of fantasy, but I really don't think you need to explain what a mage is. Anyone you're querying with this should know. That said, what a cool concept!! I love the idea of catching powers from a storm.

I thought your 250 were good, though the line "There were a lot fewer things on the plains at this time of year" stopped me. Fewer than what? Otherwise just say "There weren't many things on the plains this time of year..."

Anonymous said...

I agree, any agent you'd be querying with this would know what a mage is. I, too, like the concept. I think it's interesting that this mage war wiped out all the mages.

I'm not clear on what's at stake here. Rell has to learn how to use his magic, but what happens if he doesn't? His brother will taunt him? Aaaand....?

Cut out the backstory. Home in on the stakes. And good luck.

Bridget Smith said...

There’s a lot that’s good here, but it’s not grabbing me the way I want it to. A kid forging his own way in the world, the revitalization of an art thought lost, a quest, a real goal: these elements are all great, and they come through clearly in the query. However, it still feels a bit flat. Can you get more voice in the query and heighten the sense of the stakes? There’s more backstory here than forward momentum: that’s what I’d like to see.

I agree with a few other commenters, too: "mage" is such a common term in fantasy that there's no need to define it. You're good. :)