Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Ms. Gref:

Fiorella Merafin is a young girl caught up in a world war. When her parents are deployed, she is sent to a magical boarding school to get her safely away from the front lines. After the war takes a turn for the worse and her school ends up in harm's way, she must go from protected to protector to keep her family and friends safe.

Where the Witches and the Brontosaurs Roam is a middle grade fantasy novel of 77,000 words. I'm querying after reading your Middle Grade Ninja interview from April 2013 in which you mentioned an interest in places that haven't been explored before.



The carcasaurus had several notable features: gargantuan clawed flippers, a short neck, and a crocodile-style mouth large enough to swallow young children whole. All of which Fiorella Merafin was discovering first hand and from an unpleasantly close distance.

She had bad luck that way.

The carcasaurus burst through the glass tunnel with such ease that it seemed to magically appear among its intended prey, leaving them stunned and desperately hoping that it was all in fact a magic trick. One thing alone saved the merpeople nearby, there were just too many of them for the seasaurian to decide which to devour first. Should it take the tall ones? Would the skinny ones be too boney? Perhaps the round ones would be a better choice?

It needed time to think and that gave Fiorella time to run away. The sea flooded into the tunnel through the breach the carcasaurus had made, swallowing Fiorella. The carcasaurus pounced, hoping to do the same.

The other mermaids and mermen scattered in every direction, like mice fleeing a cat with knife-sized teeth. As soon as the sea touched them, they pressed their legs together, magically transforming their lower body into a dolphin-style tail, which propelled them through the water faster than the bulky carcasaurus could hope to go.

But Fiorella was only part mermaid. She had the gills, but not the legs. Most of the time that lack was not a hindrance. Unfortunately, being chased by a man-eating carnivore was not most of the time.


Donea Lee said...

Hi there ~ :)

Ok, I think this has the potential to be a really fun MG fantasy adventure. But, the query is seriously lacking details. From it, I assumed that Fiorella was just a normal kid, certainly not part mermaid. I think we need some grounding in her world in the query and more specific details about what happens and how she's effective as a protector, when she needs to be.

Regarding your first 250 - I needed more grounding in her world here, too. I felt like I was dropped into the middle of something that the query didn't, at all, prepare me for. (very reminiscent of Jaws 3, I think it was, when the big shark breaks the underwater tunnels at the amusement came to mind, anyhow - lol) I know there's conflicting advice in the writing world about starting with action, but I'm a believer in getting a solid introduction to the character and his/her world before I start doing bad things to them ~ :) Ground me in the wonders of Fiorella's life and I'd be more engaged, personally. Wishing you the best of luck with this!

Beth said...

I agree with Donea Lea. The query really does need a lot more detail, and a hook would really help at the start. There is a lot more that I would like to know about. Any specific world war? I'm not sure if this is historical, in the future, or not even related to Earth. Including that she is part mermaid would also be beneficial, since it explains why they would send her to a magical boarding school.

The leap into action might work fine, but it would be helpful to me as a reader to have some information on the world woven through it. I have no point of reference as to where they are or even who they are.

That being said, I'm intrigued by the idea of a half mermaid and how the full mermaids can have legs on land. I would be interested to see where you go with this.

Ben Spendlove said...

The first part of the query sounds almost exactly like THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE. The most interesting part of the query is the title, which hints at something quite different. But I'm left wondering what dinosaurs have to do with this, what's meant by magical boarding school, and why Fiorella becomes the protector.

The first scene drops not only action, but an unfamiliar world on us. It's almost too much, too fast.

etsmith said...

Thank you all for taking the time to offer your comments. It is extremely helpful. I'll certainly look at ways to integrate your feedback before my second round of querying.

Good luck with your own queries here and elsewhere.

Emily Gref said...

Hi E.S.,

From the query alone I wouldn't want to read more, which would be a shame because it seems like you have a fun premise. A query should tell me everything unique about your book - the fact that Fiorella is half-mermaid ranks high up there! I'd also like to know a little bit about Fiorella's personality, and what kind of character she is.

While opening with action is good advice, here we need a little bit of setting first - who is Fiorella? Where is she? Why? Wondering these things distracts from the tension of the carcasaurus attack, which should be a big moment... you just need to lead up to it first. :)

All the best,

Jennifer Park said...

Your story sounds very interesting and entertaining, but I think the query would be more effective if we knew that Fiorella was part mermaid, instead of just a girl. Also, give us some idea of where/when this takes place. I also immediately thought of the beginning of the Lion, witch, and he wardrobe.

Your first 250 is engaging, but more setting development would be useful. I am guessing the tunnel is underwater, but it's not clear.
Sounds like a really exciting story!