Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Agent,

I am so excited to be taking part in AN AGENT'S INBOX. I appreciate you taking time to give feedback and select the winners and prizes.

Sixteen-year-old Annie’s best friend is missing, and fingers may be pointing at her. Somehow classic good-girl Michelle disappeared without warning, launching Annie into a world of interrogations and secrets where everyone thinks she holds the key. Michelle's sketchy dad doesn’t help any as he starts painting a different picture of who his daughter was compared to the friend Annie thought she knew. Determined to uncover the murky truth surrounding Michelle’s missing person’s case, Annie finds it harder and harder to ignore the guilt welling up inside of her.

But when Michelle's remains are found three years later, everyone starts finding closure, everyone except a 19-year-old Annie who is interrogated as a suspect in the new homicide case. Just when Annie is losing hope of ever discovering the truth, she’s approached by Michelle’s younger sister, who is now at the age where Michelle started having trouble with dear old, creeptastic dad. She has her own suspicions as to what happened to her half sister--and wants Annie’s help to prove it.

Complete at 86,000 words, MISSING is a contemporary young adult loosely based on my personal experience when I launched my own private investigation after my high school best friend's unusual disappearance, and how I learned to cope after her remains were found.

I am a published freelance writer and blogger with a creative writing degree from Appalachian State University, a former editor with REALITY Check Girl magazine, and I currently freelance weekly for Engagement 101 magazine's website.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I should’ve just answered the phone. Friday seemed so long ago in this Sunday night haze. Staring at the detectives sitting on the couch across from me, I felt like a frightened ten-year-old.

They said Michelle was missing.

It was like an odd interrogation scene--the detectives in front of me, my parents behind me at the dining room table.

Did they think I was guilty?

“So, Miss Clark, tell us about Michelle,” Detective Stone said. “What was she like?”

Detective Stone was probably in his thirties or forties. A goatee outlined his square chin paired with a sort of buzz cut, and a leather jacket and jeans. It seemed like he was trying to be cool, and it wasn’t really working for him.

“I still don’t understand,” I said.

His partner, Detective Royal, leaned forward on the couch a little bit like a psychologist prepping to tell me that I was crazy. His face was kind, unlike his partner, who seemed to have a face etched in cement. His blue eyes contrasted with his coffee colored hair.

“Michelle’s father has been unable to reach or locate her since last night. Apparently she told her boyfriend she’d call him, but never did.” Detective Royal ran his hand through his hair as he spoke. “When he didn’t hear from her this morning, he contacted her father, who was staying at someone else’s house.”

“Whose house?” I interrupted him.

“A woman named Kathy,” Detective Stone responded.

“His ex-girlfriend?”

“Mr. Lance said they recently reconciled.”


Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

I found the query really gripping, and even more so when I got to the end and saw it was based on a true story. The only thing I'd suggest is clarifying the stakes at the end of the query. I mean, we can guess that your MC will be haunted by the memory of her friend's unsolved murder if she can't help shake the truth lose, but I wonder if the query would be stronger if you came right out and said that.

The first page starts in the perfect place, I think, and that's hard to do. I did find the MC's noting of people's personal appearances to be a bit odd. I feel like she should be in some form of shock, especially since in the query you mention what a "good girl" Michelle is. This can't be a normal situation easily explained away. So a few subtle hints as to her emotional state might take this good opening page and transform it into a "Wow!" one. Maybe have her realize that she's cataloguing details to try to cope with the shock? :)

Unknown said...

I was intrigued by the query and the fact that this was a true story really made me want to read the entry. The query could be tightened a bit. Cut out the words somehow and fingers pointing, maybe add in the fingers pointing part later.
Sixteen-year-old Annie’s best friend is missing. Classic good-girl Michelle disappeared without warning, launching Annie into a world of interrogations and secrets where everyone thinks she holds the key.

THIS LINE: Just when Annie is losing hope of ever discovering the truth, she’s approached by Michelle’s younger sister, who is now at the age where Michelle started having trouble with dear old, creeptastic dad.

What kind of trouble? Abuse? Be more specific here.

If I were an agent, I'd request more pages because this sounds like a great read! Good luck!

Sara said...

I agree with Kimberly's comment on clarifying the stakes in the query. Overall, your query and first page are great. I was definitely hooked in and would want to read more. Good luck!

HLDavis said...

This is an interesting premise that hints at some really awful crimes. I think enough is implied about the father to make us think he is up to no good, but it might not be a bad idea to say it more clearly. I think the query could use some refining and I found the opening a bit confusing in terms of tenses. Specifically:
1. classic good-girl Michelle--this made her seem like a cardboard cut out to me. Might be more powerful to note something unique and striking about her
2. where everyone thinks she holds the key--this seems vague and a bit awkwardly phrased--the key to what? the disappearance? not sure you need it here or maybe it could be stated differently
3. a different picture--can you be more specific?
4. the guilt welling up--so this implies that she did something wrong or does know something--is that the case? It confused me a bit
5. the age where Michelle --should be the age “when”
6. creeptastic--I think the flipness of this term detracts from the seriousness of the situation, even if it is teen speak
7. I found the opening a bit confusing—what is going on with the phone call? I also think the action could be more direct and immediate. What about something like:

Sitting rigid on the couch across from me, the detectives said she was missing. I felt like a frightened ten-year-old. Michelle was my best friend.

I want to be there with her and feel her shock and fear. If you can pull us in that way, I think readers will be hooked.
Good luck!

Laura Moe said...

I agree with others her that the query and the sample hooked the reader. Well done.

Agent said...

I always love a good thriller! This seems like an interesting set-up. I read all the way through your material, interested to know more.

I’d be interested to know how or why fingers are being pointed at Annie. Was she there? Did something tie her to the disappearance like a cryptic journal entry or something? I don’t need a full explanation, but I’d like a little bit more here.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn't mention the possible comparison to Sara Shepard’s PRETTY LITTLE LIARS. I’m sure your book is different, but this is the place to really explain to me what makes your story stand out. Also, don’t be afraid to list PRETTY LITTLE LIARS as a comp title. That lets me know that you’re aware of the similarities between the books and, presumably, you've worked to separate your story.

This is a minor point, and personal preference, but very stylized words (unless used throughout your entire query as character’s voice) can be distracting. I’m referring to the word “creeptastic”. I like the emotion conveyed in the sentence, but I stumbled over the word.

Usually, I don't like the "I wrote this story because" paragraph. For me, what matters at this point is the end result. If I like your work and we have a phone call, then I'd be interested to know why you wrote the book. That said, not many people launch their own PI firms and it is relevant to the story so it works here.

I don’t get a very strong sense of how Annie feels in this segment. This connection with the audience is key. Even if what she’s feeling is shock or numbness, I’d like to see how that manifests for her. Especially if her guilt is in question, the reader’s connection with Annie has to be instantaneous. I’d recommend pulling in a little tighter and letting us slip inside her skin for this scene.

Also, I'm not sure about the phone call in the first sentence. It’s a great sentence, but I’m a little lost about how it relates to the interrogation. Could you tie it in more closely?

Thanks for letting me read your work.

Sean said...

I like the premise for this story. I also like that you jump into the main conflict in your first 250. The one thing I found distracting is the description of the detectives. I don't think you need to go into detail about their eye color, facial features, clothes, etc., especially on the first page. Stick with the dialogue and sprinkle in ways to increase the tension in the room. Maybe one of the detectives looks at her or talks to her in a way that makes her think he doesn't believe her. Overall, I like the idea and the writing, but be careful to use too much description right off the bat.

Emily said...

Thank you everyone for taking the time to critique my query and first 250!

And thank you, Agent, for reading all of the material and offering concise feedback and suggestions. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this contest :).