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Author Topic: Burning Heart (adult high fantasy - updated post #14)  (Read 1004 times)
kassamarandra
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« on: March 14, 2017, 06:26:30 PM »

Most updated version in post 12

Hello,

I'm new to this forum, but not to the critiquing process. This query has been through numerous edits on another forum and I need fresh eyes on it. The only thing I will say is that there is a second, parallel plot that isn't really explored through this query - this was done to simplify and remove either backstory or world-building information.

Thank you in advance for any assistance.

QUERY:

I am pleased to present Burning Heart, an adult high-fantasy novel with multiple points of view and complete at 115,000 words, for your consideration.

Waking from stasis after a millennium can be disorienting. The last thing Ember remembers is the death of her soulmate by the Unseelie King's hand, and using herself to seal the portal between her world and humanity's. Worse yet, as a greater elemental — created from earth, air, fire, and water — Ember can no longer feel the elements within her. But now that the seal is reopened, Ember's greatest adversary, the Unseelie King, is moving forward with his plans to annihilate humanity and take Earth as his own. Only Ember, created for this very purpose, can stop him.

When Ember receives news of her soulmate's impending reincarnation into the human world, she's elated, but not even the news that she will see him again slakes her thirst for revenge. There's only one problem with her desire to avenge her slain soulmate: she remains severed from her elements. It's only once Ember regains her ability to shift into her elemental forms, that she will be strong enough to stand up to the Unseelie King — taking her revenge while defending humanity. But with his armies already in Earth, exterminating humans, she is running out of time. What Ember doesn't know is that the only other greater elemental, one created by the Unseelie King, is already there hunting for the reincarnation of her soulmate.

No longer in perfect balance with the elements, and in order to save humanity and her soulmate, Ember must find a new balance and accept who she's become. Only by doing so, will she be able to defeat the Unseelie King, save Earth, and once again be reunited with her beloved.

Your profile mentioned fantasy as a current interest and I hope that you find my manuscript to be a good match.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 02:48:59 PM by kassamarandra » Logged
Gobbo
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« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2017, 10:09:00 PM »

The lack of stakes concerns me. Also, I like to read the protagonist's name in the first sentence. The conflict reads rather passive. I want to know what she must do to achieve this goal. Action-wise. You never really say. Also, keep in mind you'll want to CAPS ALL the title. I'd open with the hook or personalization first. Overall, it's a little confusing, but I get the plot. Again, the lack of stakes and consequences concerns me. Still, my biggest concern is how passive the protagonist reads. Everything is happening to her, but she's not really doing anything of note herself. Reads telling as opposed to showing. I want to see her taking action even in a query. My apologies, but I feel your query requires a lot of rewriting and tightening.

That all said, I do like the premise though. It's different. Either way, that's my impression and my humble opinion.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2017, 01:36:16 AM by Gobbo » Logged

"Maybe you should just get the hell out of here." (3/15/17)
Sarah Ahiers (Falen)
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« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2017, 07:58:45 AM »

Also, I like to read the protagonist's name in the first sentence.

I'm like this too. The first sentence as is doesn't carry much weight because it could be about anyone or anything. It doesn't ground the reader. But if you changed it to focus on Ember, I think it's stronger:

For greater elemental Ember, waking from stasis after a millennium is disorienting.

That way we get her name and what she is right away up front, so it's grounding.

My biggest problem with this query is that the whole first paragraph, which is almost half the query, is back story. It's all about what Ember remembers from before she was in stasis. Assuming the inciting incident is her waking up from stasis, all that back story just makes the whole things seem very passive.

Instead I think you should focus on Ember's goals and motivations, and what it is she's actually struggling to do in regards to the plot. Like, you talk about how she has a thirst for vengeance but until that line mentions it, I had no idea this was a revenge plot. There's nothing that tells me even WHY she's aiming for venegeance. The death of her soulmate, presumably, but if he's being reincarnated then what's the point? There's no driving force behind the vengeance if he just comes back to life, you know?

I don't know if it will help or not, but I wrote a vengeance query once and it worked very well for me. You can find it here (it's the first one on the post, I think)

https://querytracker.net/forum/index.php?topic=19529.0

Otherwise I would focus on answering these questions and using the answers to build your query:

What does your MC want most? (both externally and internally)
What must she do to get it?
What is in her way? What goes wrong? Who is involved?
What terrible choice(s) must she make?
What will happen if she gets what she wants? Or if she doesn't?

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ASSASSIN'S HEART 2016 HarperTeen
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kassamarandra
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« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2017, 11:01:18 AM »

Thank you both for your input. It's very much appreciated. There are seven other drastically different versions of this query, all which would answer your various questions in some form or another, but nothing resonated with the critiquers -- until this one. If this one isn't working either, however, I'll have to go back and review.

Thank you again for taking the time to review my query.
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mgmystery
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2017, 07:46:02 AM »

Hi, Kassamarandra.

I wanted to jump in here to say you have some great advice here, and I don't think you need to leave this query altogether. It might just need some reworking.

I am pleased to present (I don't have a link or anything, but I've read this isn't the wording you want to use. If you open with your genre/title paragraph, it's fine to just say I'm seeking representation for... Burning Heart, an adult (I think just say fantasy.) high-fantasy novel with multiple points of view and complete at 115,000 words, for your consideration.

I like the idea of opening the query with Ember waking. I'm not a big fantasy person, so the "stasis after a millennium" doesn't really grab me. I would imagine Ember waking and realizing she's missing her power of the elements, and remembering the death of her soul mate (assuming that's what happened immediately before). Of course, you would likely explain the stasis thing in the next sentence. after that, I really like Sarah's list of questions for laying out the plot.

I agree that you seem to have a good premise--this query might not be showing it in the best light. Good luck, and I'll watch for the rewrite!
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kassamarandra
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« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2017, 03:38:17 PM »

Thank you all for your feedback. I've been struggling with this stupid thing for some time now, and I appreciate the time taken to review my query.

Before I get too deep into revisions on the previously posted version, I was wondering if this older 2-POV query is better in conveying the overall story rather than just focusing on Ember. This goes over the 2nd parallel plot and the other main character in the MS.

If it doesn't work in your opinions, that's fine, but with some of the questions you've brought up, I wonder if this version would be better to revise than the first one posted.

After 15+ revisions, I just want to ensure I'm working on the best version before I continue.

PREVIOUS QUERY:
Given life by each of the elements, Ember and Vashti may be identical in composition, but they are fundamentally opposite at their core. Created by the dark, and cursed during her creation, Vashti's only purpose is to do her master's malevolent bidding, while Ember, created by the light and a champion of two worlds, is free to choose her own path and whom she fights for.

Ember chose to fight for humanity. When the seal that she created is broken, Ember soon realizes that she can no longer feel the very elements she once held an intimate connection with. Without them, she fears her enemies will prey, unchecked, on the unsuspecting human world. As she struggles to reconnect with the elements, she must accept that the time she spent in the seal, changed her. Until she does, she will not be able to regain her lost abilities and save humanity from their enemies once and for all.

Her connection to the elements means little to Vashti; they are only there to be her strength--her weapon against anyone who opposes her. Yet, despite all her power, she is unable to break the chains of her master's will. While she hoped to be freed from his control on completion of her goal, when Vashti finally succeeds in breaking Ember's seal, her hopes are crushed. Her master wants her to seek out the prophesied "key" to his victory. When sent in search of the key, and briefly out from beneath her master's control, Vashti not only questions her future, but also her master's goal to conquer humanity.
 
With multiple points of view, Burning Heart follows Ember, as she tried to recover what she's lost, and Vashti, as she tries to earn her freedom from a life of servitude. Your profile mentioned fantasy as a current interest. Burning Heart is an adult epic-fantasy novel, complete at 115,000 words. I hope that you find my manuscript to be a good match.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2017, 04:35:19 PM by kassamarandra » Logged
suja
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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2017, 06:26:40 PM »

I did find the query confusing. I'm not sure about the significance of the seal. And the 'save humanity' seems rather vague and cliche. I read your first query, the one you originally posted, and I felt more drawn in. It gives me stakes: the death of the soulmate, the need for revenge, the antagonist. It gives me the obstacles in her path. I'd go with that.
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Sarah Ahiers (Falen)
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« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2017, 09:30:31 AM »

So, in general, I'm not a fan of dual pov queries. Because you have to do everything you would normally accomplish in a query, but with half the space because you need to do it for both the characters.

I think you should just pick one of the characters, and write the query from their POV.

If you were to take this second query, remove Vashti's POV from it, that would give you so much more space to explain things for Ember, to really let us understand the stakes in regards to plot and emotions. (or remove Ember and focus on Vashti.)

Even just something like:

Ember is an elemental, a creature formed by the light and a champion of the worlds WORLD ONE and WORLD TWO. Her great power is a huge responsibility, but she is free to choose her own path and who she fights for. And Ember chooses to fight for humanity (maybe include reasons here for why she does that, for personal stakes and character arc)

Until BAD THING HAPPENS, PROBABLY THE INCITING INCIDENT. (expand here on the inciting incident and what it means. End this paragraph with what Ember PLANS TO DO)

Next Paragraph talk about the problems Ember faces and how it interferes with her PLANS TO DO and even better if it also interferes with her personal stakes too.

Conclude this paragraph with a TERRIBLE CHOICE Ember has to make as well as CONSEQUENCES (what happens if she chooses wrong? Or if she chooses right? (the best kind of choices are ones where she isn't a clear winner. Where she has to give something up no matter what (this ties in the personal stakes))
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mgmystery
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« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2017, 10:42:02 AM »

I tend to like duel POV in a query where it shows opposing forces. Here, it muddied up things for me. From the first version, I thought the king was the enemy. Here, Vashti seems to be the enemy. For the sake of clarity, I think you should focus on Ember. She seems to be the character with the most at stake. The first query was the clearest for me, but you really have your work cut out for you. I can totally understand why this query is so hard to write. Maybe try to line it up like this?

Ember wakes from (amount of time) sleep. Remembers what happened and her loss of power. Brief explanation of what the king is actually up to (Are the armies already there when she wakes? Does anyone try to protect themselves?). How Ember's power would defeat armies. --Here's where things get really confusing to me. If Ember lost her power, how could she have any plan to defeat the king? I'm also interested in the reincarnated soulmate, because if the king is searching for him, he must be important.

Sorry if this isn't helpful at all. My best suggestion is to go ahead and write a long query. Once we can understand the story, I'm happy to try and help you figure out what you can cut. Good luck! Fantasy queries are really difficult.
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kassamarandra
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« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2017, 04:04:15 PM »

Thank you all for your input. Your time is greatly appreciated.

mgmystery: From the first version, I thought the king was the enemy. Here, Vashti seems to be the enemy. This is where I've run into the biggest issues with this query. The king is the "big bad", but while Ember is sealed in the portal, he created Vashti as his weapon. She then opens the portal and becomes his proxy, of sorts, for being the big bad throughout the ms. She has her own parallel story that ties into searching for the soulmate for a reason of her own (well... of the king's).

I'm going to use Sarah's suggestion (which is laid out so nicely, thank you), but if that's not working then I'll do as mgmystery suggest and write up a longer version to cut down on.

This is where I'm currently at with the single POV query - it's really just the hook for now, and I'll update the rest once I have it written up.
Thank you all again for your time.

Opening hook:
For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed the portal to Earth is disorienting, but the fact that she can no longer feel the elements within her is far worse. As a greater elemental, Ember could move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next. But now, the Unseelie King is invading Earth once again, and only Ember stands between him and the annihilation of humanity.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2017, 04:11:17 PM by kassamarandra » Logged
Sarah Ahiers (Falen)
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« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2017, 04:11:40 PM »

yeah I think that new opening hook is definitely a step in the right direction!
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« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2017, 06:13:51 PM »

Opening hook:
For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed the portal to Earth is disorienting, but the fact that she can no longer feel the elements within her is far worse. As a greater elemental, Ember could move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next. But now, the Unseelie King is invading Earth once again, and only Ember stands between him and the annihilation of humanity.

I agree with the others' input that this is working better. I'll jump in on this to say that the phrase "the fact that" is one I usually try to eliminate if I can find it in my writing, mostly because it was one of E.B. White's disliked phrases, and Strunk and White on Style is widespread enough that I assume agents and editors are also looking for things like that.

One alternative could be:
For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed the portal to Earth is disorienting, but losing the ability to feel the elements within her is far worse.


The story sounds interesting. Good luck with it!
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kassamarandra
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« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2017, 09:06:48 PM »

Okay, here's the most up to date version. It's longer than the others, at 380 words, but I'm sure there's room for lots of cutting, I just can't see it at the moment.

I appreciate everyone's time, and I'll happily return the favour if you point me in the right direction. 

Thank you in advance!

REVISED QUERY:
For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed the portal to Earth is disorienting, but no longer being able to feel the elements within her -- that is far worse. As a greater elemental, Ember could move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next. But now, that's all gone, and the Unseelie King is invading Earth once again. Only Ember stands between him and the annihilation of humanity, and unless she regains the connection to the deepest parts of herself, it's unlikely she'll be able to stop him.

(This paragraph contains one sentence of backstory. I don't know how else to pull this information in, because the lost control, and that the king is responsible for her soulmates death is important in speaking to motivation and the difficulty with her abilities)
Upon discovering that the Unseelie King killed her soulmate, Ember lost control of her powers, and in order to save both Earth and Pangaea, she sealed the portal between the worlds. But now, with the portal reopened and her once-great powers absent, Ember must return to the Seelie Court to mourn her loss, learn why she can't reach the elements, and plot her revenge against the Unseelie King.

When she learns of her soulmate's reincarnation into the human world, all Ember wants is to leave for Earth, but when she tries, she's blocked from leaving Pangaea. After seeking out her mentor, she learns that she cannot traverse the dimensions because what little power she's regained is unstable. That in order to enter Earth, and protect humanity from herself, she must first reconnect with all four elements.

With the Unseelie King's armies already in Earth, and his own greater elemental searching for the reincarnated vessel, Ember is running out of time. But with the return of the final element, comes a choice: she must choose between finding and protecting her soulmate as a young boy, or seeking out the key to end the Unseelie King's reign once and for all.

« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 01:42:25 AM by kassamarandra » Logged
mgmystery
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« Reply #13 on: March 21, 2017, 10:02:00 AM »

WOW! What a change! I really like this query.  Smiley The backstory wasn't an issue for me. You worded it clearly, so we immediately know what's in the past. If you really feel the need to skip the backstory, you could reword the backstory sentence a little, and start the query with it. Then, everything would follow naturally.

There was one sentence in the first paragraph I thought could use a little change: Only Ember stands between him and the annihilation of humanity, (I kind of wanted to separate this into 2 sentences, but I think it reads better the way you already had it.) and unless she regains the connection to the deepest parts of herself, it's unlikely she'll never be able to stop him. (Never just implies more danger for solid stakes.)

Great job!
 
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kassamarandra
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« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2017, 02:48:41 PM »

Updated based on a few suggestions. The only thing that concerns me is the 2nd to last paragraph, where I feel like I've lost something in the editing.
Thank you in advance for your time. I'll happily return the favour.


REVISED QUERY:

As a greater elemental, Ember could once move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next. But now, that's all gone. With her nemesis, the Unseelie King, invading Earth again, Ember must regain her connection to the deepest parts of herself or she'll never be able to stop him.

(This paragraph does contain a little backstory. I don't know how else to pull this information in, because the lost control, and that the king is responsible for her soulmates death is important in speaking to motivation and the difficulty with her abilities)
A millennium earlier, Ember discovered that the Unseelie King killed her soulmate in battle. Absorbed by her grief and rage, Ember lost control of her powers, and in order to save both dimensions from a cataclysm of her own making, she sealed herself in the portal between the worlds. But now, with the portal reopened and her powers absent, Ember must return to the Seelie Court to mourn her loss, learn why she can't reach the elements, and plot her revenge against the Unseelie King.

When Ember learns of her soulmate's reincarnation into the human world, all she wants is to leave for Earth. After attempting to go through the portal, Ember finds she cannot. That what little power she regained is unstable, and because of this, she cannot traverse the dimensions until she reconnects with all four elements.

With the Unseelie King's armies already in Earth and his own greater elemental searching for her soulmate, Ember is running out of time. But with the return of the elements comes a choice: find and protect her soulmate or pursue the key to ending the Unseelie King's reign once and for all.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 06:34:51 PM by kassamarandra » Logged
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