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Author Topic: Flames of the Labyrinth - MG Fantasy (Revised)  (Read 515 times)
Aevin
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« on: September 14, 2018, 02:01:07 PM »

I can see some rough spots here, but I keep staring and can't figure out how to fix them. I also can't shake the feeling I'm completely on the wrong track here. Any insight would be appreciated, and I'll happily offer critique on other queries and samples in return.

Edit: Please see the revision in the post below.
-------------------------------------

Dear [Agent],

When twelve-year-old Hito gets lost in the woods near Edo, Japan, two mischievous wisps spirit him away to the Labyrinth—a vast prison for lost souls from which no one has ever escaped. Navigating illusions of overgrown temples, ancient battlefields, and arid wastelands, Hito faces countless yōkai monsters, from cleaver-wielding mountain trolls, to ghosts of the drowned, to a frenzy of bird men. With his memories of his family quickly fading, he wishes only for a way home.

Soon he meets Ren, a brash American girl who would sooner shoot her foes full of ice shards than reason with them, but with Hito's quick thinking and strategy, they somehow squeak by again and again. Their only hope of escape lies in the Flame Compass, a mysterious artifact that can lead them to their wisp captors, but with the compass's power weakening and twin shinobi assassins hot on their trail, Hito must choose whether to sacrifice his friendship with Ren in exchange for the power to fight. He'll have to decide soon, before the Labyrinth's malevolent consciousness creeps into his mind, robbing him of his sense of self and transforming him into a monster.

Hitodama: Flames of the Labyrinth
is a middle grade fantasy novel of 53,000 words. In the spirit of Margaret Dilloway's Momotaro series, the story interweaves cultural tidbits and fast-paced encounters with beasts from Japanese mythology. [Personalization here.]

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Japanese from the University of Oregon. In the course of my studies, I lived in Japan for a year, deepening my love for Japanese folklore, language, and culture. My short story, "Playing in the Dark," appeared in the September 2012 issue of the children's horror magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree.

I've included the first ten pages and a synopsis below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Me]
« Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 05:02:53 PM by Aevin » Logged
TigerAsh
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« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2018, 04:00:34 PM »

I can see some rough spots here, but I keep staring and can't figure out how to fix them. I also can't shake the feeling I'm completely on the wrong track here. Any insight would be appreciated, and I'll happily offer critique on other queries and samples in return.
-------------------------------------

Dear [Agent],

When twelve-year-old Hito [Last name?] gets lost in the woods near Edo, Japan, two mischievous wisps spirit him away [Maybe it's just me, but I don't know what "wisps" are, and it's never really explained. Also, I wasn't sure what "spirit him away" meant.] to the Labyrinth—a vast prison for lost souls from which no one has ever escaped. NWhile navigating illusions of overgrown temples, ancient battlefields, and arid wastelands, Hito faces countless yōkai monsters, from cleaver-wielding mountain trolls, to ghosts of the drowned, to a frenzy of bird men. With his memories of his family quickly fading, he wishes only for a way home.

Soon he meets Ren [Last name?], a brash American girl who would sooner shoot her foes full of ice shards than reason with them, but with Hito's quick thinking and strategy, they somehow squeak by again and again. Their only hope of escape lies in the Flame Compass, a mysterious artifact that can lead them to their wisp captors, [Why would that be a good thing?] but with the compass's power weakening [Why?] and twin shinobi assassins hot on their trail, Hito must choose whether to sacrifice his friendship with Ren in exchange for the power to fight. [Power to fight what? The assassins? Or did you mean the power he'll need to access the compass?] He'll have to decide soon, before the Labyrinth's malevolent consciousness creeps into his mind, robbing him of his sense of self and transforming him into a monster. [I'm not quite sure what this means. Are you saying that the Labyrinth somehow turns people into monsters? (If so, that sounds cool, but how?) And if that's the case, how does Hito figure that out?]

[Overall, I think the biggest issue I'm having with your query letter is the lengths of you sentences. They aren't necessarily wrong, they're just long. I think your query letter would pack more of a punch, and read better, if some of the sentences were shorter. For example, in the paragraph above, try putting a period before the "but" in the first two sentences.]

Hitodama: Flames of the Labyrinth
HITODAMA: FLAMES OF THE LABYRINTH is a 53,000-word middle grade fantasy novel of 53,000 words. In the spirit of Margaret Dilloway's Momotaro series, the story interweaves cultural tidbits and fast-paced encounters with beasts from Japanese mythology. [Personalization here.<--Only add if it's unique, such as you've met this agent before, have corresponded with this agent before, are responding to an #MSWL, etc.]

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Japanese from the University of Oregon. In the course of my studies, I lived in Japan for a year, deepening my love for Japanese folklore, language, and culture. My short story, "Playing in the Dark," appeared in the September 2012 issue of the children's horror magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree.

I've included the first ten pages and a synopsis below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Me]


Hope my comments help. Good luck! Smiley
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Aevin
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2018, 02:00:37 PM »

Thanks so much for your feedback! I'll be keeping all this in mind when I revise this.
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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2018, 07:00:02 AM »


Dear [Agent],

When twelve-year-old Hito gets lost in the woods near Edo, Japan, two mischievous wisps spirit him away to the Labyrinth—a vast prison for lost souls from which no one has ever escaped. Navigating illusions of overgrown temples, ancient battlefields, and arid wastelands, Hito faces countless yōkai monsters, from cleaver-wielding mountain trolls, to ghosts of the drowned, to a frenzy of bird men. With his memories of his family quickly fading, he wishes only for a way home.

Soon he meets Ren, a brash American girl who would sooner shoot her foes full of ice shards than reason with them, but with Hito's quick thinking and strategy, they somehow squeak by again and again. Their only hope of escape lies in the Flame Compass, a mysterious artifact that can lead them to their wisp captors, but with the compass's power weakening and twin shinobi assassins hot on their trail, Hito must choose whether to sacrifice his friendship with Ren in exchange for the power to fight. ( I don't understand why he has to choose. The situation isn't explained. I do love the idea of the compass fading . It adds more tension Grin )


 He'll have to decide soon, before the Labyrinth's malevolent consciousness creeps into his mind, robbing him of his sense of self and transforming him into a monster. ( I'd probably cut this just because I don't want to lost sympathy to the character. That last bit, as you don't have time to explain the finer details of how the consciousness thing works , makes part of me decide MC a bad person in the end, and not care )


Hitodama: Flames of the Labyrinth
is a middle grade fantasy novel of 53,000 words. In the spirit of Margaret Dilloway's Momotaro series, the story interweaves cultural tidbits and fast-paced encounters with beasts from Japanese mythology. [Personalization here.]

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Japanese from the University of Oregon. In the course of my studies, I lived in Japan for a year, deepening my love for Japanese folklore, language, and culture. My short story, "Playing in the Dark," appeared in the September 2012 issue of the children's horror magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree.

I've included the first ten pages and a synopsis below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Me]
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vulpion
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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2018, 12:46:01 AM »

I can see some rough spots here, but I keep staring and can't figure out how to fix them. I also can't shake the feeling I'm completely on the wrong track here. Any insight would be appreciated, and I'll happily offer critique on other queries and samples in return.
-------------------------------------

Dear [Agent],

When twelve-year-old Hito gets lost in the woods near Edo (I like how you show with one word that the story takes place before the modern age. It might not be as important in the Labyrinth, but it does matter what knowledge and preconceptions the MC takes with him from the human world.), Japan, two mischievous wisps spirit him away to the Labyrinth—a vast prison for lost souls from which no one has ever escaped(Like no one? Ever? I would be specific here and also cut either vast or lost to make the sentence less wordy). Navigating illusions of overgrown temples, ancient battlefields, and arid wastelands, Hito faces countless yōkai monsters, from cleaver-wielding mountain trolls, to ghosts of the drowned, to a frenzy of bird men. (This sentence feels too wordy. Besides, the average reader has no idea what a yōkai is and you don't explain it, either. I'd write something like: Navigating illusions of overgrown temples and ancient battlefields, Hito faces leaver-wielding mountain trolls, ghosts of the drowned, and a frenzy of bird men.) With his memories of his family quickly fading, he wishes only for a way home. (Good! This part makes me wonder who his family are and how he can face these monsters. Even if he is a samurai apprentice, a twelve-year-old fighting monsters is always interesting.)

Soon he meets Ren, a brash American girl who would sooner (Rather? There is already one soon in the sentence.) shoot her foes full of ice shards than reason with them, but with Hito's quick thinking and strategy, they somehow squeak by again and again. Their only hope of escape lies in the Flame Compass, a mysterious artifact that can lead them to their wisp captors. (I would split this in two sentences, and review the entire query for sentence length. You have several clunkers here, which tells the agent they might expect the same in the book - a suboptimal premise for a MG work.) With the compass's power weakening and twin shinobi assassins hot on their trail (Is it essential to understanding the story that the shinobis are twins?), Hito must choose whether to sacrifice his friendship with Ren in exchange for the power to fight. (I agree with one of the previous comments: you need to explain why he must choose.) He'll have to decide soon, before the Labyrinth's malevolent consciousness creeps into his mind, robbing him of his sense of self and transforming him into a monster. (I disagree with the earlier commenter here. The danger of the MC losing his relatable personality raises the stakes and makes me want to see him succeed even more.)

Hitodama: Flames of the Labyrinth
is a middle grade fantasy novel of 53,000 words. In the spirit of Margaret Dilloway's Momotaro series, the story interweaves cultural tidbits and fast-paced encounters with beasts from Japanese mythology. [Personalization here.]

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Japanese from the University of Oregon. In the course of my studies, I lived in Japan for a year, deepening my love for Japanese folklore, language, and culture. My short story, "Playing in the Dark," appeared in the September 2012 issue of the children's horror magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree.

I've included the first ten pages and a synopsis below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Me]

Hi pineapplejuice,
Overall I liked your query and the premise, but making your query leaner might help you convince agents that MG readers won't find your prose too convoluted. I hope my comments help. Smiley
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Aevin
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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2018, 05:01:46 PM »

Thanks so much, Pineapplejuice and vulpion!

Here's a revision based on everyone's suggestions and some things I was feeling. Any further help would be greatly appreciated.
-----------------
Dear [Agent],

When twelve-year-old Hito gets lost in the woods near Edo, Japan, two mischievous wisps spirit him away to the Labyrinth—a prison for lost souls from which no one has ever escaped. Navigating illusions using the mystical flame compass, he faces cleaver-wielding mountain trolls, ghosts of the drowned, and a frenzy of bird men. With memories of his family quickly fading, he wishes only for a way home.

Soon he meets Ren, a brash American girl with incredible magic powers. Ashamed for relying on her for protection, Hito craves strength like Ren's so he can defeat his wisp captors and force them to set him free. With twin shinobi assassins hot on their trail, a mysterious spirit offers him power in exchange for ditching Ren. But the compass's power is draining, and he'll have to make his choice before the Labyrinth's malevolent consciousness creeps into his mind and drives him to madness.

HITODAMA: FLAMES OF THE LABYRINTH is a 53,000-word middle grade fantasy. In the spirit of Margaret Dilloway's Momotaro series, the story interweaves cultural tidbits and fast-paced encounters with beasts from Japanese mythology.

I earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Japanese from the University of Oregon. In the course of my studies, I lived in Japan for a year, deepening my love for Japanese folklore, language, and culture. My short story, "Playing in the Dark," appeared in the September 2012 issue of the children's horror magazine Underneath the Juniper Tree.

I've included the first ten pages and a synopsis below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
[Me]
« Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 05:15:30 PM by Aevin » Logged
vulpion
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« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2018, 10:49:51 AM »

Good, now you've convinced me to move on to the FF (although I'm neither an agent nor a MG reader)  Smiley
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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2018, 03:32:58 AM »

Thanks so much, Pineapplejuice and vulpion!

Here's a revision based on everyone's suggestions and some things I was feeling. Any further help would be greatly appreciated.
-----------------
Dear [Agent],

When twelve-year-old Hito gets lost in the woods near Edo, Japan, two mischievous wisps spirit him away to the Labyrinth—a prison for lost souls from which no one has ever escaped. Navigating ( Navigating is an overused term. I would try to say it in a more unique way, especially since it precedes a list, which is also an unoriginal and overused query method.  I do like what you are saying but if you can think of a less formulaic way to say it, maybe with a bit of voice somehow, that might make it jump out more ) illusions using the mystical flame compass, he faces cleaver-wielding mountain trolls, ghosts of the drowned, and a frenzy of bird men. With memories of his family quickly fading, he wishes only for a way home.

Where did he get the flame compass? Was it just a lucky find as he enters the labyrinth. Maybe say so , so that it is a more pronounced moment. It's important reader really notices the compass early on because it's important later.

Soon he meets Ren, a brash American girl with incredible magic powers. Ashamed for relying on her for protection, Hito craves strength like Ren's so he can defeat his wisp captors and force them to set him free. With twin shinobi assassins hot on their trail, a mysterious spirit offers him power in exchange for ditching Ren. ( I think the stakes could be clearer. I know you say 'no one has ever escaped' but it might improve this paragraphs stakes to make it clear somewhere , that Ren is desperate to escape. Has she been stuck fighting off the monsters in the labyrinth a long time? Try to get us to sympathize with her so that we feel conflicted about Ren possibly ditching her. ) But the compass's power is draining, and he'll have to make his choice before the Labyrinth's malevolent consciousness creeps into his mind and drives him to madness.  ( Also , reading this version I sort of forgot the compass existed. that's the downside of using a list . It's thrown in there in the first paragraph when really I think it deserves it's own sentence or something because lists have a way of making each thing in the list more prone to being forgettable. )

[Me]

Just to clarify, when I said with last version to cut a bit, I only meant the last bit , that followed the malevolent consciousness creeping into his mind. I do think it's a good thing to have that detail, just not the bit on the end about him transforming into a monster. As that takes it to the point of reader asking questons about why MC would let that happen and we lose sympathy for him.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2018, 03:42:09 AM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
Aevin
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« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2018, 01:24:42 PM »

Thanks again for the help. I'll keep plugging away at this and try to incorporate some of your new feedback.
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