Author Topic: The Ceratopsian - low YA fantasy. A new, unique approach.  (Read 245 times)

Offline Sir Nessun Dorma

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The Ceratopsian - low YA fantasy. A new, unique approach.
« on: August 28, 2019, 01:51:59 PM »
We all know how difficult it is to gain the attention of a literary agent with our query letter.  It has to stand out in some way, wow them, make their jaw drop.  If we are supremely lucky (or exceptionally talented) we hit upon that extraordinary hook which would gain the interest of an Easter Island statue.  I’d like to try something off the beaten track, something unique.  But before I commit to it, I would like some feedback, run it past the Query Tracker crowd.  So, please get back to me with your opinions—positive and negative.  Also, please tell me why you think it is a bad/good idea.

First a little background.  The story’s about a dinosaur which hatches on a Wyoming ranch.   The protagonist is young teen Tim Bishop, who is charged with its upbringing and care (along with his cousins).  As the dinosaur (a triceratops named Archie) grows, he and his young crowd become involved in many adventures and mishaps.  The conflict derives from the fact of his very existence, which sparks international controversy.  Xenophobia and fear of a real, live prehistoric animal (and the possibility that more could follow) incite a movement to have him rounded up and destroyed.  Tim must battle intolerance, ignorance, and hostility to save his comrade.

The theme of the story, other than tons of adventure, a dab of romance, and a plethora of lightheartedness, is friendship/bonding between two completely disparate entities.  Think E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, and Free Willy.

So here goes…

Dear Agent,

On his first day, fourteen-year-old Tim Bishop arrives at his cousins’ Wyoming ranch, where he is to spend his summer holiday.
 
On his second day his cousins acquaint him with the livestock: emtriches―giant hybrid birds bred by their brilliant scientist father.

On his third day an emtrich lays a marvelous, never-before-encountered egg.  Tim and his cousins are charged with its care and protection.

On his fourth day Tim learns that not all is as it seems with their vile neighbor—mystery and vagary enshroud him and his ranch.

On his seventeenth day the egg hatches—and all hell breaks loose.

THE CERATOPSIAN is a YA low fantasy complete at 88,700 words.  BIO.  At various times I have taught at the high school, college, and professional level, and intend to continue inspiring young minds in the sciences. Why a dinosaur? Dinosaurs are a source of fascination for the young and old alike. They are weird and wonderful, fearsome, and provide a captivating way to introduce the natural sciences.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Yours in literary fellowship,

Sir Nessun Dorma

Thanks for your feedback.


Offline JayS

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Re: The Ceratopsian - low YA fantasy. A new, unique approach.
« Reply #1 on: August 28, 2019, 02:32:00 PM »
My only comments as a newbie are:

Don’t need to write “BIO.”  It’s understood.  I would consider deleting everything after bio about “Why dinosaurs?” Etc.  It sounds like you’re trying to educate an agent who may not like dinosaurs which may come off as condescending.

Offline Doris

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Re: The Ceratopsian - low YA fantasy. A new, unique approach.
« Reply #2 on: August 28, 2019, 03:53:03 PM »
When I first read this, I jumped right into the query at "Dear Agent" and was confused as to what was going on. Then I started reading at "First a little background".

First a little background.  The story’s about a dinosaur which hatches on a Wyoming ranch.   The protagonist is young teen Tim Bishop, who is charged with its upbringing and care (along with his cousins).  As the dinosaur (a triceratops named Archie) grows, he and his young crowd become involved in many adventures and mishaps.  The conflict derives from the fact of his very existence, which sparks international controversy.  Xenophobia and fear of a real, live prehistoric animal (and the possibility that more could follow) incite a movement to have him rounded up and destroyed.  Tim must battle intolerance, ignorance, and hostility to save his comrade.

The theme of the story, other than tons of adventure, a dab of romance, and a plethora of lightheartedness, is friendship/bonding between two completely disparate entities.  Think E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, and Free Willy.


I now understand. I would use what you wrote in the two paragraphs above to make a new query. The query you wrote doesn't even mention the word dinosaur. I want to read more!

Good luck


Offline TigerAsh

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Re: The Ceratopsian - low YA fantasy. A new, unique approach.
« Reply #3 on: August 28, 2019, 06:00:03 PM »
We all know how difficult it is to gain the attention of a literary agent with our query letter.  It has to stand out in some way, wow them, make their jaw drop.  If we are supremely lucky (or exceptionally talented) we hit upon that extraordinary hook which would gain the interest of an Easter Island statue.  I’d like to try something off the beaten track, something unique.  But before I commit to it, I would like some feedback, run it past the Query Tracker crowd.  So, please get back to me with your opinions—positive and negative.  Also, please tell me why you think it is a bad/good idea.

First a little background.  The story’s about a dinosaur which hatches on a Wyoming ranch.   The protagonist is young teen Tim Bishop, who is charged with its upbringing and care (along with his cousins).  As the dinosaur (a triceratops named Archie) grows, he and his young crowd become involved in many adventures and mishaps.  The conflict derives from the fact of his very existence, which sparks international controversy.  Xenophobia and fear of a real, live prehistoric animal (and the possibility that more could follow) incite a movement to have him rounded up and destroyed.  Tim must battle intolerance, ignorance, and hostility to save his comrade.

The theme of the story, other than tons of adventure, a dab of romance, and a plethora of lightheartedness, is friendship/bonding between two completely disparate entities.  Think E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, and Free Willy.


So here goes…

Dear Agent,

On his first day [Of What? I see that you're trying to carry the "On X day" theme throughout your query letter, but I personally don't think it's that effective.], fourteen-year-old Tim Bishop arrives at his cousins’ Wyoming ranch, where he is to spend his summer holiday.
 
On his second day his cousins acquaint him with the livestock: emtriches―giant hybrid[Hybrid to what? Part bird and part ...?] birds bred by their brilliant scientist father.

On his third day an emtrich lays a marvelous, never-before-encountered egg.  Tim and his cousins are charged with its care and protection.

On his fourth day Tim learns that not all is as it seems with their vile neighbor—mystery and vagary enshroud him and his ranch.[This is way too vague. You should describe the mystery, to show what's unique about your book.]

On his seventeenth day the egg hatches—and all hell breaks loose. [Why? Again, it's too vague. You need to specify what you mean.]

[Right now, your query letter is way too vague. I appreciate you trying a new format, but I think you should stick to the 1-2 paragraph structure for your query letter.]

THE CERATOPSIAN is a YA low fantasy complete at 88,700 89,000 words.  BIO. [Add two comps here.] At various times I have taught at the high school, college, and professional level, and intend to continue inspiring young minds in the sciences. Why a dinosaur? Dinosaurs are a source of fascination for the young and old alike. They are weird and wonderful, fearsome, and provide a captivating way to introduce the natural sciences.[Not necessary to say.]

Thank you for your kind attention. time and consideration.

Yours in literary fellowship, Sincerely,

Sir Nessun Dorma

Thanks for your feedback.



I purposely didn't read your opening note until after I read your query letter, namely because I didn't want to be influenced by what it said (since an agent wouldn't have that background to go off of). But now that I have, I understand that you were trying a new structure on purpose. While I think it could work, I don't think it works here, mainly because you left it too vague.

Also, this may have to do with the vagueness of the query letter, but this felt more like a middle grade story than a young adult story. (And with Tim being 14, it could be labeled upper middle grade.)

With that said, the information I highlighted in purple is what I feel you should include in your query letter. That interested me. Obviously you shared the information to give us background on your story; but I feel if you can transform those paragraphs into a query letter (with less "telling" and more "showing"), you could end up with a strong query letter.

Hope my comments help! Good luck! :)

Offline TigerAsh

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Re: The Ceratopsian - low YA fantasy. A new, unique approach.
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2019, 06:01:58 PM »
Didn't read JayS and Doris' critiques until after I posted my own.  :emb:

But I guess we're all on the same page, so ditto to what they said!  :)

Offline paddler

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Re: The Ceratopsian - low YA fantasy. A new, unique approach.
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2019, 06:48:56 PM »
YA needs a YA voice. There are a couple of them that are in the query help section, under successful queries. You need to quit trying to impress people with obscure words.