Author Topic: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets  (Read 302 times)

Offline Wolfimoon

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Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« on: May 19, 2020, 03:31:31 PM »
Hello! I have two versions of my query letter, which mostly just a few sentences different. I would love feedback on which is better and any ways to improve.

I'm also not sure what to do on genre. Kata is a teenager and Rutha is an adult. Themes of self discovery match YA, but multiple POVs is rare in the first book of a YA series and it's a bit long for YA. I really intended it as a non-sexy time NA, but I know that's not a genre to advertise except to a few select agents. I have thought about just changing it depending on the agent, but more agents will take both.

Thank you!

DRAFT A
Agent Name,

Captured in the wilds of the frontier, Rutha and Kata learn to empathize with their keepers, but opened hearts muddle their goals and they must balance new sympathies with their old loyalties to end the impending conflict. The Shape of Secrets combines Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Last Samurai movie, and Green Rider by Kristen Britain for a tale of discovering and rediscovering oneself in the face of epic conflict.

When shapeshifters capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll learn this new power to save her love—though he will hate her for it. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Can she really relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her? 

Kata messed up big time, getting caught by a human. She should just kill him like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, no matter what all her prior failures indicate.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words, and appropriate for both adult and young adult audiences, targeted at the 15-30 age range. The Shape of Secrets presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the door for a series.


DRAFT B
Agent Name,

Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. Kata never thought she’d save a human. The Shape of Secrets combines Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Last Samurai movie, and Green Rider by Kristen Britain for a tale of discovering and rediscovering oneself in the face of epic conflict.

When shapeshifters capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll learn this new power to save her love—though he will hate her for it. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Can she really relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her? 

Kata messed up big time, getting caught by a human. She should just kill him like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, right?

The sides to this conflict are not as they seem. Kata and Rutha will have to reevaluate where their loyalties lie to save those they love.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words, and appropriate for both adult and young adult audiences, targeted at the 15-30 age range. The Shape of Secrets presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the start of a larger series.

Offline rivergirl

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2020, 05:41:11 PM »
Captured in the wilds of the frontier,Your reader immediately makes assumption with this word. I'm thinking yay, wild west, when I'm really far off. Ground your reader immediately so they don't start off confused. I'd also go straight for the blurb/hook and leave the talking to your agent to the end. This is a personal preference and not a must. Rutha and Kata learn to empathize with their keepers, but opened hearts muddle their goals and they must balance new sympathies with their old loyalties to end the impending conflict. Show us this below in the blurb. The Shape of Secrets combines Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Last Samurai movie, and Green Rider by Kristen Britain for a tale of discovering and rediscovering oneself in the face of epic conflict. You are trying to attract readers not movie watchers. I'd get rid of the movie reference.

When shapeshifters capture Rutha’s expedition, This is a great hook.Can the shapeshifters look like anything they want? What do they look like when they capture Rutha? It might be nice to have a visual with this since shapeshifter can mean anything. If you say shapeshifters in human form it gives the reader something. she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll learn this new power to save her love—though he will hate her for it. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Can she really relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her? If you go by the old rules, asking a question like this is a no no. Just say, Ruth wonders is she will be able to...

Kata messed up big time, getting caught by a human.Is Kata a shapeshifter? This will have to be spelled out. do these two girls know each other? I'm trying to figure out their relationship to each other. it sounds like two different stories  She should just kill him like a responsible dryad (spell out what a dryad is. I'm thinking shapeshifter but not sure), but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, no matter what all her prior failures indicate. What kind of failures? This will need to be spelled out too if relevant. The reader needs more information about this war. Set up your world at the beginning. There's a war brewing between the shapeshifter and the humans... Now state why they are at war. The reader needs to see what's happening here. What i've got now is two love stories in motion.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words, and appropriate for both adult and young adult audiences, targeted at the 15-30 age range. (This shows you don't know your target audience. Pick one and fake it well to your agent if your not sure) The Shape of Secrets presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes Still don't know what the stakes are. while opening the door for a series. good to know! This story sounds right up my alley but some carefully selected information is needed. I can't see this world at all

Offline PharaohBeam

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2020, 07:30:10 PM »
DRAFT A
Agent Name,

Captured in the wilds of the frontier, Rutha and Kata learn to empathize with their keepers, Wait – are they animals or humans? but opened hearts muddle their goals and they must balance new sympathies with their old loyalties to end the impending conflict. Maybe split the previous sentence into two so it’s not so long. I don’t know what the conflict is so I’m confused here. The Shape of Secrets combines Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Last Samurai movie, and Green Rider by Kristen Britain for a tale of discovering and rediscovering oneself in the face of epic conflict. Put comps titles in all-caps or italics

When shapeshifters capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll learn this new power to save her love—though he will hate her for it. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Can she really relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her? Use rhetorical questions cautiously. Many agents do not like them. 

Kata messed up big time, getting caught by a human. She should just kill him like a responsible dryad, Maybe mention she’s a dryad earlier on. I was imagining her as an animal. If I remember my myths right, a dryad is a plant being but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure Censure sounds a little funny – maybe pick another word here , no matter what all her prior failures indicate.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words, and appropriate for both adult and young adult audiences, targeted at the 15-30 age range. The Shape of Secrets presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the door for a series.


DRAFT B
Agent Name,

Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. Kata never thought she’d save a human. So Rutha is a shapeshifter and from the last draft, I learned that Kata is a dryad. I’d spell these two things both out early on to avoid confusion The Shape of Secrets combines Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, The Last Samurai movie, and Green Rider by Kristen Britain for a tale of discovering and rediscovering oneself in the face of epic conflict.

When shapeshifters capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll learn this new power to save her love—though he will hate her for it. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Can she really relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her? 

Kata messed up big time, getting caught by a human. She should just kill him like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, right?

The sides to this conflict What is this conflict? A war between shapshifters and dryads? are not as they seem. Kata and Rutha will have to reevaluate where their loyalties lie to save those they love.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words, and appropriate for both adult and young adult audiences, targeted at the 15-30 age range. The Shape of Secrets presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the start of a larger series.


General thoughts:

I think I like Draft B better, but it needs some work. Maybe identify what exactly Rutha and Kata are early on in your query. I thought they were both humans and then animals and then shapeshifters and then one’s a dryad. I’d also focus in on what the relationship is between Rutha and Kata. Are they friends, relatives, enemies, strangers to each other? To me, it seems like two separate stories that may combine at the end.

Overall, I like anything out of myth, so the dryads seem really neat. I would like the stakes spelled out clearer. I see that they want to save those they love, but what is that conflict exactly about? I’d also like to know what exactly the shapeshifter can turn into. Can it be anything(?) or only a wolf, or bear or something.

Because of your word count length, I’d probably shoot for the adult age category, or maybe new adult (I’ve never looked too much into new adult though).


Offline Wolfimoon

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2020, 04:26:01 PM »
@rivergirl, @PharaohBeam, you both rock! Thank you so much for your feedback. I personally liked B better, only switching to A because an agent required there be a one sentence summary in front, so that's what I'm going to keep working on. In case my preference was completely wrong, I wanted to put out both initially. I've put another draft below, but I have a couple questions.

PharaohBeam, you hit the nail on the head with two separate stories that interweave at the end. I tried to have that tie in be the last paragraph of the summary. I've tried removing that paragraph and just making what the conflict is more clear in Kata's paragraph. Does that work or is the tie in paragraph better?

On giving a better image and sense of powers, shapeshifters can be any kind of animal, even fractional (like just an arm). I added "maul" and "stalk" to hopefully imply that animalistic attack without a species because I don't want to imply a were-whatever. Dryads are basically tree-human hybrids that care for sentient trees called ents. While dryad gets used for a lot of different things, my take is a less romantic version Greek dryads. Hoping that what I added about being a sycamore helps with that visual.

Rivergirl, you called out unclear stakes a lot. Did I improve on the clarity of stakes?

If anyone has an idea for a good comp of being captured and finding sympathy or a home among them that is not a "dark" romance novel, I'd love to hear it. I'm considering putting Tropic of Creation in as a comp, but it's serious SciFi and rather old. Otherwise it's a good comp. Am I overthinking comps?

Thanks so much!


Agent Name,

Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. As a dryad, Kata never thought she’d save a human.  The Shape of Secrets combines Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and Green Rider by Kristen Britain for a tale of discovering and rediscovering oneself in the face of epic conflict.

When shapeshifters maul, stalk, and capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited by the strange sect of women. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll learn this new power to defend her nation and the life of her boyfriend—though he will hate her for it. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Rutha hates to relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her, but it seems like the only option.

Kata messed up big time, getting caught in full Sycamore display by a human. She should just kill him and go home to the ent-forest like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing between his subjugators and Rutha’s land-hungry nation, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, despite her propensity for mistakes.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words and presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the door for a series.

Offline PharaohBeam

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2020, 06:54:51 PM »
Agent Name,

Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. As a dryad, Kata never thought she’d save a human.  The Shape of Secrets combines Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and Green Rider by Kristen Britain for a tale of discovering and rediscovering oneself in the face of epic conflict. Be careful on using themes. Most agents say they do not like them. I’d only use them if the agent is specifically asking for them.

When shapeshifters maul, stalk, and capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited by the strange sect of women This is a lot better here. It makes it much clearer describing the shapeshifters as a sect of women. In your first drafts, I was imagining her getting captured by some grizzled mountain men who turn into bears. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll learn this new power to defend her nation and the life of her boyfriend—though he will hate her for it. I’d like just a tiny setting detail in here. Does this take place in modern-times, long ago, or an alternate world? As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Rutha hates to relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her, but it seems like the only option.

Kata messed up big time, getting caught in full Sycamore display by a human like this line – very easy to picture. She should just kill him and go home to the ent-forest like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. like this line, too – ent-forests! Worse, she begins to care for him. With the more pictures you paint here, I’m able to imagine this as one of those Greek myths between plant nymphs and mortal men A new war is brewing between his subjugators and Rutha’s land-hungry nation, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, despite her propensity for mistakes.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words and presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the door for a series.


This query is overall improved. There’s more to picture. You describe the conflict better here, but I think it still needs a little more tie-in between characters. I’d suggest putting somewhere in the first paragraph, a quick snapshot that says something like, “The story follows two separate paths, Rutha and Kata, until they collide at the end.”

In your post you used the line: “shapeshifters can be any kind of animal, even fractional (like just an arm)” – I’d put this in your query somewhere. It’s very interesting, especially the part about the fractional limbs. (I’m now thinking of someone with a bear’s arm and a wolf’s tail). Kata’s paragraph is a lot better in this query, and I think if you added something like this to Rutha’s paragraph, it’d stand out more.

On the comps, it’s my understanding that you want at least one comp to be a recent book.


Offline Wolfimoon

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2020, 09:28:32 PM »
Here's another shot, trying a different approach to the comps as well as using swords to set time period. (I know, you can have a modern day fantasy with swords, but usually that would have to be explained to fit in that time period.) Added back in a "come together" paragraph that's a little more clear on story structure.

Agent Name,

Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. As a dryad, Kata never thought she’d save a human.  The Shape of Secrets combines the conflicted loyalties and quest for revolution in Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi with self discovery in magical societies from Green Rider by Kristen Britain.

When shapeshifters maul, stalk, and capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited by the strange sect of women. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll set aside her sword to learn this new power, all in defense of her nation and her boyfriend—though he will hate her for betraying their values. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Rutha hates to relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her, but it seems like the only option.

Kata messed up big time, getting caught in full Sycamore display by a human. She should just kill him and go home to the ent-forest like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing between his subjugators and Rutha’s land-hungry nation, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, despite her propensity for mistakes.

The separate paths of Rutha and Kata come together as they reevaluate their priorities and chart a path they never expected to walk.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words and presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the door for a series.

Offline PharaohBeam

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2020, 07:40:48 AM »
Agent Name,

Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. As a dryad, Kata never thought she’d save a human.  The Shape of Secrets combines the conflicted loyalties and quest for revolution in Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi with self discovery in magical societies from Green Rider by Kristen Britain.

When shapeshifters maul, stalk, and capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited by the strange sect of women. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll set aside her sword to learn this new power good bit of setting info here – easy to understand now that it must take place in the past , all in defense of her nation and her boyfriend—though he will hate her for betraying their values. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Rutha hates to relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her, but it seems like the only option.

Kata messed up big time, getting caught in full Sycamore display by a human. She should just kill him and go home to the ent-forest like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing between his subjugators and Rutha’s land-hungry nation, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, despite her propensity for mistakes.

The separate paths of Rutha and Kata come together as they reevaluate their priorities and chart a path they never expected to walk. like this line a lot – it sets the structure of your story much better. Now I’m not just guessing that these two characters are separate and then together

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words and presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the door for a series.

This version is definitely your best yet. It’s getting clearer and clearer. A little more detail on the stakes would help. For instance, maybe just give a tiny preview of what's going to happen when Rutha and Kata meet. Is there anything they could lose or gain from each other?

Offline Wolfimoon

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2020, 12:43:44 PM »
Once they meet up, it's very difficult to explain without the other 5 characters along for the ride. But that's pretty far through the novel.

My run on sentences were annoying me, so I tried to uplevel the wording and split the worst of them. If they don't ruin the earlier draft, I will probably settle on this. Changes were in Rutha's paragraph, let me know if you think they are better or worse and if they change the meaning you took away. Thanks!


Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. As a dryad, Kata never thought she’d save a human.  The Shape of Secrets combines the conflicted loyalties and quest for revolution in Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi with self discovery in magical societies from Green Rider by Kristen Britain.

When shapeshifters stalk, maul, and capture Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited by the strange sect of women. Even if it makes her a monster, in defense of her nation she will set aside her sword to learn this new power. Her lover may feel betrayed, but it’s a sacrifice she must make to rescue him. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Rutha must look for a way to save people who won’t accept her—without relinquishing her new identity.

Kata messed up big time, getting caught by a human while in full Sycamore display. She should just kill him and go home to the ent-forest like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. A new war is brewing between his subjugators and Rutha’s land-hungry nation, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, despite her propensity for mistakes.

The separate paths of Rutha and Kata come together as they reevaluate their priorities and chart a path they never expected to walk.

The Shape of Secrets is just under 110,000 words and presents a satisfying conclusion on the initial stakes while opening the door for a series.

Offline rivergirl

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Re: Fantasy - The Shape of Secrets
« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2020, 04:53:04 PM »
Rutha never wanted to be a shapeshifter. Can you add a word to explain. Rutha never wanted to become a shape-shifitng, dryad. As a dryad, Kata never thought she’d save a human.  The Shape of Secrets combines the conflicted loyalties and quest for revolution in Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi with self discovery in magical societies from Green Rider by Kristen Britain.

When shapeshifters maul, stalk, and capture this is better visual, but alway build up in order of extreme: stalk, capture, then maul Rutha’s expedition, she expects to be imprisoned, not recruited by the strange sect of women. Even if it makes her a monster, she’ll set aside her sword to learn this new power, all in defense of her nation and her boyfriend—though he will hate her for betraying their values. As she gets deeper into shapeshifting, the line between monster and person blurs. Rutha hates to relinquish her new identity to save people who won’t accept her, but it seems like the only option. I'm wondering at this last sentence. Why would she bother then if she loses everyone she cares about. Is it possible that Rutha's new abilities consume her or entice her more than she anticipated. That would make for an interesting addition to this query!

Kata messed up big time, getting caught in full Sycamore display by a human. This reads off and requires a re-read as at a glance, it appears the human did the full sycamore display. I would suggest substituting sycamore with what is actually happening so the reader can see this scene. I can surmise that is happening but i shouldn't have to guess. She should just kill him and go home to the ent-forest like a responsible dryad, but her curiosity gets in the way. Worse, she begins to care for him. This feels like a new para. here. We are back to Ruth and i have to concentrate very hardA new war is brewing between his subjugators This requires thinking. spoon feed your reader at this point. A new war is brewing between the shapeshifting Dryads and the land hungry humans. (this i can see!) and Rutha’s land-hungry nation, one that will consume his people unless he can free them. Ok, you've shifted to a male POV. It's extremely difficult to write a query with two pov, with the addition of a third, it's tough to keep track of. I'd suggest sticking to the two original female and what they feel or must do. Surely she can help him and hide from the dryads’ deadly censure, despite her propensity for mistakes. Add some stakes here. Kata wonders if she can...

The separate paths of Rutha and Kata come together as they reevaluate their priorities and chart a path they never expected to walk.

If possible, add some emotion in here. I know it's tough. As Kata's feelings for her human grow she struggles between her loyalty to her nation (people, clan) and keeping him safe. You've got two great story lines here (romance between shapeshifter and human and a human who's possibly lured by the powers to shape shift, which ultimately betrays her own people), but even though you've done a good job of adding more color to this world, I still think there's room for improvement.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2020, 05:20:49 PM by rivergirl »