Author Topic: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)  (Read 205 times)

Offline msluna

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The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« on: July 30, 2020, 08:22:24 PM »
Third time's the charm? I hope so!

Attempt #3

When Jade wakes up, she has no idea who she is.  She’s in a torn dress, her head is on fire, and she’s surrounded by pine trees laden with frost.  She stumbles to a castle and a servant takes one look at her eyes and blanches.  Her eyes are green and girls with green eyes are condemned to death. 

The servant is vague on details but happy to recite a proverb: Dragon-cursed, prick her with a needle; dragon-cursed, throw her in the fire; dragon-cursed and she burns, salvation found. In this world, servants and inquisitors are on constant alert for the next girl they can burn at the stake.  They must root out the dragon-cursed before they ingrain themselves into society, influencing the women around them and threatening the patriarchy. The servant is sympathetic, taking Jade to a hedge-witch who crafts a charm that will hide her eyes.  Perhaps she’ll live long enough to recover her memories. 

When Jade is hired on as a lady’s maid, the hedge-witch demands payment: she must travel to the capital with her new lady and steal a sacred magical text from the Lyceum, a magical school attended exclusively by men.  All she wants is to remain under the radar and avoid the scrutiny of the inquisitors, but when a leering servant accuses her of being dragon-cursed in front of the court, she discovers that anger can manifest in more than just emotion. The servant wants to burn her at the stake, but not before she burns him first. 

Now all eyes are on Jade. With power not seen since the mages of old, there’s only one option: she must learn to control her power and navigate in a court unfriendly to a woman not beholden to a man. And although her memory continues to elude her, she can recognize fine wine, dance at a ball, and have an engaging conversation with a king—a king who seems entirely too interested in a former servant girl.




To be honest, I've changed things around about five times since the two lovely users left feedback. This is my latest version, incorporating feedback from both comments.  I would love to get your opinion!   Hopefully I improved it.



Attempt #2:

When Jade wakes up, she has no idea who she is.  She’s in a torn dress, her head is on fire, and she’s surrounded by frost-covered pine trees.  She soon realizes that she’s in a world in which the very color of her green eyes condemns her to death.   In this male-dominated society, girls with green eyes, rashes, long nails, or any hint of strangeness are hunted down and burned at the stake for fear of being a dragon shapeshifter, ‘dragon-cursed.’

Jade stumbles across a castle and a hedge-witch hiding as a servant takes mercy on her, crafting a charm that will hide her eyes.  When Jade is hired on as a lady’s maid, the hedge-witch demands payment: she must travel to the capital with her new lady and steal a sacred magical text from the Lyceum, a magical school attended exclusively by men. 

But a missing memory can hide many things, including ability.  Jade wants to remain under the radar and avoid the scrutiny of the mages, but when a leering servant accuses her of being dragon-cursed in front of the court, she discovers that anger can manifest in more than just emotion. The servant wants to burn her at the stake, but not before she burns him first. 

Now all eyes are on Jade. With power not seen since the mages of old, there’s only one option: she must learn to control her power and navigate in a court unfriendly to a woman not beholden to a man. And although her memory continues to elude her, she can recognize fine wine, dance at a ball, and have an engaging conversation with a king—a king who seems entirely too interested in a former servant girl.

THE GIRL UNDERNEATH is a 115,000-word YA fantasy with series potential. It will appeal to fans of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED.   (Bio here).



Original Version:

The Girl Underneath (115,000 words), the first in a planned duology, is a unique and fresh cross between Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. This book will appeal to readers of fantasy who enjoy an element of romance.

The protagonist of The Girl Underneath, Jade, wakes up in an unfamiliar world. She doesn’t know why she’s in the freezing woods in a torn dress, her head on fire with pain, and most perplexing of all, she doesn’t even know her own name. She soon realizes that she’s in a world in which the very color of her green eyes condemns her to death. 

In this male-dominated society, girls with green eyes, rashes, long nails, or any hint of strangeness are hunted down and burned at the stake for fear of being a dragon shapeshifter, ‘dragon-cursed.’ Jade is at the mercy of a hedge-witch able to craft a charm that will hide her eyes.  When her new charm allows her to be hired on as a lady’s maid, the hedge-witch demands payment: she must travel to the capital with her new lady and steal a sacred magical text from the Lyceum, a magical school attended exclusively by men. 

But a missing memory can hide many things, including ability.  Stealing a magical text and navigating in a world that deems women fit only for rearing children and managing a household is the least of her problems. When a leering servant with his own self-interests at heart accuses her of being dragon-cursed, she discovers that anger can manifest in more than just emotion. The servant wants to burn her at the stake, but not before she burns him first. 

But who is Jade? Although her memory continues to elude her, she can recognize fine wine, dance at a ball, and have an engaging conversation with a king—a king who seems entirely too interested in a simple servant girl.

« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 09:34:49 PM by msluna »

Offline auraesque

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy
« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2020, 09:30:45 PM »
I was excited to find it, too. :)

Quote
The Girl Underneath (115,000 words), the first in a planned duology, is a unique and fresh cross between Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. This book will appeal to readers of fantasy who enjoy an element of romance.

I think you can move this to the end. I have heard from others that sometimes it's better to pitch your story as a standalone with series/sequel potential, if that is an accurate assessment.

Quote
The protagonist of The Girl Underneath, Jade, wakes woke up this morning in an unfamiliar world. She doesn’t know why she’s in the freezing woods in a torn dress, her head on fire with pain, and most perplexing of all, she doesn’t even know her own name. She soon realizes that she’s in a world in which the very color of her green eyes condemns her to death.

Is there any way to quickly tell us how she specifically learns about the rules against green eyes? E.g. "When an old woman she meets tries to kill her rather than help her, Jade discovers..."

Quote
In this male-dominated society, girls with green eyes, rashes, long nails, or any hint of strangeness are hunted down and burned at the stake for fear of being a dragon shapeshifter, ‘dragon-cursed.’ Jade is at the mercy of a hedge-witch able to craft who crafts a charm that will hide her eyes. When her new charm allows her to be Jade is hired on as a lady’s maid, the hedge-witch demands payment: she Jade must travel to the capital with her new Lady and steal a sacred magical text from the Lyceum, a magical school attended exclusively by men.

This is fascinating! My recommendation here is to trim down to the core elements.

Quote
But a missing memory can hide many things, including ability.  Stealing a magical text and navigating in a world that deems women fit only for rearing children and managing a household is the least of her problems. When a leering servant with his own self-interests at heart accuses her of being dragon-cursed, she discovers that anger can manifest in more than just emotion. The servant wants to burn her at the stake, but not before she burns him first.

But who is Jade? Although her memory continues to elude her, she can recognize fine wine, dance at a ball, and have an engaging conversation with a king—a king who seems entirely too interested in a simple servant girl.

I think you can save a lot of this for the synopsis. In one sentence, can you describe how Jade will discover her power and past while navigating court, enticing a King, and sneaking into the magical school?

Offline msluna

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2020, 09:42:40 PM »
Thank you for the thoughtful suggestions, auraesque!  You've given me some things to think about, for sure.

Offline TigerAsh

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2020, 10:09:06 PM »
Hello everyone! I was excited to realize that there was a forum attached to the QueryTracker site, and that there were even reviews!  I would love to get your opinion on my below query. 




The Girl Underneath (115,000 words), the first in a planned duology, is a unique and fresh cross between Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. This book will appeal to readers of fantasy who enjoy an element of romance. THE GIRL UNDERNEATH is a 115,000-word YA fantasy with series potential. It will appeal to fans of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and Naomi Novik’s Uprooted. [Make sure to include your bio as well. (I think the bio tends to read better at the end of your query, which is why I usually put the housekeeping paragraph at the end. But that's up to you.)]

The protagonist of The Girl Underneath, Jade, wakes up in an unfamiliar world. She doesn’t know why she’s in the freezing woods in a torn dress, her head on fire with pain, and most perplexing of all, she doesn’t even know her own name. She soon realizes that she’s in a world in which the very color of her green eyes condemns her to death. [You want to tell the entire query letter from your main character's (third person, present) POV. So I recommend re-writing this paragraph (and the rest of the query) from Jade's POV. For example: "When [Age] Jade [last name] wakes up one morning in an unfamiliar world, that's just the start of her problems. Torn dress, pounding head, and amnesia that's stolen her identity. ..." You'll have to figure out a way to write it that addresses her not knowing her name, but hopefully this helps spark some idea.]

In this male-dominated society, girls with green eyes, rashes, long nails, or any hint of strangeness are hunted down and burned at the stake for fear of being a dragon shapeshifter, ‘dragon-cursed.’ Jade is at the mercy of a hedge-witch able to craft a charm that will hide her eyes. [How is she all of a sudden at the mercy of this witch? It seems like a jump. Also, it wasn't clear in the first paragraph how she figured out where she was / that she was considered an outsider specifically because of her eye color (but that might be because, again, this needs to be re-written from Jade's POV).] When her new charm allows her to be hired on as a lady’s maid, the hedge-witch demands payment: she [Is this referring to Jade? Some of your pronouns aren't clear in this sentence.] must travel to the capital with her new lady and steal a sacred magical text from the Lyceum, a magical school attended exclusively by men. 

But a missing memory can hide many things, including ability. Stealing a magical text and navigating in a world that deems women fit only for rearing children and managing a household is the least of her problems. When a leering servant with his own self-interests at heart accuses her of being dragon-cursed, she discovers that anger can manifest in more than just emotion. The servant wants to burn her at the stake, but not before she burns him first.  [The wording seems off to me. It makes it sounds like the servant wants her to burn him before he burns her.]

But who is Jade?[You should avoid using questions in queries.] Although her memory continues to elude her, she can recognize fine wine, dance at a ball, and have an engaging conversation with a king—a king who seems entirely too interested in a simple servant girl. [I like this ending.]



I see potential here. But as I said in my comments above, I recommend you re-write this from Jade's POV (third person, present tense). And I think you could be clearer about what Jade's goals are in the story. Is it to try to piece together what happened before she lost her memory? Is it just to survive in this world? Is her focus on getting that magical text? It can be any or all of these things (or something else); but I think right now, the query kind of dances around stating the stakes of the story.

Also, some elements of your work may make it harder to grab an agent's attention (i.e. the high word count and starting with the MC waking up). So just be aware of that, and see if you can potentially cut the word count closer to 100K and/or make sure your opening is unique from other "wake up" beginnings.


Hope my comments help! Good luck! :)




Offline msluna

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2020, 10:36:01 PM »
Such great, thoughtful feedback, TigerAsh!  I appreciate your suggestions. I'm moving things around as we speak.

Offline msluna

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2020, 06:41:36 PM »
I've revised the query. I'm not sure of the etiquette on commenting on your own post to let people know about a change - hopefully that's okay! :)

Offline nnewbie2

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2020, 01:35:32 PM »
Like the overall query, however I was confused by this bit

--But a missing memory can hide many things, including ability.

What does her memory have to do with ability? Are you saying she cannot be a dragon shapeshifter because she doesn't remember how to?

Also, wouldn't she be desperately trying to go back to her normal world (Where I presume her loved ones are)

I would also cut down on the 'She’s in a torn dress, her head is on fire, and she’s surrounded by frost-covered pine trees.'
and focus on the eyes since that seems to be driving her abilities.

Hope this helps!



Offline csc

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2020, 02:16:08 PM »
Hello msluna,
Thank you for reviewing my query. I'm not familiar with fantasy. However, I'll offer my humble opinions and suggestions here. To start, I definitely think the #2 version is much stronger than #1.


When Jade wakes up, she has no idea who she is.  She’s in a torn dress, her head is on fire, and she’s surrounded by frost-covered pine trees.  She soon realizes that she’s in a world in which the very color of her green eyes condemns her to death.   In this male-dominated society, girls with green eyes, rashes, long nails, or any hint of strangeness are hunted down and burned at the stake for fear of being a dragon shapeshifter, ‘dragon-cursed.’

I follow everything right up to "dragon shapeshifter 'dragon-cursed'. It is not clear what that means. To me, if you leave out the whole part starting from "for fear of..." it works better. I don't need to know the reason. The fact that she is being hunted is enough to think about at this point.

Jade stumbles across a castle and a hedge-witch hiding as a servant takes mercy on her, crafting a charm that will hide her eyes.  When Jade is hired on as a lady’s maid, the hedge-witch demands payment: she must travel to the capital with her new lady and steal a sacred magical text from the Lyceum, a magical school attended exclusively by men.

I'm not sure what a 'hedge-witch' is. I can imagine what a 'witch' is though. Could you just call her a 'witch' instead? Also, the rest of the paragraph has started to become confusing for me. I think it is an easy fix. Just paraphrase the complex terminologies so that anyone can understand it, not just someone who knows the 'world' that your story is cast in. I'll try. "Jade takes refuge in a castle where a witch crafts a charm to conceal her green eyes." Then, could you explain why the payment is in the form of accompanying the lady? What is the relationship between the lady and the servant? Make it simpler so the reader doesn't have too many facts to wrap their heads around.


But a missing memory can hide many things, including ability.  Jade wants to remain under the radar and avoid the scrutiny of the mages, but when a leering servant accuses her of being dragon-cursed in front of the court, she discovers that anger can manifest in more than just emotion. The servant wants to burn her at the stake, but not before she burns him first.

Now all eyes are on Jade. With power not seen since the mages of old, there’s only one option: she must learn to control her power and navigate in a court unfriendly to a woman not beholden to a man. And although her memory continues to elude her, she can recognize fine wine, dance at a ball, and have an engaging conversation with a king—a king who seems entirely too interested in a former servant girl.

The last two paragraphs: I don't understand 'mages' is and had to look it up. Also, there are too many concepts. What does 'anger can manifest in more than just emotion' mean? Did she manifest her power in the form of fire? "a woman no beholden to a man" may need to be reworded. It's a little formal to me. I would tie these two paragraphs together and make 1) her anger-manifested power and 2) the king's interest as the focus here. The rest can be circled around these two points or taken out altogether. Make it clear what the stakes are. Is it uncontrollable power? Or the king's misplaced interest in her? Explain why it is such a big deal here.

THE GIRL UNDERNEATH is a 115,000-word YA fantasy with series potential. It will appeal to fans of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series and Naomi Novik’s UPROOTED.   (Bio here).

Hope this helps. Thank you for the opportunity. I went through so many versions of my query that it's not even funny. And then there is still room for improvement. Happy writing! CS

Offline msluna

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2020, 06:23:44 PM »
Thank you CSC and  nnewbie2.   CSC, I think some of your comments may be due to your unfamiliarity with fantasy.  Mages are pretty well known in that genre.  :)  I appreciate you going out of your comfort zone and providing feedback.   I like the way someone else referred to queries - query hell. LOL.

Offline msluna

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2020, 09:35:38 PM »
My latest revised version is up.  Do you think the proverb bit works or should I take it out?

Offline JMB

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2020, 11:44:46 PM »
Take out the proverb. It violates the general rule of not quoting your own writing in your query. And, more importantly, it means nothing to someone unfamiliar with your world.

I looked only at version 3. It is way too long and too detailed. Introduce your main character with some personality — a bit trickier, of course, when you are opening with the ‘she has no memories’ trope.

Consider launching in with something like...

When 16 year old Jade wakes up in xyz forest with her head set on fire, she doesn’t know who she is or where she’s from. She learns quickly, however,  that, in the kingdom of z,  the best and highest use for  girls like her, with smart mouths and green eyes, is as dragon chow. Jade has no intention of becoming fodder for King Ludwig’s reptilians. And fortunately for her, Jade finds a handsome servant boy who helps her mask those telltale eyes. Now ....

Just some ideas. Take them or leave them.



Offline msluna

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Re: The Girl Underneath - YA Fantasy (revised)
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2020, 08:13:24 PM »
Quote
When 16 year old Jade wakes up in xyz forest with her head set on fire, she doesn’t know who she is or where she’s from. She learns quickly, however,  that, in the kingdom of z,  the best and highest use for  girls like her, with smart mouths and green eyes, is as dragon chow. Jade has no intention of becoming fodder for King Ludwig’s reptilians. And fortunately for her, Jade finds a handsome servant boy who helps her mask those telltale eyes. Now ....

Hee.  You cracked me up.  Reptilians!  :clap:

I'll definitely take out the proverb.  I think I'll need to re-arrange the second paragraph... your impression went the other way without me clarifying why girls like Jade are killed.