Query Critique 54

The Confessions of Gabriel Ash

1982. As the Falklands War erupts, a disgraced diplomat recounts his sins while confined to a medieval castle in the Eastern European country of Keshnev.Gabriel Ash, an American-born representative for Keshnev at the United Nations, has enjoyed the luxuries of a privileged life in New York for several decades.  A series of romantic missteps and catastrophic events trigger his diplomatic recall to the People’s Democratic Republic of Keshnev (“Like Albania, but without a sense of humor”), where further events plunge him into captivity, amid accusations of treason and attempted murder.  In confessions ranging from New York to the coast of the Black Sea, Gabriel Ash is haunted by his affairs with dangerous women, pursuit by the CIA (and later, by agents of Keshnev’s Ministry for State Security) and the electrifying transformation he undergoes after his escape from confinement.  The Confessions of Gabriel Ash charts a journey of self-discovery amid personal betrayals, state-sponsored assassination and the turmoil of identity in a world ravaged by the last gasp of colonial war.

My biggest concern with this query is that it needs to be fleshed out. There are some good elements of conflict there, but they need to be better developed. The query is quite short, so there’s certainly room to do this. Also, I want to really see stakes introduced. I want to see just how much Gabriel Ash stands to lose.

Also, the query is going to need some conventional things. I want the word count, genre, and comparative titles in the query. It helps ground the reader.

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Query Critique 42

In the 1990’s, half-black David escapes his crazed mother and flees to Chicago with the dream to become Gatsby, not work as a janitor and live in the city slums. He can’t entirely despise janitor work, though: he met Mary after sweeping the floors together, and months later they exchanged rings in the most romantic marriage the Chicago Courthouse ever witnessed.

But then their seven-year-old daughter is diagnosed with a rare, organ-destroying disease that can only be treated by a costly medicine. With no way to pay for Penelope’s life, Mary resorts to desperate tactics to get the money—and David’s desperate for her to stop. What desperate tactics? Be specific. His mother’s words crash around his mind once again, “Don’t be black, they’re worthless,” and with a white wife who seduces their white insurance manager, David feels nothing but worthless. The transition into this idea feels a little awkward to me. This time, Mary’s can’t heal him. Mary’s what? This is the paragraph where we really get the first taste of conflict. While the first paragraph establishes some relevant information, it’s lacking in conflict. You may want to consider reorganizing your query so that  more of the conflict found here appears in the first paragraph to grab your reader. Also, be specific about conflict. 

Their wallet gets tighter and the only other option to save enough money is to move to the Chicago south side, almost entirely made up of blacks. How are these south side folk going to help them get the money they need. Who are they, and what is their connection to David and his family? Cue David’s sleepless nights and sweat-drenched pillows. But the thing is, these south side blacks aren’t who he imagined. In fact, they might do the most to save both Penelope and David. This paragraph could use some elaboration.

SAVING PENELOPE is an Adult Contemporary with a strong literary bend. Neither adult nor contemporary needs to be capitalized. It is complete at 76,000 words and, if it was nonfiction, would fit easily in Jonathan Cohn’s SICK. Italicize Sick to set it apart from your title.