Monday, March 14, 2016

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1304 has submitted the revision below, and would like your feedback.



Twelve-year-old Eric Ortega loves his big sister Alyssa almost as much as he loves annoying her. When a wind demon takes over Eric’s body, Eric won’t believe it’s really happening … until the creature threatens his sister.

Nikias only has a body when he steals one, and he sees a latent power in Eric that he wants for himself. In possession of Eric’s body, Nikias can manipulate Eric’s aura to control others.

But Alyssa knows about the beings who live hidden among humans. The Sentinels, who police the world’s hidden peoples, had tried to recruit her. She knocks Eric out and takes him away to the Sentinel Fortress, willing to commit her life to save her brother’s.

When the Sentinels free Eric, Nikias escapes. Now Eric is trapped in the Sentinels’ ancient Roman lair, surrounded by beings who don’t trust him because of the powers Nikias awakened inside him. When Alyssa leaves, his only ally is a whip smart, winged girl.

Eric is certain Nikias is still after Alyssa, but the Sentinels won’t believe him. His winged friend helps him escape, but in order to save his sister, Eric must learn to control his new, unwanted powers.

Complete at 65,000 words, ERIC ORTEGA AND THE DEMON WIND is an upper MG contemporary fantasy. The story features diverse characters, including Medusa as a lesbian doctor with temperamental snake hair. This book will appeal to fans of the Underland Chronicles. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Sorry, this just isn't doing it for me. I have too many questions. If Nikias can control others, why doesn't he prevent Alyssa from knocking him out? How can humans be unaware of the hidden beings living among them? How are they hidden? Why do they need policing? Are the Sentinels also hidden? Did the Sentinels try to recruit Alyssa to be a fellow Sentinel? Are the Sentinels human? Is the Fortress close to where Eric and Alyssa live? If not, how does Alyssa get Eric there after she knocks him out? Why does taking Eric to the Fortress require a lifetime commitment? If Alyssa has committed her life to Eric, why does she then leave him? Why have the Sentinels trapped Eric with beings that don't trust him? What are Eric's powers? Why do you call Eric's powers unwanted if he can't save his sister without them? Does Alyssa also have powers Nikias wants? If not, why is he after her? I have as many questions about your plot as there are sentences in your query.

If Medusa is worth mentioning, tell us what crucial role she plays in the plot. Otherwise leave her out of the query.

Eric spends his time possessed, unconscious, trapped, and powerless. Are you sure Alyssa wouldn't be a better main character?

I suggest telling us the plot in three paragraphs. First the three-sentence setup: Who's the main character, what's his situation, what's his goal? Then three sentences about how he plans to achieve his goal and what goes wrong when he puts his plan in motion. Then a three-sentence wrap-up: How does he handle the chief obstacle. What's plan B? What will happen if he fails?

You have human beings, beings who are hidden, beings who don't trust Eric, and Sentinels, who may or may not be a subset of one of the other three sets of beings. The query would probably be clearer with fewer beings. The hidden and untrusting beings don't do much of anything in the query.

7 comments:

alaskaRavenclaw said...

Paragraph 1 is about Eric, the main character.

Paragraph 2 is about Nikias.

Paragraph 3 is about Alyssa.

Paragraph 4 is about Nikias and Alyssa.

Paragraph 5 is about the winged friend.

Here are the verbs Eric gets: loves, loves, won't believe, is, is, must learn.

In contrast to some of the verbs other characters get: takes over, threatens, steals, helps.

These verbs are important; they're signaling a passive protagonist who has things done to him by other characters who either harm or help him.

As an exercise, rewrite the query so that every sentence begins with "Eric". Try to follow each "Eric" with a verb showing action. This won't result in a usable query, but it should bring you a lot closer to producing one.

Anonymous said...

Again, this is mostly setup. It's all stuff that happens to Eric before he starts needing to take action. Assuming most of the book involves Eric taking action, you need to talk about that part and what happens in it. If this is most of the book, and Eric's only part is saving the day at the end, I'd suggest mix-and-match roles/jobs/plot points with Alyssa so you have an active protagonist for the entire story. You pick which one.

Chicory said...

I do like that you gave Eric more of a motive in the first paragraph by telling us that he loves his sister as much as he loves annoying her. Unfortunately, I have to agree that the rest of the query tries to focus on too many different characters.

How important is it to the query that Alyssa leaves after taking Eric to the fortress? It seems to me that Eric could fear for his sister's life just fine without mentioning that she dumped him and took off. (I know that's probably not how it happened in the book, which has a lot more room for plot and character developments.)

It may be that you're telling too many things just because they happened, not because they belong in the query. That's really hard not to do!

Chicory said...

Just a thought: perhaps the query would be stronger if you skip the second paragraph. It could go something like this:

Twelve-year-old Eric Ortega loves his big sister Alyssa almost as much as he loves annoying her. When a wind demon takes over Eric’s body, Eric won’t believe it’s really happening … until the creature threatens his sister.

Eric's sister Alyssa knows about the beings who live hidden among humans. The Sentinels, who police the world’s hidden peoples, had tried to recruit her. When a wind spirit takes over Eric's body and attacks her, she knocks Eric out and takes him away to the Sentinel Fortress, willing to make a deal with them to save her brother’s life.

Unfortunately, the wind spirit escapes leaving Eric trapped in the Sentinels’ ancient Roman lair, and the Sentinels don't trust outsiders. Eric's only ally among them is a whip smart, winged girl. He is certain the wind spirit will go after his sister next, but he can't make the Sentinels believe him. Eric's winged friend helps him escape the Sentinel's watch(or guard maybe), but in order to save his sister, Eric must learn to control erratic powers that the wind spirit's attack woke within him.


It's still rough of course (I don't know the actual book) but I wanted to give a clear idea of the changes I'm suggesting. As always, feel free to ignore any of my advice that you don't like. :)

JSF said...

I can't believe that Eric only believes a Wind Demon has taken over his body after it threatens his sister. So, I guess Eric had to stop and ask himself, Why am I threatening my sister? Then he finally believed? I think if I need to stop and figure all this out, you are making me work too hard.

I still don't know what an Aura is and how it gives powers that control.

I agree with the other comments - too many characters and too much info for a coherent hook. I was so confused after reading this revision there is no way I would want to try to tackle this book.

Unless, Eric Ortega's real identity is TORNADO MAN! He fits the quiet of the storm of his aura over people's unsuspecting heads and then spins their thoughts so fast and hard he is able to control them. There is no demon wind! It's TORNADO MAN! Now I really want to know what an aura is.

Eric Bendas said...

My biggest recommendation I have for you is to come out swinging. Start with your second sentence and delete the first one.

When Nikias, a wind demon, takes over Eric’s body and threatens his sister...

That would be the sentence I would lead with. If Eric really loves his sister show us through his actions. Also, make sure that the elements in your story are clearly laid out.

Each time you rewrite it your query is going to get better so don't quit.

AA said...

Yeah, a lot of questions are brought up, here.
She knocks her own brother out? With what? Opiates? A blunt instrument? And takes him away- so the taxi driver never asks why the kid sleeps through the whole ride? How does Alyssa know where the Sentinel fortress is assuming they only “tried” to recruit her?Ancient Roman lair- Rome is pretty well populated. Is this deep underground?


I agree that if a character is important enough to mention she's important enough to put in a query. I also can't figure out why Eric's powers would be unwanted, because I have no idea what they are. Why don't I? This is important, right? Why does a winged girl suddenly show up? I'm assuming she has a name.

“When Alyssa leaves...” She leaves? Why?
It seems to me you need either Alyssa or the winged girl, but not both. Either Alyssa helps Eric escape but then they get separated, or it was the winged girl from the beginning. The winged girl could have been previously recruited by the sentinels, take him to the fortress to get help, then have a change of heart and free Eric when he is no longer possessed because it's cruel to keep him imprisoned. But now I'm commenting on the story and I'm not quite clear on what the story is.