Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Feedback Request

Dear Evil Editor,

Here’s another stab at a query for IN THE SHADOW OF LIES (Most recently seen here). This one is written from the perspective of another character in the story, and presents a more straightforward story. Perhaps this approach can reduce some of the questions that have been raised by you and others.

Ren, 19, has only one wish: to see his best friend again. Marla was captured on a mission a year ago and imprisoned in a lab. Ren doesn’t care what experiments have been performed on her.  He just wants to rescue her. 

Ren brings Marla home to Somret, [Whoa, we seem to have skipped over the part where he actually rescues her.] hidden city and sanctuary against a power-hungry government. She stands accused of murdering her teammate, betraying Somret, and being brainwashed by the government. [It sounds like she's accused of being brainwashed, which she wouldn't have had any control over.] As Marla searches for the details of her capture in order to clear her name, Ren’s guilt is a tightening noose around his neck.

For he knows the truth: there never was a mission.

[It still feels like you're taking four paragraphs just to explain Marla's situation, which is: 

Rescued after a year in captivity, Marla returns to her home city, Somret, only to be accused of murder and treason. She'd like to clear her name, but she has no memory of her captivity or of the mission she was sent on, and with good reason: there was no mission.] 

A year ago, Marla was found to have the power to peer into minds. The Council of Somret locked her in a mind prison to harness her powers and hone her into a weapon. After a spy sold information to the government, she was snatched and hidden in a lab until retrieved on the Council’s orders. [rescued by her best friend, Ren.] [Not clear what this spy and information has to do with it, so let's simplify things by not bringing it up.] 

Ren doesn’t give a damn about the Council’s agenda. He doesn’t care [that] one of the accusations leveled at Marla is true. [The rest of this paragraph should tell us what Ren does care about.] But telling Marla the truth won’t help her. However dark and twisted Somret’s tunnels are, outside the city, both he and Marla are fugitives. [She's a fugitive inside the city, isn't she?]

A dying girl bears a dire message to Somret, [Vague. What's the message?] and Ren realizes he must decide where his loyalties lie. Marla’s powers could save an ambassador’s life and end a war, at the price of her freedom. Is saving everyone in Somret worth withholding the truth and ruining Marla’s trust in him? [Is that a serious question?]

IN THE SHADOW OF LIES is YA science fiction, complete at 117,000 words. Told in multiple POVs, it is mainly set on Ilah, a world of metal forests and lightning-fueled cities. It will appeal to fans of Rick Yancey’s THE 5TH WAVE and Victoria Aveyard’s RED QUEEN.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warmest regards,


I prefer Marla as the focus of the query. Which, if you work with my opening paragraph, won't require much of a change except in the last plot paragraph, which is currently focused on Ren. Just make Marla the one who must decide where loyalties lie.


Anonymous said...

So your main character doesn't care about what experiments were performed on Ren, he doesn't care about the Council's Agenda... that's a lot of not caring. Isn't the point of a main character that first, he/she actually cares about stuff? And second, that she has the power to change things? By both criteria, Ren is the protag here, so I second EE in saying that the query must be written from her PoV.

If "Marla’s powers could save an ambassador’s life and end a war, at the price of her freedom," why the heck wouldn't she use those powers? What does she have at stake here? She's snatched and hidden and falsely accused, but what makes her an active protagonist? When does she make a decision.

"In the Shadow of Lies" sounds like the title of a legal thriller to me, not a YA novel. YA titles tend to sound more exciting and vibrant: "Ember in the Ashes!" "A Court of Thorns and Roses!" "The Wrath and the Dawn!" What all these have in common is that they are vivid, they convey danger, and they are the opposite of generic. So choose a less generic title for your story.

Unknown said...

Author here.

Thanks for your feedback.

It's my fault for not making it clearer, but Ren does care about something: He cares about Marla. And I guess you may be a little confused as to who is who in the query. I apologise for that as well. Marla is the main character of my story, whereas Ren is like the no.1 supporting character.

Marla does have a decision to make, which was in the previous query, which was written from her POV. In this version, Ren is the focus of the query. Therefore, the end decision is his to make. As for why she might not want to use her powers...well, if I were her and I learned that the people who want my help actually locked my up for a year, I would probably send them the middle finger and tell them to f--k themselves. But Marla's nicer than I am so she's undecided about that.

As for the title, the ones you listed are certainly among some of my favorites. However I think at this stage the title is not that important. Titles change when books are accepted by agents, and may change after being seen by an editor. For me, as long as it's not something that makes agents feel repulsed or think "never gonna read it", I'll be keeping this title. At least until inspiration hits me and I think of something better.