Thursday, May 11, 2017

Feedback Request


The author of the query most recently seen here would like feedback on the following version:


When a paranormal police officer spares three criminal kids, twelve-year-old Victor becomes her apprentice, charged with keeping the world’s weird creatures in line. As he explores his mentor’s home with his spirit bear, who’s ruder than Victor thinks spirits should be, he opens a door that says DO NOT ENTER. Behind it he discovers things as odd as they are amazing—and even more dangerous. After getting scolded, Victor vows to become better at helping and less good at causing trouble.

He rescues an injured witch named Hugo. By sheltering him from the White Man, a kidnapper with a strange brand on his body, Victor puts his teammates in danger. He has no idea what the White Man’s the Devil brand means. Until him [he] and his friends are [each] marked as [with] one of the Major Arcana Tarot cards. As if dealing with nocturnal zombies and a vengeful fairy army wasn’t hard enough, Victor accidentally creates a thunderstorm and starts detecting lies. [That he starts detecting lies isn't worth mentioning, as it raises questions you don't have room to answer.] 

The White Man needs the Tarot cards’ power in order to teach Hugo Apocalypse, a spell that would alter the world as they know it. If other paranormal officers find out Hugo’s card lets him reshape reality, Victor knows they’ll eliminate the witch. [How is it that Victor and the White Man know Hugo can reshape reality (whatever that means) but no one else knows?] Victor likes Hugo—maybe even likes likes him. To protect him from their enemies and allies, he’ll have to hide Hugo’s true nature and defeat the White Man. But if he can’t rein in his new powers, the Tarot card’s magic will [could] kill him before Apocalypse does.


Notes

P1: This reads like it's Victor who's charged with keeping the world’s weird creatures in line. I assume it's the paranormal police officer--though it seems more like a job for the head of an organization than for one officer. This episode with the spirit bear and the Do Not Enter room is taking up a lot of space just to explain why Victor is going to be a conscientious worker. We don't need it. You can just let us assume he chooses that over going to jail. This is not an improvement over the opening paragraph I suggested.

P2. It's a rare person who would see Tarot card brands on a few people's skin and note that they are specifically Major Arcana Tarot cards. Most people, including those who know major from minor, would just say Tarot card.

13 comments:

Claudia_Witter said...

It seems like I actually managed to make this one worse than the others. (X

I'll remove that whole Do Not Enter room thing. I'll try to make it clear that Victor's not the one keeping weird creatures in line (he's just learning from and helping his mentor do it) and also that there is a whole organization doing it, not just one person.

I'll just call them Tarot cards. I also better explain Hugo's power better and the reason no one else knows about them--he was isolated most of his life, and Victor only found out after he saw Hugo his it. They don't know how the White Man knows yet, so I didn't think I should mention that.

Anyhow, hopefully, someday, I will get this right.

Anonymous said...

You mention three kids, but then drop to only Victor without explaining the relationship there. Is Victor one of the criminals? The only one who becomes her apprentice?

Does getting marked by the cards automatically explain to him what the marks are/do? Does Hugo not gain a tarot card brand until after Victor rescues him? Do his teammates know Hugo exists or is Victor hiding him in a shed in the woods or something?

Double check your punctuation and grammar. You might want to have a friend check your book over as well.

Anonymous said...

There are some nomenclature problems here.

1. Spirit bear. There was quite a fuss on social media recently over the use of a term some Native Americans consider sacred. I don't comment on the right or wrong of it, I just say it happened and many agents and editors are aware of it.

2. Hugo. To people in the S/SF publishing world, this is an award. I'm in that world and it's the first thing I thought of. Again, I don't say right or wrong, I just say that is a reaction that will occur.

3. White Man. I get turning white into a symbol of evil instead of black, and I approve. However, most readers seeing it will think of a white man, which is, to use the publishing parlance of the moment, a little too on the nose.

4. Apocalypse... you know, I think all of your names might need some work. Take a J.K. Rowling pill and call me in the morning.

Claudia_Witter said...

Yeah, Victor is one of the criminals, and is her apprentice along with two other criminal kids. His teammates do know Hugo exists. I'll have to find a way to explain all this. Since I'll be removing basically all of the first paragraph, I should have a little more room.

Thanks! Know what's confusing helps, since I tend to just fill in the blanks because I already know what happens. (X

Claudia_Witter said...

The spirit bear will be removed from the query, but the term is still used in the actual book. Since spirit animals play role in the story, I don't think I can get rid of that, though...

I could change Hugo's name, but I've been calling him that for the last six years, so I feel like any other name wouldn't feel like his.

This story takes place in Prague, and there's a Czech myth called the White Lady. She's a ghost with long white hair that warns of destruction, and the White Man (who has literally white skin and long white hair) calls himself that because he's like her counterpart, someone who brings destruction rather than warns about it. Still, I'm not sure I could explain that in the query, but maybe I could fit it in there so his name will make more sense.

Yeah, the name Apocalypse is currently just a placeholder. I'm editing the story right now, and once I'm done and ready to do the final edit, I'll take that J.K. Rowling pill and replace any placeholder names. (X

Claudia_Witter said...

Oh, but the spirit animals are also called zodiacs/zodiac spirits, so maybe calling them only that would work better.

Anonymous said...

1. Think of another name for them. It's part of the job.

2. Change his name with control R and continue to think of him as Hugo in your head. Writers do this all the time.

St0n3h3ng3 said...

I didn't think of the Hugo award. You have both Victor and Hugo, though, so I obviously thought of Victor Hugo.

 “Behind it he discovers things as odd as they are amazing—and even more dangerous.” Yeah, this is too vague. I'm thinking anything from “Cool World” to the Borg. There's no way to know what you're talking about.

 “Until him [he] and his friends are [each] marked as [with] one of the Major Arcana Tarot cards.” It's not clear how this happens.

“As if dealing with nocturnal zombies and a vengeful fairy army wasn’t hard enough...” Try to avoid cliches like “If ----- wasn't hard enough,” “Just when he/she thinks it can't get any worse,” and so forth.

“Victor accidentally creates a thunderstorm and starts detecting lies.” I can't tell if this is good or bad, or whether it is caused by the tarot cards or something else.

“The White Man needs the Tarot cards’ power in order to teach Hugo Apocalypse...” For a second I thought “Hugo Apocalypse” was his name and had to start over. Is there another way you could put this? “...the spell called Apocalypse...”

“But if he can’t rein in his new powers, the Tarot card’s magic will [could] kill him before Apocalypse does.”
The single biggest trope on this site is a teen who has to learn to control his newfound powers. Can you explain the stakes without that? Do it if you possibly can. It's been done SO MANY times.

Anonymous said...

Something like:

...the White Man, an albino who considers himself the living counterpart of the White Lady of Czech myth but intends to bring about destruction instead of warn about it...

or, you could just have him call himself the White Lady (no gender change required), the incarnation of the Czech myth, ready to bring about the destruction no one was paying attention to the warnings about

Claudia_Witter said...

I can think of something else to call the spirit animals. Still don't think I can change Hugo's name since I'd probably have a punch of typos then, since I'd keep thinking "Hugo" instead of whatever I changed it to.

Claudia_Witter said...

It looks like I'm really going to need to go into more detail. Victor learning to control magic actually isn't a big part of the story--it does play a role, though, since magic in this world can be fatal if they use too much. Using a little magic causes things like fevers and colds, while using a lot makes the user exhausted and can cause blindness and deafness, which can be temporary or permanent depending on how much magic was used. I was trying to convey that the magic is dangerous and has consequences more than that the story is about Vic having to learn to control it, but yeah, I see now that that doesn't work. It'd probably be best to remove that part.

I'll try and remove those cliches. I'll also try to fit in more about the story and explain things better--it just reaches 250 words so fast, I feel like going into detail about anything makes it too long. Still, I'll keep trying to find a way that works. (X

Claudia_Witter said...

Hm, good point. I'll have to see if I can fit in the query, because otherwise his name will just make people think of a white man--I doubt most people will think about a Czech ghost that warns about danger. (X

Wilkins MacQueen said...

I couldn't get beyond the first paragraph. Like huh?

When a paranormal (man or woman?) police officer spares three criminal kids, (since when should criminals - no matter what age be spared? Don't go PC) twelve-year-old Victor (is not a criminal - he's a juvenile) becomes her apprentice (see first bracket), charged with keeping the world’s weird creatures in line. (Who charged him and how much? Dark humor.) As he explores his mentor’s home (who is his mentor, cop, parole officer, grandma?)) with his spirit bear, who’s ruder than Victor thinks spirits should be (WHAT? Where did that come from?), he(who? the bear? opens a door that says DO NOT ENTER. Behind it he (WHO?) discovers things as odd as they are amazing—and even more dangerous. After getting scolded,(the bear or V?) Victor vows to become better at helping and less good at causing trouble. (Better at helping the bear?)

Sorry this does not work - unclear, you assume the reader knows what you are writing about.

I wish you good luck - try writing out a plot arc with post it notes. Sorry dear writer, you aren't ready. Hang in and keep going. You get an A for effort, and bravery but it is jumbled and unclear. You know what the story is but I sure don't.

You can fix it with hard work. Best! And keep writing. And reading more. Clarity is golden.