Saturday, September 22, 2007

Query 9: Misplaced Bodies, Ideas, and Punctuation

The girl of his dreams plants one on Joe Payne’s lips right in the middle of science lab, but it’s the nightmarish girl with the freakish facial piercings, Joe can’t get out of his head.

Here is what is known as a teaser sentence. This sort of beginning can be effective. But no matter what your beginning, make sure it is correctly punctuated and does not rely on adjectives. Please remove that second comma and either “nightmarish” or “freakish” (and then consider whether both of these words is really the one you want). Note that your audience may wonder why the girl he can’t get out of his head doesn’t qualify as the girl of his dreams.

With just a couple of weeks until his 15th birthday, Joe knows he should be concentrating on finals and on the fact that his very together family is falling apart, but the outrageously quirky Lucy is coming to him for help. I’d like to offer for your review: DEATH IN THE FAMILY, a 45,000 word novel for a young adult reader. With less than 72 hours notice, Joe’s dad is shipped off to Iraq, leaving Joe and his older brother to help their mom run the family’s funeral home.
OK, that’s it. Do not mistake a teaser sentence for a style of writing. Your first, second, third, and fourth sentences do not naturally link to each other. God help you if your whole manuscript is like this.
You sound like you have an interesting premise, but it would take a more cohesive writing style to get me to request the manuscript.
Well, unless you count Grandpa and crazy Clarence who keep misplacing bodies. Joe’s worried about his dad, but his best friend and his brother maintain the best way for Joe to keep his mind off his father is with a female diversion. They’re pushing hard for the pretty and popular Jillian: The obvious choice. Yet this is the beginning of a summer when not everything’s so clear to Joe. Lucy’s about to bury her mother and turning to Joe for comfort, but the girl who’s always in trouble is definitely not on older brother, Drew’s list of acceptable girlfriends. Joe needs to decide whether to follow Drew’s surefire formula for his first real relationship or follow his heart.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I suppose I don't quite understand the tone of the manuscript, or at least of the query...

Running a funeral home and "misplacing the bodies" makes it sound like a light comedy. But then, a father shipping off to Iraq and "Lucy" depending on the Main Character for support makes it seem like heavy drama.

And why does his older brother's opinion matter so much to him? Or is his older brother just bossing him around, assuming the "man of the house" role since their father is in Iraq?

I've got some older brothers myself. No offense but I don't care what they think even now and less so when I was a teenager...

Of course, I haven't read your book so I could be completely mistaken about all this. Take it with a grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a "boy book" instead of the usual god-awful books about some girl wanting to be popular or wanting a date for prom.

Kudos for that.

The last paragraph could be refined quite a bit by mentioning what the "stakes" or
"consequences" are for wanting Lucy rather than the other sort of "perfect" girl.

What's going to happen to him if he chooses Lucy? Will he lose his friends? Did his older brother date her before? Did his Dad that's in Iraq get slammed with a lawsuit by her father from some funeral home mishap? And the Main Character is feeling like he's betraying his father by cavorting with her?

What are the stakes for NOT dating her, that will make the reader care?

Otherwise it sounds like the Main Character just doesn't want to date her because she looks and dresses differently. Maybe if he came from a strict, oppressive home that could work, but if not, it sort of seems like the Main Character is just sort of snobby??

Does any of that make sense?

stacy said...

This sounds like Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, without the funeral home. And Death in the Family is a famous book by James Agee.