Sunday, September 30, 2007

Whoops! A Query I Missed

To Whom It May Concern:
Benjamin is the youngest son of Sir Edgar the Tall. One day, while playing with his brothers and a few other boys, Benjamin becomes injured and humiliated.

Injury is natural in sports; humiliation requires a little explanation. Otherwise, your reader ends up wondering just where he was injured.

Princess Sarah finds him sobbing in the castle gardens with a bloody nose. She helps him, and soon a friendship begins to grow.
Helps him how? With the crying? The nose? The garden?
Look, you don't want to give us too many scenes to picture in the brief snapshot of your manuscript, but the ones you do offer us should have the little details that allow us to really picture it.
Years later, Benjamin goes to study with Master Gregg, the castle blacksmith.
We need more of a segue here than “years later”. Maybe you want to start this summary with him apprenticing to a blacksmith and mention as you go that he’s always been the butt of jokes and the princess has been his friend from childhood.

Unfortunately, he is so clumsy with a hammer the other boys begin teasing him and calling him “Ben the Unlikely” because it seems so unlikely he will ever become a blacksmith.
You know what I would do if people were teasing me while I was holding a hammer?

One day, Sir Andrew comes into the shop to get his armor repaired. When asked what happened to it, Sir Andrew tells them about the battle with Squashbugs the Troll who kidnapped Princess Sarah. “All the knights ran after him, but he was much faster than we were. We tried to sneak into his cave, but before we were even able to get close, all these bells started ringing. We could not even see them!” Ben wants to help her, but Master Gregg says he should leave such things to the knights. Unable to just leave his childhood friend to be eaten by a troll,Ben borrows a horse and sneaks into Squashbugs’ dark, smelly cave. Ben is able to escape the spell protecting Squashbugs’ cave because of a loop hole, frees Sarah, and traps Squashbugs. He is rewarded with knighthood.
Here we have the classic mistake of too much information. Shorten this. Also, he rescues her? I'm worried that boys are not going to enjoy this plot line because they don’t want to rescue stinky girls. And girls aren’t going to enjoy this plot line because they don’t want to be rescued. I'd suggest letting the girl help in her own rescue, or else sending this story back to the furnace.

Sorry for losing track of this one. This goes in the "needs more work" category. Like the others in that group, it might be great. I just can't tell from the query.

P.S. Are you sure about the name "Squashbugs"?


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the critique. I knew this query had issues. I was just having trouble pinpointing them, and now I know what exactly needs fixing.

You know, I'd forgotten about the "girls have cooties" phase. I hadn't thought of changing that particular part of the storyline when I made the decision to redo the PB version as a mid grade novel. However, that's the beauty of it. I'm only about a chapter or two into the rewrite, and your comments have given me an idea of how to use an already planned scene in a slightly different way to improve the overall story. Thanks again.

As for Squashbugs, it isn't set in stone. I just got tired of old fashioned names and didn't want to use the "cat jumped on the keyboard" technique for creating fantasy names. I suppose I could always just call him Bob.

Karen said...

If this world is modeled after a medieval world, then no young man who is the son of Sir Anyone is going to be apprenticed to a blacksmith. Sent off to another castle to be a squire to another knight, yes, but not a blacksmith. That would be below his social class. Even in children's fantasy, detail can matter.

Anonymous said...

I did the research quite a while back, but I seem to remember it going something like the first son follows in the father's footsteps, second son goes to the clergy, third son gets a trade. However, it has been a long time. I'll double check.

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