Query Workshop R-2: HALF SOUL

Good morning, peoples! Welcome to day one of the Query Workshop! Feel free to leave your own thoughts about these bad boys in the comments. Remember to be constructive; we’re here to learn and build up, not tear down. And don’t forget to check out the queries on the blogs of Brenda, Marieke and Sarah!

Let’s get this party started:

Full Query:

Dear Agent,

Although born half dead, seventeen-years-old Alex is more alive than most people in Gensolia, but he doesn’t see it this way.

Like the souls of everyone else, his was shattered at birth. Unfortunately, he is the only one aware of this condition.

He is living with a dysfunctional and slowly dying half soul. The condition is manifesting with slowly agonizing death. Alex is convinced that curing his half soul is the only way to reveal the condition to everyone.

Daemons, succubi and elements of nature start to attack him. The attacks expose, Arwa, his best friend who turned to be a witch.

She is sent from another world to recruit him for a quest to retrieve an ancient wand. Arwa tells him that this wand is the only weapon powerful enough to defeat an ancient rising daemonic evil that threatens to purge all worlds.

Torn between his duty to find a cure for his dying half soul and his duty to save all worlds from a rising daemonic evil, Alex has a choice to make.

But to abandon his search for a cure for his dying half soul is to betray his true love.

“HALF SOUL” is my debut YA epic fantasy novel. Complete at 95,000 words, it’s the first book in a series. HALF SOUL is my first novel, so I’m afraid it’s going to be a short publishing history.

 

Once More with Comments:

Dear Ms. Drake ,

Although born halfdead, seventeen-year-old Alex is more alive than most people in Gensolia, but he doesn’t see it this way. (I’m not sure if I’m intrigued by this first sentence or confused. This is not necessarily a bad thing as long as it’s followed up with enough details to tamp down the plot.)

Like the souls of everyone else, his was shattered at birth. Unfortunately, he is the only one aware of this condition. (I kind of got the impression that Alex’s half-dead status was unique, but if everyone in his country is born with fragmented souls, wouldn’t everyone be in the same situation as him?)

He is living with a dysfunctional and slowly dying half soul. The condition is manifesting with slowly agonizing death. (These two sentences are kind of redundant. You don’t really need the second one since you already said the half-soul is slowly dying.) Alex is convinced that curing his half soul is the only way to reveal the condition to everyone. (Which would do what? What’s at stake if he can open the eyes of the others? Are they dying, too, and they just don’t know it?)

Daemons, succubi and elements of nature start to attack him. (Why? Because of the half-soul? Or something else?) The attacks expose, Arwa, his best friend who turned to be a witch. (“Who turned to be a witch” reads a little awkwardly.)

She is sent from another world to recruit him for a quest to retrieve an ancient wand. Arwa tells him that this wand is the only weapon powerful enough to defeat an ancient rising daemonic evil that threatens to purge all worlds. (This part with Arwa kinda seems to come from nowhere…)

Torn between his duty to find a cure for his dying half soul and his duty to save all worlds from a rising daemonic evil (Careful – you already used this phrase in the paragraph before), Alex has a choice to make.  (Here’s where I trip up because, to me, there really isn’t a choice. If all the worlds die from this evil guy, then that means Alex is dead, too, so he won’t really matter if he cures his half-soul.)

But to abandon his search for a cure for his dying half soul is to betray his true love. (Wait…what true love? Arwa? This is the first we’ve heard about a love.)

HALF SOUL is my debut (Cut “my debut” and replace with “a”) YA epic fantasy novel complete at 95,000 words and is the first book in a potential series. HALF SOUL is my first novel, so I’m afraid it’s going to be a short publishing history. (I’m not sure what I think about this phrase. I kind of want to cut it since it’s this sort of random wry humor note in an otherwise serious-sounding query.)

Overall: I think there’s just a lot going on in this query so it’s coming off a little scattered. Keep the focus on your MC and think of it like you only have one sentence to pitch. Who’s your MC? What’s his primary goal? What’s the obstacle that keeps him from that goal, and what’s at stake if he fails?

 

Okay, people, take it to the comments! Do you agree with me? Disagree? Want to punch me in the face? Now’s your chance!

Remember: Every critique you do gets you an entry into a first chapter critique from Brenda!

12 thoughts on “Query Workshop R-2: HALF SOUL

  1. I just wanted to add that I sympathize with anyone who has to write a query letter for an epic fantasy. When I was getting bogged down in details writing my query, I found that when I focused on my main characters arc instead of the plot, it was easier to the get essence out of my story. Not that I’m now an expert, keep that in mind. Hope that helps, and good luck!

  2. I agree with the scattered comment. There were a lot of things coming at me and it made it difficult to get a feel for the MC.

    MC has a half-dead/shattered soul, but so does everyone else, but only he knows it. Why? How? Unfortunately, I don’t get any of that in the query. Why does he get recruited? Is it because he knows about what is going on? What does true love have to do with it?

    Lots of questions, unfortunately, not a lot of answers.

    I think the best way to proceed is to focus on one aspect and build from there. The focus will help keep it from being too scattered and tighten it up.

  3. I think that the story sounds very original, but ufortunately the pitch is a bit confusing. I agree with the others: focus on the plot. What is your rising action, climax and falling action? How is Alex special? How did he figure out about the condition? What will happen when it is exposed? Is this a cover up? By who? What choices does Alex face and what are the stakes of each decision?

  4. I have to agree with the critique. So much of epic fantasy is the world, and you are losing out on precious words with repetitive phrases and scattered plot points. Pare the story down to its ultimate conflict and the necessary world details to showoff the uniqueness. Explain the half-dead/shattered soul thing more, because that seems to be a crux of the conflict and the world (I’m assuming here, but the reader should know). We need to understand why he is different to care why the world’s fate rests on his shoulders. Also, if there’s going to be a choice, then there has to be an actual one with consequences for either. The choice presented in the pitch is a no brainer. He has no choice. But what if he did and it involved monster sacrifices on his part? Now readers have something to fret over. Good luck!

  5. “Although born half-dead, seventeen-year-old Alex is more alive than most people in Gensolia, but he doesn’t see it this way.” To me, this means that even though his body is common, his internal being is unique – yet feels just as common as everyone else.” Why?

    And then “Like the souls of everyone else, his was shattered at birth. Unfortunately, he is the only one aware of this condition.” So he has a shattered soul, and yet is more alive that most people? How? If he is the only one aware of his condition, why does he not think he’s unique?

    I believe tidying up the plot in these two paragraphs will help us understand just how different he is, and why he thinks it’s not a big deal.

    Take care,
    Jennifer

  6. I think you have a great start and an interesting premise. But I’m a little confused by what exactly is going on in the story. I’d like to know what makes him different and I want to know what choice he has to make. I want a few more details to clear a little of the confusion.

  7. Why do Daemons, succubi, and other things start attacking him? I’m not clear of the transition here. Nor am I sure about the sudden introduction of Arwa. (Note, should say “turned -out- to be a witch,” I think).

    Personally, I’m intrigued by the half-soul idea presented in the first three paragraphs, and I want to know more about it. I think the conflict has strong potential, but right now I feel like I’m reading two separate queries. Perhaps there is a way to intertwine the conflicts together, that way the whole query reads smoothly.

    Sounds interesting, I hope it goes well for you. 🙂

  8. I think you have a wonderful, unique premise here. The half dying soul part is really what grabbed my attention.

    However, the query did confuse me. There’s a lot going on, and I think that’s half the issue. Alex has half a soul, he’s slowly dying, he’s more alive than most people, he wants to cure his soul, a bunch of things start to attack him, Arwa enters the scene, she’s his best, but also a witch, she’s sent from another world, she has to get some wand, the wand will defeat great evil, Alex must choose to save either himself or the world, we find he is in love with Arwa.

    There is just a LOT going on. Maybe grab two or three of the things above and hold fast to those.

  9. I’m also really confused by the premise. The daemons and succubi make me wonder if the story takes place in Hell. And I just don’t understand what a “half-soul” is, or what being born “half-dead” means. I think you’ll have to clarify this in the very beginning of your query. Also, why is to abandon his cure for his half-soul to “betray his true love”? Is that Arwa? Good luck with this!

  10. I do agree with the scattered comment. This happened to me too with my query before, and the things I learned were these:

    A Query should do these things:

    1. Get us to know the main character
    2. Tell us what he most desperately wants
    3. Tell us what gets in his way
    4. Tell us the stakes

    This will streamline your query and then, once you have these bones, you can add some meat onto it in whichever form you like. But I think a rewrite is in order, but don’t worry: that’s part of the query pain 🙂

    I really hope I helped! Good luck!

  11. Thank you so much guys, and thank you Becca and Brenda for this great opportunity!
    I really needed fresh eyes to tell me about my query. It helped me so much 🙂

    Here is my revision, I hope to get some comments on it to know if it’s better and less confusing.

    Gensolia is a world where everyone is cursed to be born half dead. Souls shattered at birth. Unfortunately, no one is aware of that curse.

    People suffer a slow and agonizing death, yet no one is searching for a cure.

    An ancient evil is making everyone forget about the curse. It’s forcing them to abandon their search for the cure.

    Being an aether bender seventeen-year-old Alex is the only one aware of the curse. His power is protecting his memory from manipulation. But it doesn’t protect him from the curse. He’s living with a dysfunctional and slowly dying half soul.

    Alex knows the curse can’t be reversed, but it can be cured.

    He realizes that the only way to find the cure for his dying half soul is to banish this ancient evil from the world, or else everything he holds dear will be lost for ever.

    In order to do that, Alex has to go on a dangerous quest to retrieve an ancient wand. For that wand is the only weapon powerful enough to defeat this evil. But his life may be the price.

    “HALF SOUL” is a YA epic fantasy novel complete at 95,000 words and is the first book in a potential series.

    Thanks for your time and consideration

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