Jun 2, 2017

QK Round 1: The Barringer Museum vs TB Ruined My Day

Title: We, Freaks
Entry Nickname: The Barringer Museum
Word count: 78K
Genre: Adult Speculative Fiction

Query:

Sideshow talkers claim the true freak is born, not made. That a pregnant mother’s obsession with an eerie run-in with a dog led to a fur-faced baby boy, or that a woman’s all-consuming fear of sea serpents etched scales on the fetus growing inside of her. To most audience members, these tales are purely advertising, an expected part of a tradition built on deceit and distortion.

But to two men, a museum owner in 19th century New York City and a PhD candidate in present-day Ann Arbor, MI, these boasts and backstories are improbably beginning to resemble truth.

As the museum owner risks his reputation on a folktale to fill his establishment with never-before-seen freaks, the student grows traumatized by a scientific study of the phenomenon and sets out to disprove it. At the center of both stories lie the individuals who never wanted their bodies to define them, those with tails or fur or gills whose lives are falling victim to men who can never understand their existence.

First 250:

Theodore Barringer had planned to spend his morning crafting an exhibit about a romance between Thomas Jefferson and America’s first swivel chair, but instead, he faced a conundrum: two women—or possibly one woman if he squinted at his present guests and let his vision overwhelm any mental analysis. They said she wanted to work at the museum. She said they were in search of a new job. The right one—she called herself Patrice—and the left one—she referred to herself as Alice—said they had heard he was hiring performers and they wanted to be two of them, and, of course, they were happy to call themselves as many as five, but would require costuming assistance for that many bodies.


“Well…” Theodore paused, uncommonly without words to finish his beginning. Because she—no, they (he must retain his focus on the outlines of the two so very separate bodies) sitting uncomfortably tall before him were beings he’d never once heard rumors of in New York City. There were giants, Circassian beauties, and wild men, but no humans quite like these—none so… authentic. At Spooner’s and the Eastern Dime Museum, Theodore could always discern the hoax: the 90 year-old woman boasting 160 years of age, the siblings from Virginia advertising Mayan heritage, the thin men who never weighed as little as they claimed they did… The frauds of humanity were growing commonplace in the city, but these women before him… he could not discern the craft of their deception.


V.


Title: Saving Grace
Entry Nickname: TB Ruined My Day
Word Count: 100K
Genre: Historical Fiction

Query:

It’s 1913 when Anna McIntosh, a young woman from the suburbs of Boston, secretly marries Charles Patrinos, a Greek immigrant. The sacrifices and hardships were to be expected, but when Charles surreptitiously leaves Anna alone and pregnant upon discovering he has TB, her struggles truly begin.

Meanwhile, Charles Patrinos is an honest man in love with his wife and excited about the new family they are becoming, so when he has to endure the journey to death alone in order to protect them, he does what he must do. Yet, when after months in the sanatorium, the doctor announces he may survive, the guilt, loss and consequences of his actions may prove too much to overcome.

First 250:

Anna McIntosh peered anxiously through the lace curtains scanning for Charles’ approach, but when the brass knocker finally banged against the front door of 10 Levant Street, her heart dropped. In moments, her parents would discover what she hadn’t told them about the young man she fancied. Perhaps she’d erred by omitting the obvious, but she’d wanted them to learn favorable things first. She had accurately described him as handsome and chivalrous, qualities her mother would desire, as well as intelligent and hardworking, traits her father considered essential. She’d hoped highlighting his positive attributes would garner her parents’ favor, yet now that he waited outside, Anna wanted to catapult from her seat in the parlor and send him away. But it was too late. Her mother had already answered the door.

“The ink hasn’t dried on the treaty and already the Balkans are fighting again,” Mr. McIntosh remarked setting down his newspaper and looking expectantly toward the foyer.

In the entryway, Charles stood as tall as a man five-foot six-inches could stand. When he removed his hat in greeting, droplets of water dripped from its brim. He held in his hand a modest bouquet of rain-whipped flowers, which Anna’s mother graciously accepted while inviting him in. They exchanged polite smiles. Charles stepped over the threshold while Anna’s father strode toward the door. Anna remained on the settee as was proper, her younger sister Jessie propped beside her appearing as if she were watching a play.

24 comments :

  1. Judges, please leave your comments and votes as a reply to this comment. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Professor McGonagallJune 3, 2017 at 5:45 PM

      THE BARRINGER MUSEUM: This sounds so fascinating! I love the premise and your writing pulls me right in. QUERY: The first two paragraphs are very strong. I don’t have any changes to suggest! The third paragraph leaves me feeling confused. Is this a time-travel story? A space-time continuum? Are the stories supposed to be happening at the same time? And what is the central conflict – how do these stories tie together? I think there needs to be something more to let us know what this story is going to be about. FIRST 250: Love the first part of the first sentence! For the second half, I wonder if there would be something else you could use instead of “mental analysis.” I had to read that part a few times to understand what it meant. The second paragraph I believe is very strong! Is there a way to use fewer ellipses? You have three... ☺ Very strong entry. I would love to read this book!

      TB RUINED MY DAY: An interesting and emotional story premise. I like it! QUERY: The query you have here is very clear, and I understand what the story is about. I think, however, there needs to be more. What could be in a third paragraph? What happens when he is freed from his diagnosis? Do they meet again? How will they overcome the past? I think there has to be more to this story than ending with her struggles and his guilt. FIRST 250: I like these first 250 a lot. I really don’t have anything to say except for a couple nitpicky things: There should be a comma after “remarked” in the 2nd paragraph, and another one after “beside her” in the 3rd. Other than that your writing is smooth, and flows very well. I like this a lot!

      Wow, congratulations to both of you on strong story premises and writing. I’m eager to hear about the success you both find in the future!

      I wish I didn’t have to pick between the two of these entries on the first round! They both deserve to go further with such great writing. But because of the strength of the queries, I will need to go with

      VICTORY TO THE BARRINGER MUSEUM

      Delete
    2. Lumpy Space AuthorJune 4, 2017 at 2:56 PM

      BARRINGER MUSEUM
      QUERY
      Sideshow talkers claim the true freak is born, not made. That a pregnant mother’s obsession with an eerie run-in with a dog [this is convoluted to the point I had to read it several times. I’d reword]

      But to two men, a museum owner in 19th century New York City and a PhD candidate in present-day Ann Arbor, MI, these boasts and backstories are improbably beginning to resemble truth. [This is too vague- it needs to pack more punch. Like, they “discover a mother’s dark thoughts indeed can mutate the baby within her.” And the fact that the people are in two different time periods is confusing…I don’t see how that fits in. Are there two entirely different stories here that run parallel to one another? That would be really interesting…and I think you should state that pretty much outright, if that’s the case. Otherwise, it’s confusing]

      I like the concept of the true story being centered around the “research subjects”, so this last part hooks me - even though the “never wanted their bodies to define them” thing isn’t my cup of tea (a lot of people’s physical differences are a huge part of their identity, but that’s another subject).

      250
      This sample absolutely hooks me. The voice, the worldbuilding…spectacular. I’m a pushover for this sort of story, too.

      TB
      QUERY
      Meanwhile, [I’d take out the meanwhile] Charles Patrinos...
      This is a touching and interesting concept

      250
      I would take out this part in order to avoid telling & too much exposition in the first page:

      . She had accurately described him as handsome and chivalrous, qualities her mother would desire, as well as intelligent and hardworking, traits her father considered essential. She’d hoped highlighting his positive attributes would garner her parents’ favor, yet now that he waited outside, Anna wanted to catapult from her seat in the parlor and send him away.

      Both great entries, but I'm completely suckered into one of them. VICTORY TO BARRINGER

      Delete
    3. No One Of ConsequenceJune 5, 2017 at 9:43 AM

      THE BARRINGER MUSEUM I really like what you’re doing with the premise. Specifically, you have the one character looking at things commercially, another looking at it academically, and then the people involved who just want to be seen as people. That fits with so many societal narratives today, but reminds me especially of the self-advocacy debates we see now in the autistic community.

      The query perhaps doesn’t capture that completely. It’s really had to see what direction the story takes. You’re telling us that the victims lie at the center of the story. But we don’t really know what the story is. I understand that there are two men in two timelines who work with anomalies, but not what they’re trying to do with them, nor do I understand the conflict and stakes.

      In the writing sample, the use of punctuation is a bit distracting from the story. It does give sort of a feel of a mind operating quickly, a man who has thoughts that run together. And if that’s what you’re going for, then I think it’s good. But for me it made it difficult to follow the story, as did the drop into exposition when he starts opining on Spooner’s.

      TB RUINED MY DAY Your query is a bit short. I’d probably go to a three paragraph format. I’d put the first character in paragraph one, the second in paragraph two (much like you do) and then use a third paragraph to bring the story together.

      The writing sample is well done. You weave setting and voice together to create a feel for the time period and it’s seamless. That’s hard to do, and so important for historical. And despite it being a fairly familiar type of scene for this kind of work, it has life and I really want to know what’s on the next page.


      Victory to TB RUINED MY DAY

      Delete
    4. THE BARRINGER MUSEUM
      This concept sounds fascinating and I want to read this book!
      Query: I like how you’ve set up the tone and the background of the story, but I think this query might benefit from an introduction by name to the two main characters, as well as a quick mention of the emotional stakes or the personal conflict that these characters face. I think it will help get the reader invested in these characters’ stories. And I’d love to get more of a hint at the danger the “freaks” face that you allude to in the last sentence: falling victim to men who can never understand their existence i.e what does “falling victim” mean exactly (emotionally, physically?) Finally there’s a humorous voice in the first 250 that I’d love to see in the query if possible – to really give an agent a quick sense of what the book will be like.

      250: I really enjoyed this scene and only have a few thoughts. I was a bit confused by this phrase “ and, of course, they were happy to call themselves as many as five,” – not sure what your suggesting exactly. Also I don’t know if you need to say “uncommonly without words to finish his beginning” – it’s implied by his pause, and takes you out of the action for a moment. I enjoyed the playfulness of swapping “she” and “they” back and forth. This first page would certainly keep me reading!

      TB RUINED MY DAY
      Very solid writing and a really interesting story!
      Query: I feel like I got a great, quick sense of the time period and the characters personalities in just a few short sentence – good work! I wanted to know more, though, about what happens next and what the meat of the book is aobut – what are Anna’s struggles once Charles has left – what does she want, what’s in her way? What happens when Charles comes back? I’m not suggesting you include a synopsis, but I think you have room to add another paragraph to illustrate the character’s conflicts. Also, minor detail – I’d spell out Tuberculosis and maybe even say “the deadly disease Tuberculosis” or something like that. I wouldn’t assume that agents know – they probably all do – but one once said “Don’t make me have to google anything in your query” so better to err on the safe side, I say :)

      250: This paints such a lovely picture and I feel like I’m right there in the room. I don’t have any suggestions for improvements.

      A tough call, but Victory to THE BARRINGER MUSEUM

      Delete
    5. Sorry this is so late! I wasn't assigned this, but just jumping in because of how close it is.

      BARRINGER MUSEUM

      Query: Great first sentence/hook. (I didn’t realize they were sideshow “talkers.” I’m assuming this is the phrase and you are in the know.) You lost me at the second sentence. I *totally* get what you are trying to do, and I love it, but it was so wordy that the cool images never gelled for me. Also the third sentence in the first paragraph feels a bit wordy, and I wonder if the second phrase is necessary. As a whole, it doesn’t actually apply to your story directly, so I’d make it as short as possible, or even better—combine it with a shortened version of the previous sentence. Because really, the whole opening paragraph of your query is a kind of prologue that doesn’t actually introduce any characters, plot, or stakes, so I’d just tighten and condense so you can bring in that other stuff asap.

      In the second paragraph, I’d set off improbably with em dashes, if you really want to keep it. I’d include the guys’ first names. In the third paragraph, you lost me again with the first sentence. You really have a way with words and know how to turn a phrase, but because queries are about conveying a lot of complex info, I’d make sure you don’t have overly long sentences with lots of adjectives, because—even if they are lovely—you risk confusing the reader.

      Okay, I love this premise and the theme links to my own WIP. I think you’re almost there, but I’d also like to know more of the stakes. I think the third paragraph could use a little more fleshing out in this way.

      250: Great first part of your opening sentence, but again, it ends up being so long that I got muddled. I’d seriously condense the part after “two women.” Great rest of the paragraph. Love the dry irony of the voice. Nice work.

      I don’t understand the sentence/phrase starting with “Theodore paused…” Two ellipses back-to-back feels like a lot. I’d cut the former and set off the next sentence on its own line.

      WOW. STELLAR 250. Your voice SINGS. Love the dry, somewhat detached and intellectual voice you have crafted for your MC juxtaposed with the larger-than-life (pun intended) reality of the women. (Side note: at first I thought they were conjoined twins, but then it sounded like they had gigantism…or both? I wasn’t clear on this.) Really loved this opening.

      Overall: To me, your 250 is really, really close to amazingness. However, I think your query needs some revision to reach the same (fab) level. I’d work on making it tighter, punchier, and much clearer in terms of what the MCs (by name) want and what stakes are involved if they do/don’t get it.

      Delete
    6. TB RUINED MY DAY
      I think this concept is really fresh, particularly the idea that the book traces the couple *re*building their relationship (or not), rather than building it. I have often said I wish more books did this, i.e. really trace a marriage evolve, rather than just a first romance, so kudos. I do feel like this query feels a bit thin. Typically in dual POV, which I assume this is, you do one paragraph for one MC, one for the other, and then the third outlining what they both want and the stakes involved if they get it/don’t get it. I’d particularly like to know about the stakes/conflict for Anna in terms of Charles’ potential return. Does she begin to make a new life for herself, one that doesn’t involve him? Does she move on in other ways? That kind of thing.

      250: Overall, very charming and starts at a great place in the story, which is hard to do! The lines about describing his qualities felt somewhat overstuffed to me—actually the whole first paragraph in general. But there were really fabulous lines that endeared me to both of them, such as Anna wanting to “catapult” herself away and Charles standing as tall as a man “five feet six inches could stand.” Your prose is great, but again it feels a tad overstuffed with lovely but maybe-not-totally-necessary-in-the first-page description, such as the phrase about water dripping from the brim. I’m being SUPER nitpicky though. Overall, as I said, charming and lovely!

      BOTH: This is hard. Really hard. Really, really hard. Both 250s are stronger than your queries. Both queries, in my mind, need some work. This PAINS me to do, because I think that you’ll both go far, but because I found one 250 a teeny, tiny bit more sparkling than the other, I must give…

      VICTORY TO BARRINGER MUSEUM!!
      -Molly Millions

      Delete
    7. Title: We, Freaks
      Entry Nickname: The Barringer Museum

      Query Feedback
      I think you should name your 2 MCs! It is harder to connect without names. But this sounds like just my bag! It is cool that you start with the sideshow characters, but your descriptions in paragraph 1 don’t necessarily fall in line with your statement in paragraph 3 “individuals who never wanted their bodies to define them” -- like, you are centering the “otherness” in paragraph 1, whereas I think you don’t mean to do that. (I am pushing back a little harder here because I really think you can do this... )

      I love the final theme. Can the whole query show that?


      First 250 Feedback
      Really neat opener. Atmospheric, great voice that fits the historical setting. I am drawn in. There is potential for some confusion about the woman and the number and what it is really like. Are they conjoined twins? I am confused where the “five” comes from…

      I really like this!

      V.


      Title: Saving Grace
      Entry Nickname: TB Ruined My Day

      Query Feedback
      I think you need a couple more sentences to tell us what is going to happen and what the stakes are. Does he have to decide if he will go back? Win her back? Does she have to raise the child alone? Does she have to search for love again? Tell us what the real goal is / the consequences if they don’t reach that goal.


      First 250 Feedback
      Lovely scene. STAKES so soon! Can’t wait to read on!

      They seem upper class but don’t have a housekeeper or butler type to open the door? (What era is this?)

      Victory to BARRINGER MUSEUM

      Delete
  2. WE, FREAKS

    Query:

    Wow, this query definitely sucked me in. It’s delightfully creepy, and you give us just enough information to pique our curiosity without going overboard.
    I also like the idea of two men separated by time searching for the truth for very different reasons.

    The only issue I have is that I’m not clear what the stakes are here. The museum owner is trying to fill his establishment, but what is he up against here? What is at stake for the student beside his own fascination? Is he trying to help the people caught in the middle? The so-called “freaks?” Or prevent it from happening to more people?

    I would definitely clarify that a bit more in a future revision. But overall, I think you have something very special here!

    250:
    I like the tone of this piece, but I admit I’m a little confused about what is happening in this first paragraph. Are they conjoined? His confusion, and switching from they, to she, to they again made my head spin a little bit. I’m assuming that is the feeling you want the reader to have, as it’s probably how Theodore himself is feeling, but in this instance it’s not entirely effective.

    You write with flourish, which for the most part is enjoyable, but sometimes it feels like the sentences get away from you.

    The second paragraph is much stronger in general, so I would suggest reworking the first to make it clearer.

    SAVING GRACE

    Query:

    The plot here is fascinating. I would like to know a bit more about the struggles Anna faces being pregnant and alone. It would make for a much more compelling query, and also set us up to better understand the consequences of Charles actions that he finds potentially impossible to overcome.
    Otherwise, I think this query is ready to go!

    250:

    This is a great start, I can feel the tension as she is waiting and worrying about what her parents will think, and I’m holding my breath hoping that her father is polite! You did a great job of bringing your reader into the story, and giving us a lot of information about your characters and the family dynamic without making it seem like an info dump. I’m sorry I don’t have more feedback, but I love it as it stands!


    This was an extremely difficult decision, I like both of these and hope to see them both on my bookshelf someday. But since I can only pick one...

    Victory to: Saving Grace!

    ReplyDelete
  3. THE BARRINGER MUSEUM

    The last sentence of the query makes this for me. Sure, it's about two guys doing their respective things... but at its heart are the people who get called freaks. Totally reels me in and gives me confidence that this is a story about people, not about exploiting people.

    I really like the style and tone of the writing. It feels like a story set in the past. But I'm not 100% sure if Theodore is the museum owner or the student. Probably the museum owner, but with no names in the query and no firm historical clues it's hard to be certain. I find the mystery around the young ladies intriguing, and the authority in the narrative voice makes me trust that I'll find out on the next page or two. So I'm not concerned about their identities being shrouded on this page.

    TB RUINED MY DAY

    The query is tight, it gets its job done well. It's a little on the short side, so there's room to expand and get some voice in if more suggestions point that way. I do want to get a better sense of whose story this is. The first paragraph is about Anna, the second is about Charles, and the stakes are given to Charles. So why start so strongly with Anna? If this were a romance, the query set up would probably be P1: About Anna, P2: About Charles, P3: What's keeping them apart, emphasis on them together. So I'm wondering if the story is about the two of them equally, or if it's more Charles' story.

    The 250 is so sweet. It's a perfect set up for an awkward but earnest Meet The Parents encounter, without being saccharine. I love the thought Anna's put into this, and the slightly damaged flowers. Really nice.

    This is SUCH a close match-up. I wish you both the very best!!





    ReplyDelete
  4. The Barringer Museum:
    I'm not quite sure if the first paragraph of this query fascinates or disgusts me. The first sentence is a great hook, but then... are you talking about bestiality? Even if you are, though, since you're not selling that as a focus of the book, it's still at "I want to look away and can't " traffic accident level. The first paragraph might get a little long though. Do you really need two examples?

    I also think you might need to be a little more specific about what exactly your two main characters want to accomplish, why, and what negative consequences await if they fail. A little more information about the stakes in that last paragraph would be nice!

    The first pages get off to a nice start, with a voice that plants the reader firmly both in the character's head and in the time period. I'm very confused as to WHAT your main character is looking at though. Conjoined twins? But if he's in the freak show business I'm sure he knows they exist? Since the reader is supposed to be in his head, you shouldn't be too vague. Let us know what he's looking at!

    TB Ruined My Life: The conflict was obvious in this query, but the execution could be improved. You might want to mention why marrying Charles led to hardships... is it just because he's Greek, or is he also poor or... something else?

    The transition between the first and second paragraphs is jarring. Since you're still talking about the same event, "Meanwhile" doesn't seem appropriate. This query also suffers from vague stakes. What is the decision that the character or characters must make, and what might the consequences be?

    In the first 250, I love the attention to setting details and body language--this entry ALSO does a great job of setting the historical stage right away. Again, you probably want to mention WHY Anna is sure that her parents won't approve. I'm assuming it's because he's Greek, but you probably want to spell that out to make the tension clearer for the reader.

    Another tough matchup, but I'm going to have to say...

    Victory to THE BARRINGER MUSEUM!

    ReplyDelete
  5. We, Freaks
    I LOVE THE IDEA OF A BOOK SET IN A FREAK SHOW!!! Sounds so good.
    The first paragraph of the query is atmospheric but I’m not really sure where to latch on as a reader. Is this dual POV? If so, I suggest having one paragraph to introduce each MC. Orient us in character so we have context for the atmosphere.

    I’m also confused by the whole two women/one woman thing. You tell us a lot about Theodore’s reaction to the women and not seeing anyone like them, but I’d like a little description of them. What exactly do they look like? Spell it out for the readers more and that way we’ll have an easier time parsing Theodore’s reaction.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Saving Grace
    It sounds like this could be really good and tragic! I have a lot of questions here so I’ll put them in brackets.

    It’s 1913 when Anna McIntosh, a young woman [Is Anna wealthy? Protestant? I’m feeling one more adjective could help set up the conflict here] from the suburbs of Boston, secretly marries Charles Patrinos, a Greek immigrant. The sacrifices and hardships were to be expected, [What kind of sacrifices and hardships? Be more specific. Poverty? Isolation?] but when Charles surreptitiously leaves Anna alone and pregnant upon discovering he has TB, her struggles truly begin. [Okay, so does she know he has TB or did he just abandon her? That seems like an important distinction. And again, I’d love more specifics with what the struggles are.]

    Meanwhile, Charles Patrinos is an honest man in love with his wife and excited about the new family they are becoming, so when he has to endure the journey to death alone in order to protect them, he does what he must do. [This confused me and I think it roots from the question of whether Anna knew he had TB. Why would he not tell her? This brings up a lot of questions.] Yet, when after months in the sanatorium, the doctor announces he may survive, the guilt, loss and consequences of his actions may prove too much to overcome. [How so? Again, be more specific.]

    ReplyDelete
  7. Saving Grace First 250

    Anna McIntosh peered anxiously through the lace curtains scanning for Charles’ approach, but when the brass knocker finally banged against the front door of 10 Levant Street, her heart dropped. [Anxiously seems to set up that she’s nervous, so it would be expected that her heart dropped at the knocker--not a “but” reaction. Is there a way you can lose the adverb here? Maybe show her hands tremble as she opens the curtains?] In moments, her parents would discover what she hadn’t told them about the young man she fancied. Perhaps she’d erred by omitting the obvious, but she’d wanted them to learn favorable things first. She had accurately [Cut the adverb] described him as handsome and chivalrous, qualities her mother would desire, as well as intelligent and hardworking, traits her father considered essential. She’d hoped highlighting his positive attributes would garner her parents’ favor, [The first half of this sentence reads as repetitive] yet now that he waited outside, Anna wanted to catapult from her seat in the parlor and send him away. But it was too late. Her mother had already answered the door.

    “The ink hasn’t dried on the treaty and already the Balkans are fighting again,” Mr. McIntosh remarked [need a comma here. Also, why would he be saying this as a guest arrives?] setting down his newspaper and looking expectantly toward the foyer.

    In the entryway, Charles stood as tall as a man five-foot six-inches could stand. [This seems like a bit of an awkward way to give us his height. We don’t need the inches.] When he removed his hat in greeting, droplets of water dripped from its brim. He held in his hand a modest bouquet of rain-whipped flowers, [love the description!] which Anna’s mother graciously [again, watch the adverb] accepted while inviting him in. They exchanged polite smiles. [Needed?] Charles stepped over the threshold while Anna’s father strode toward the door. Anna remained on the settee as was proper, her younger sister Jessie propped beside her appearing as if she were watching a play. [How did she appear so? With wide eyes, as if she were…? Otherwise “appearing” makes it seem like Jessie had just appeared on the settee. Had she been there the whole time?]


    [I'm really curious to see how this goes down! Great set up!]

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Barringer Museum

    Query - Your query is unconventional, as your story sounds. You set the stage and tone without intro'ing the MCs by name, and then tell us the story is really about the 'freaks'. I'd call you crazy for writing your query like this, but the writing is tight and I want to know more. You've got me.

    1st 250 - Wow. I love writing that demands focus, and you deliver on that. This book is going to be work to get through, but I'm looking forward to it. Your first sentence is really long. I'd try to break it up. You're next two sentences, with the she/they switching nocked me over.

    TB Ruined My Day

    Query - Something is missing in the first paragraph. Maybe it's that I don't get a feel for Anna, and/or maybe it's that I don't understand why they got married in secret. I get a sense of Charles in the second paragraph, but I'm still wondering about Anna. The conflict sounds great. Drop 'Meanwhile'.

    1st 250 - I could see the scene, the characters, and feel the tension, but I got a little lost on where Anna was. She's peaking through the curtain, then sitting in the parlor. I get she could be doing those things in the same spot, but I pictured her standing while peaking. Paragraph 1 does a nice job of foretelling disaster, but then Anna's mom doesn't seem to react to Charles. This makes me think 'What's the big deal?' I know what you're trying to do, though, and think you're real close.

    Thx.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Barringer - so intriguing! I had to slow down and read (really and truly r-e-a-d) your opening paragraph twice. So accustomed to just giving words a quick glance. I already love how your entry begs the reader to slow down and pay close attention. And my mind is reeling with freak show opportunities.
    Wish I knew already how the tales of the museum owner and PhD student will overlap! I'd definitely give this a read.
    First 250 - my editor's eye bounced back and forth from they to she to she to they with dizzying confusion. But I loved it. Very best of luck to you in Kombat.

    TB - Two such different entries! Impossible to compare -- I loved them both and am grateful yet again that I'm just commenting upon and not judging. I'm always a sucker for a good romance; your query hints at mystery and intrigue. I'm captivated!
    Please tell us more about the sacrifices, hardships and struggles that Anna faces. Are they poor? Is it a class thing? A culture clash? What drew them together in the first place? My romantic heart is dying to read more!
    First 250 - We authors fall victim to this so many times, the show-not-tell conundrum. Perhaps you could say Anna's hand trembled as she peered through the lace curtains? Or that Anna's mother bent graciously at the waist to accept the floral bouquet?
    I want so much to read just a few more pages to get a better sense of your voice and style. Best of luck; I wish we could all advance to the agent round!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. BARRINGER MUSEUM

    Query: Definitely interesting.

    1st 250: I'm sorry, but I was a bit confused at where this started or what's going on. I'm not sure if you started in the right place?

    TB RUINED MY DAY

    Query: I like how clear the stakes are here.

    1st 250: The excerpt conveys the MC's anxiety perfectly. I like the opening.

    VICTORY TO TB RUINED MY DAY.

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  11. Barringer Museum
    Query: LOVE the opening paragraph. It took me a couple read-throughs of the dog sentence to understand it though. Is there a way you can make this more clear, smooth out the disconnect from the first sentence and the second?

    What's at stake though? I'm not clear on that.

    250: It's slow and confusing, kinda. Is he seeing a pair of Siamese Twins? The transition between they and she made it harder to confirm this. Could you choose one perhaps so as to not confuse your readers?

    TB
    Query: Where are the stakes? The family breaking apart? It reads like that's already happened, so I'm confused. Can you make the stakes more clear?
    250: How is she expecting them to react and to what? This wasn't clear to me. Other than that, it's a wonderful piece and I truly enjoyed it!

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  12. The Barringer Museum: This is a compelling query, and I love a side-show story, so I loved it. I am a little confused as to how the two character’s lives interact. I loved how you state that the center of it is the actual performers— I’m assuming we will get a good idea of their wants, needs and motivations as well as the two main characters. First 250: OMG. I want to read this book. Loved the way you switched pronouns, I was as confused as Theodore was. And I loved the last bit about him being able to tell a fraud. I have nothing else to say, you’ve left me speechless with your talent.

    TB Ruined My Day: Good query. Stakes are well defined, and I already really feel for the characters. I’m curious about where the story starts— was the wedding, and hardships backstory or part of the book? First 250: I get it now, we start when her parents meet him. Very nice description of setting, I felt like I was in that parlour with Anna, as nervous as she was. Many of the sentences were long, shortening them would increase the tension in the first paragraph. Overall, well done!

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  13. Fellow Kombatant on her lunch break here!

    Barringer's Museum
    Q: Awesome concept. It felt somewhat NIGHT CIRCUS-y to me. There's a magical, transportative sense about this - I'd be excited to read the whole thing.

    I stumbled on this sentence: "That a pregnant mother’s obsession with an eerie run-in with a dog led to a fur-faced baby boy, or that a woman’s all-consuming fear of sea serpents etched scales on the fetus growing inside of her." Maybe you could do something like (roughly!!): One pregnant woman's... baby boy, or another's all-consuming fear..." Structure-wise, I had to read backward to figure out that the second woman was pregnant.

    You have a lot of inventive details in this query, but I'm not seeing how the two storylines converge as of yet. I'm sure it's in your arcs, but I'd like to see the query touch upon the crossover.

    250: Superb voice. I had a bit of difficulty with the concept of the woma/en being able to multiply to five -- LOVED the pronoun trickery. I think I need a *hair* more of a tell here so I know what exactly the MC is looking at, though.

    TB Ruined My Day
    Q: Being from Boston, I had to smile at your nickname -- I keep thinking of Tom Brady ruining people's days here. That doesn't happen often!
    I somewhat struggled with the POV of this one. I couldn't get a good sense of whether we were following Anna, Charles, or both. Is this omniscient? Or a 3rd limited switch? I felt there were areas of clarification necessary to up the stakes of this entry.

    250: What I loved about this is the old-times literary feel. Felt like a classic, in many ways - since this is HF, that's appropriate. I did have a few stumbling blocks -- comma usage should go through another round of edits. Also, what is "the obvious"? According to the query, they're secretly married, so I'm not sure if this is what you're referring to. I also think there was room to strike some adverbs here, and a few filler sentences - the "exchanged polite smiles" doesn't help move this narrative along. If you got rid of a bit more to speed up the pace, you'd be able to hook the reader in much more by the culmination of the 250.

    Good luck to you both!

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  14. Freaks: I get that you have two timelines, but there are a couple of points in your query that sound like events are happening simultaneously. Good work with first 250. The weirdness pulled me in quickly. I did have some points in the first paragraph where I wanted more clarity. Jefferson and a chair having a romance, I assumed you meant he really liked the chair, but then this is a freak show so did he really really like the chair? I don’t really know what his conundrum is yet. I think conjoined twins are applying for a job. What’s the conundrum? With Spooners and the Eastern Dime, is he referring to two competitor’s museums? That was unclear to me.

    TB: I think maybe you don’t need the surnames in your query. Charles left surreptitiously. Does that mean he didn’t tell Anna? That’s what I assumed until I learned he was an honest man in love. This is a key point because maybe she’s furious with him or maybe she knows he’s left to keep her and the baby healthy. I thought the first 250 were great. I would suggest a comma after remarked. And how about if Anna’s mother graciously accepted. They exchanged polite smiles and she invited him in. ? But I got a great sense of Anna, her family, and the setting. FYI, my expectation is that the part she hasn’t told her parents is that he’s Greek.

    Good luck to you both!

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  15. Barringer:
    A freak-show setting is a real attention grabber, particularly with both historical and contemporary points of view (perhaps showing how our attitudes to such things have evolved?). Yet this entry left me somewhat adrift. After two tantalizing paragraphs in the query, just when I expect to learn where the story is headed, the third paragraph gives me ominous hints and vague clues that leave me guessing. The first 250 are full of atmosphere and I love the ambiguity of she/they, but again, there's so little to grab hold of. I'd prefer less about Jefferson and the other (rival?) museums and more about what Theodore is seeing and how he feels about her/them, other than baffled. Is he eagerly curious? Nervous? Shrewdly calculating the earnings? With such a mysterious first 250, a clearer query would be a big help.

    TB:
    I agree with those who have suggested fleshing out the query, but there's enough there to attract my interest. An immigrant story is particularly timely, and the TB aspect throws a twist into the typical star-crossed lovers story. The voice and careful attention to details of the characters' behavior ground me firmly in the period, and the mood - the various emotions at play - is handled well. I especially like the almost tossed-off comment about the war in the Balkans: in addition to further nailing down the historical period, we get a foreshadowing of Mr. McIntosh's likely attitude toward his daughter being involved with a recent immigrant from that war-torn corner of the world. If i were a judge, I'd vote for this one.

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  16. We Freaks: The query leaves me confused about who the protagonists are in the story. We never are told their names, which lessens the connection between reader and protag, and we never get any insight into how they are unique characters that we want to read about from beginning to end. Also, I think personal stakes and motivations can be expanded upon to further draw a reader into wanting to know more about the story and the characters.

    Saving Grace: The query leaves me intrigued, but it also leaves me with a million questions that I think if you took the time top answer a few would make the query stronger. For example, what struggles do Anna face after Charles leaves her? What are the personal stakes for Anna once it happens? Also, why does Anna need to marry Charles in secret? (The answer to this could play up the tension and conflict in your query). Once, Charles finds out he could potentially live, what does he resolve to do or not do? What are the potential consequences of his choice?

    My vote: We Freaks.

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  17. Barringer: I really loved this Query. It is unique in it's set up, has wonderful voice and really pulled me in from the opening sentence. I love the concept of these two distinguished storylines/characters. Sounds like a truly interesting read.
    The 250 was well done. I loved the line about Thomas Jefferson and the swivel chair - made me laugh and it was weird enough and strange enough to pull me right in. The only thing that confused me was whether the two women were conjoined twins, giants, or both. If both, I think you should come out and say so - either by saying that conjoined twins aren't that big of a deal or that these women have it all over the competition because not only are they conjoined, but they also happen to be giants. The voice in your 250 absolutely astounds, though. Very good!
    TB:
    I love the query. Tight set up, stakes are well defined. I know what I'm getting into. There is no ambiguity and that, I think, is so important in the query! Great job.
    The 250 was perfect - sets up the scene and introduces the tension from the very first line. Description was right on the money! I could see everything. And the voice is there as well.
    If I were a judge, this would be a hard one - the two stories are so different and each has so much going for it.
    Good luck to both!

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