Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Query Critique

A Pineapple Lightning query critique, where the lightning strikes at the meaty stuff and pineapple discusses word flavor. 

Utsav’s comments are in Red, and Brighton’s are in Blue. 

Seventeen-year-old Valora can end the nightmarish hallucinations plaguing the world, but to do so, she will have to join the enemy.

The hook seems almost ready. Nightmarish Hallucinations is a good and enticing phrase. Defining the enemy would do wonders here. Something like joining the ones who created them in the first place. I agree with this, the first clause brings up vivid imagery for me, and then I have no idea what to picture when you get to the last clause about the enemy because I have no idea who they are, what they do, anything about them, why are they so bad? I think you could do this in another sentence added right after the hook. 
Having just awoken from illusions(illusions is not interchangeable with dreams, and they are also not the same thing as hallucinations, illusions are erroneously perceived things that are actually occurring such as magician tricking the audience into thinking he’s doing magic when it’s really just a trick, a hallucination is perceiving of things that aren’t real. I think you can ditch the word entirely, it’s already given in your hook that there are nightmarish hallucinations so you can simply say now that she’s awoken and it will be implied that it’s from those.), Valora’s past is nonexistent, imaginary, and shattered, but that doesn’t stop her from moving forward. And you lose me...repetitions of the same word do not have the same effect in a query as maybe in a book. Also, moving forward is such a generic term, it loses a lot of impact. A query should use only the words that are really required and should convey the story in every line. Instead of moving forward tell us what she needs to do to piece together her lost memory and reality. Yes, something specific here would be stronger. 

After all, reality is a gift given to her by the Potesters who freed her from dark visions. Merge this with the last line to give it more impact. Valora knows that in a world where brainpower is a virtue, her great brain capacity is precious. Aha, this is the crux line and gives us an insight into the world. Setting up a world and the characters in it, is what a query attempts to do. Adjusting to a small and perfect city, she also knows it is forbidden to provoke the enemies, the Spurons, who are to blame for the nightmares. Again, if there are nightmares, how is the city perfect? Also, what are nightmares? Are they dreams or monstrous creatures? What is their impact on this city? Make us feel the problem, so that we can root for Valora as the saviour.

The only problem is that Valora would like nothing more than vengeance. Vengeance? For what? I thought she doesn't remember anything? She would do anything to repay the Potesters’ kindness of giving her freedom. I understand this a bit better, but repay the Potester's how? What do they need? And her uselessness of not being able to contribute to anything whatsoever only fires up her willingness to strike the Spurons. That again feels a little out of context because we don't know how Valora could have contributed and why she's unable to do so? Is it because nightmares from the Spurons still plague her? Also, adding some description to the Potestors and Spurons would help creating the world. Are they humanoids? How are they different? Attacking them would be the perfect act of gratitude and self-fulfillment—laws be damned. So, I am guessing Spurons are the autocratic ruling class and Potestors are the normal peasant class which is oppressed?

Haunted by her past and a newly freed mind, she grows restless and stumbles over secrets more powerful than the terrifying delusions themselves: the Spurons are not the enemy. The Potesters created the dreams to enslave the people, building a fully subjugated army of suppressed minds. They had only freed Valora to look good in the eyes of the unsuspecting public. And the BIG reveal. While you are supposed to give a good outlay of the story in a query, you also must not give everything away. Make this a little veiled. Something on the lines of "But Valora finds that the truth is quite distinct from the reality and determining who created the dreams to enslave people could change the entire world's view of who the real enemy is- the Potestors or the Spurons?

Now she has to scamper (if this word is being used to add the implication that she’s smaller and weaker than the Spurons then good, it does, scamper is generally used to describe the hurried excited movements of rodents or small kids, and to me seems at odds with the general tone of the query, I can see that she’d be hurried, but seems too light hearted of a word to describe her movement towards the start of a possible war.) to the Spurons, who are preparing for a war to end the hallucinations. But it’s not easy, because she doesn’t know the potential brainpower she holds will eventually lead to sacrificing the impossible. Herself. Sacrificing oneself is no longer impossible. We have often seen heroes sacrifice themselves for the better good of the world, so don't hinge your stakes purely on that. Instead go for her mental dilemma - Should she aim for ending the hallucinations and saving the world or risk turning against the very people who gave her life and freedom from the hallucinations.

I hope this helps. Your world is a very interesting one and it would be quite thrilling to read a book where deciding what's a dream and what's not is difficult. We need to understand more of Valora's psyche and her longing desire to help the Potestors out and her detestation of the Spurons and her eventual crisis when she realises she's supporting the wrong side. Get Valora's motives out in the clear and I thing your query will have hit the mark.
Actually for me the biggest distraction was that you spell Potesters so closely to protestors, but not, and at first I thought it was a typo but then I saw you always spelled it that way and it was clearly intentional. I think that’s always a risk in spec fic in making up names for things, that sometimes their connection to real words can be way more of a distraction than you intend. Is it super important that they be called that, because I would find it distracting all book long. (Though maybe that’s just me and I’m weird.) 
I agree with Utsav, your world sounds interesting, and I really like the concept. 


  1. This is a good common sense article. Very helpful to one who is just finding the resouces about this part. It will certainly help educate me.
    burun estetigi

  2. It's not just you, Brighton -- my eyes kept tripping on "Potesters", too.
    I also agree that unveiling the Potesters as the bad guys, not the Spurons, is too much of a giveaway. It sounds like it's meant to be a huge turning point in the plot, and is supposed to shock the reader as it does Valora. You don't want the shock to come during the book jacket blurb; you want it while deep inside the story.