This Query Ninja has been made possible by Humongously Awesome Hollan, or HAH! for short. A big round of applause to HAH! for having the nerve to submit her query for all to see. Please remember to refer to her by her full name or acronym in the comments, and as always, be nice. Like I need to tell you that; I know. I'm just obsessive compulsive.
And here's the query, MadLibbified.
Bigfoot, 14, thinks he’s going insane. After the move to a new house a chipmunk no one else can see follows him, a sparkly door appears, and he slips farther from his family until the day they can’t remember him at all.
Then he meets Britney Spears, a girl whose family forgot her a hundred years before, and learns the world of the freakshows has claimed them both. Armed only with a map and pursued by werefairies who want to steal their memories, Bigfoot and Britney must cross the forgotten world and find a couch-jumping man called Zom Cruise, the only one who can help them find a way back to their world.
Bigfoot and Britney track Zom through a bobblehead factory, ancient ruins and the couch rodeo circuit, but the farther they go the more their memories slip away. If they don’t find Zom soon they will forget themselves and be lost in the world of the freakshows forever.
FREAKSHOWS FORGOTTEN is an upper MG novel (HAH! notes that sometimes she calls it YA, depending on the agent), and it is complete at 59,000 words. It is similar in nature to L. Frank Baum’s ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and Garth Nix’s ‘Key’s to the Kingdom’ series.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration. Sample chapters or the snarfabulous manuscript are available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.
HAH! (Humongously Awesome Hollan)
So I've discovered an unexpected benefit of Query Ninja. MadLibbing this query just gave me an awesome idea for a short story. And no, it's not some shady poaching of Freakshows Forgotten; it has couches in it. I think there's a shortage of good couch stories in the world. So I owe an especially big debt of gratitude to HAH! for sending this one in.
Anyway. I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce a new rule of querydom. Let's call it the Church Lady Rule. Everyone remembers the Church Lady, right?
The Church Lady has the right idea here. Think about what makes your book special, what makes it stand out from all the other books like it. If you have a sparkly vampire love story, what's different about your book compared to all of the other sparkly vampire love stories out there? If you have a book about Big Foot and Britney on a quest, what makes it different from the thousands of pop-star-plus-random-supernatural-creature-quest books on the market?
Whatever that element is, it deserves as much space as you can give it without making your query completely nonsensical. If your distinguishing characteristic is the compelling voice of the rabid werehamster protagonist named Mr. Spunky, then sprinkle that query with phrases from Mr. Spunky's dialogue. If your plot twist in which we find out that Mr. Spunky is really a televangelist in disguise is what sets you apart from the masses, then play that element up as much as you can. Remember, the goal is not necessarily to communicate your plot in sequential order, but to catch their attention with your idea and MAKE THEM REQUEST PAGES.
This query had a lot of story elements in it, many of which were mega intriguing, but there was so much going on that I felt overwhelmed. Anyone else feel this way? I think that applying the Church Lady Rule and making it a little more focused will do a better job of highlighting the awesomeness that is your book. For me, this element was the whole idea of memories being lost. There are plenty of books in which characters journey through strange lands, and yes, I think we need a taste of the dangers they'll face there, but there's something different at stake here. Play it up!
So how would you do that without making it ridiculously long? I'd read through phrase by phrase. All the while, ask whether or not each phrase adds something essential. Does it contribute to the voice or tell something essential about the plot? Does it highlight your Church Lady element? Or can it go? In this query, phrases like "armed only with a map," "a sparkly door appears," and the "bobblehead factory, ancient ruins, and couch jumping rodeo circuit" could be cut or shortened, to name a few. Again, the question is what they add. Do we need to know they have a map to understand the basic idea? (And technically, a map isn't a weapon, so you couldn't be armed with it.) Why mention the door in the first paragraph and not bring it up again? And so on. This would make space for the massive awesomeness that is the memory stealing werefairies and the risk of Bigfoot and Britney losing themselves forever.
And personally, I would really miss Bigfoot.
Then it's time to see where you need to add more of your Church Lady element. In this query, a whole lot happens very quickly in the first paragraph, and the bit about the family forgetting Bigfoot, which is pretty essential to the story, is told very quickly. Do they forget him because he's not around, or are they "drifting away" emotionally? I'm not sure what that means. I'm also curious to know about what exactly Zom Cruise is supposed to do. Bigfoot's family has forgotten him already, so getting back to their world is only the beginning. Does Zom have the ability to return their memories so Bigfoot can go back?
So that's what I think. You've obviously got an idea that intrigues the bleep out of me, and that's rocking good. I think it's just a matter of tweaking and tightening the query to make the most out of that element. But that's enough of my yammering. What does everyone else think? Am I totally out of my mind and you disagree entirely, or did I actually say a few things that made sense? Humongously Awesome Hollan could use your feedback. And applause. She deserves a lot of that.
And may the power of the Church Lady be with you.
Oh, and one last thing: those of you who are taking the big query plunge should check out Fabulous Agent Kate's blog. She just did a week's worth of awesome query feedback, and she's smarter than me.