Query Critique 6: Psi-Kick: Red Utopia

7 Feb

Welcome to Query Week! Every day, this week and next, we’ll be publicly critiquing the queries you guys were awesome enough to send us last week. If we don’t publicly post yours, don’t worry, we’ll still email you our thoughts :)

See the bottom of our posts for great resources about queries, and use the tag ‘query week’ to see Query Weeks of the past.

~~~

Ms Mandy Hubbard,

The work for which I’m seek your representation is Psi-kick: Red Utopia.  It is 112,000 words of science fiction crime thriller.

PETER ELLIOT is a part of the very small segment of the population who hears every thought, memory, and secret of people around them.  The story imparted from his first person view in order to share his insights on the people around him.  He resents that law that mandate that Psi-kicks like he work for the government, but since he enjoys police work, he doesn’t rail against the system.

Upon investigating a series of kidnappings, Peter begins to uncover a conspiracy where both Psi-kicks and Norms are being experimented upon.  He and his Psi-kick partner, MICHELLE LYNDSTROM manage to recover one victim who leads them through a gamut of genetic tinkering, high power gene brokers, and finally to one Psi-kick named REUEL STAFFORD who has decided that a world where everyone can hear the thoughts, pains, and fears of others would be a utopia that is worth killing 99% of the population to achieve—and Peter knows he’s not entirely wrong.

I have sold a number of short stories, and was a contributing editor to Alien Hand Syndrome (Workman Publishing Company, 10-Jul-09) and its sister site http://www.damninteresting.com.  This is my first novel.

Thank you for your time.  I look forward to hearing from you soon,

Cheers,

Jason Bellows

~~~

Notes in blue!

Psi-Kick: Red Utopia: Not sure what this line is for. I think you could just start with the line below

Ms Mandy Hubbard,

The work for which I’m seek your representation is Psi-kick: Red Utopia. General rule is to either italicize the title or put it in all caps. Since formatting can often go wonky in regards to bold and italics, I suggest going the all caps route. No biggie, but there you go. It is 112,000 words of science fiction crime thriller. I admit I know more about YA queries than adult ones, but I don’t think “science fiction crime thriller” counts as a genre :P Perhaps just pick one?

PETER ELLIOT Don’t need to put character names in all caps. I believe that’s a screen writing quirk. is a part of the very small segment of the population who hears every thought, memory, and secret of people around them.  The story imparted from his first person view in order to share his insights on the people around him.  the previous line isn’t necessary. It doesn’t really tell us anything about the story, by which I mean: what is the main conflict? We don’t need to know it’s in first person, and “sharing his insights on the people around him” doesn’t usually make for a gripping read. He resents that law that mandate that Psi-kicks like he should be “him”? work for the government, but since he enjoys police work, he doesn’t rail against the system.

Upon investigating a series of kidnappings, Peter begins to uncover a conspiracy where both Psi-kicks and Norms are being experimented upon.  He and his Psi-kick partner, MICHELLE LYNDSTROM manage to recover one victim who leads them through a gamut of genetic tinkering, high power gene brokers, and finally to one Psi-kick named REUEL STAFFORD who has decided that a world where everyone can hear the thoughts, pains, and fears of others would be a utopia that is worth killing 99% of the population to achieve—and Peter knows he’s not entirely wrong. How so?

This second paragraph seems to actually contain the meat of the query. I’d re-organize things to read a little like this:

Peter Elliot is a Psi-kick, meaning he can hear every thought, memory, and secret of the people around him. The law mandates that Psi-kicks must work for the government, but this isn’t that much of a burden for Peter, who enjoys police work.

Upon investigating a series of kidnappings, Peter begins to uncover a conspiracy where both Psi-kicks and Norms are being experimented upon.  He and his Psi-kick partner, Michelle Lindstrom, manage to recover one victim who leads them through a gamut of genetic tinkering, high power gene brokers, and finally to one Psi-kick named Reuel Stafford who has decided that a world where everyone can hear the thoughts, pains, and fears of others is a utopia worth killing 99% of the population to achieve—and Peter knows he’s not entirely wrong.

The only other thing I’d say is that you’ve basically ended with the hero sort of agreeing with the bad guy’s plan–so where is the conflict? If you want to show that Peter is torn between stopping Reuel and helping him, then tell us. Though I really think you need to explain better how killing 99% of the population could be a good thing, or how a world where everyone can hear the thoughts, pains, and fears of others is a utopia.

I have sold a number of short stories, and was a contributing editor to Alien Hand Syndrome (Workman Publishing Company, 10-Jul-09) and its sister sitehttp://www.damninteresting.com.  This is my first novel.

Hope my comments were helpful in some way. Best of luck querying! :)

-Kat Zhang

~~~

Kat has done a stellar job critting this, so I’ll try to avoid the broken record effect and just add in a few of my own thoughts.  :)  My comments are about your pitch, and the changes will be in red. Plus any parts of the query I think are “unnecessary” (i.e. information that does not belong in a query or is redundant) I’ve struck through.

Overall, I think you’ve got a great story set up here, but right now I need to know

PETER ELLIOT Peter Elliot is a part of the very small segment of the population who hears every thought, memory, and secret of people around them. The story imparted from his first person view in order to share his insights on the people around him. He resents that law that mandate that Psi-kicks like he him work for the government, but since he enjoys police work, he doesn’t rail against the system.

Upon investigating a series of kidnappings, Peter begins to uncover a conspiracy where both Psi-kicks and Norms are being experimented upon.  He and his Psi-kick partner, MICHELLE LYNDSTROM Michelle Lyndstrom manage to recover one victim who leads them through a gamut of genetic tinkering, high power gene brokers, and finally to one Psi-kick named REUEL STAFFORD Reuel Stafford, who has decided that a world where everyone can hear the thoughts, pains, and fears of others would be a utopia that is worth killing 99% of the population to achieve—and Peter knows he’s not entirely wrong. Is the “he” referring to Reuel or Peter?  And what exactly does this mean — what does Peter know isn’t entirely wrong and more importantly, WHY does he think it’s not wrong?  Like Kat says, if he doesn’t think Reuel is wrong, then they’re in agreement and there is no conflict…  Be sure the MAIN CONFLICT of the story is front and center in your query.

Finally, I need to get a better feel for Peter.  Try to lay out exactly what Peter wants (his goal), why he wants it (his motivation), and what stands in his way (his conflict).  At this point, I’m not totally sure what the Peter wants (to stop Reuel or to join him?), why he wants it, or what’s.  Finally, be sure you tell me WHAT HORRIBLE THING will happen if Peter doesn’t achieve his goal (like lots of innocents will die at Reuel’s hands).

Otherwise, great job and I hope to hear good news about your novel in the future!!

~~~

Helpful Links

Queries and Cover Letters, from the Elaine P. English literary agency blog

Query Letter Mad Lib, from literary agent Nathan Bransford’s blog

How to Format a Query Letter, also from Nathan Bransford’s blog

Query Shark, where literary agent Janet Reid tears apart your queries and puts them back together

AgentQuery gives their advice on what makes up a good query letter

A Complete Nobody’s Guide to Query Letters, a good article from Science Fiction Writers of America

 

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2 Responses to “Query Critique 6: Psi-Kick: Red Utopia”

  1. Jason February 7, 2011 at 12:03 PM #

    Thanks! I really appreciate your taking the time to look at this for me.

    ~Jas

    • sdennard February 7, 2011 at 1:48 PM #

      Thanks for sharing it, Jason! I hope our comments were helpful, and let us know how the querying goes!!

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