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THE UNWIFE (Alternative History)


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#21 Aightball

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 01:47 PM

Query V. 5 - Could It Be Fifth Time Lucky?

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1889, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

A glimpse of an alternative comes, unexpectedly. <---  This line is a little confusing.  I get what you're saying, but I think you can cut it.  IMO, it doesn't really add anything to the paragraph and I think starting with "Una's" is a strong starting point. Una's chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto opens her mind. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit.

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s political awareness grows. Surviving deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una and Otto find they both long to defy traditional gender roles. Maybe Otto’s university ambitions are as mad as Una’s wanderlust and distaste for motherhood. Fine. At least they can rebel together. Every time I read this, my brain skips this paragraph and jumps to the next.  I think to keep things flowing and keep the reader engaged, this should be cut.  The logical next step is the next paragraph.

 

So when an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto - medical orthodoxy believes male nerves are too dull to sense much pain, the policewomen won't listen, and anyway, female relatives have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, and Una accidentally worsens the situation, consequences become terrifyingly plain. Otto's life is in danger and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition, and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

Wow, this sounds like a cool book!  I can't wait to see this one on a shelf =). 

 

Overall, I think it's a good query.  You tell us enough to get us interested in the story but don't give away too many details.  I made a few suggestions but overall, I really like this one!


Most girls are made of
sugar and spice and everything nice; they
screwed up the recipe for me: I'm made of
bat wings and broken things.

Query: http://agentquerycon...3-love-and-war/

Blog: http://aightball.wordpress.com

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Short Story "Anguish", in Winter's Regret: http://www.amazon.co...winter's regret

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#22 Arcanjoe

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Posted 09 April 2018 - 03:29 PM

Query V. 5 - Could It Be Fifth Time Lucky?

 

Returning the favour!

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of (Not sure you need this) a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1889, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

A glimpse of an alternative comes, (Do you need this comma?)  unexpectedly. (In fact, you could merge these sentence with 'A glimpse of an alternative comes in the form of feisty prostitute Otto...') Una's chance meeting with feisty (Is the use of feisty intentional to describe this man? You don't often hear a man described as feisty so I think it's very clever and cements the gender-swapped nature of this society.)  prostitute Otto opens her mind. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit. (This last sentence feels a little tacked on. You might be able to combine this sentence with 'the friendship deepens...' one to better effect.) 

 

As their friendship deepens, Una’s political awareness grows. (If you do combine this with the above sentence, you could cut the 'political awareness grows' bit entirely. I don't think it's necessary.) Surviving deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una and Otto find they both long to defy traditional gender roles. Maybe Otto’s university ambitions are as mad as Una’s wanderlust and distaste for motherhood. Fine. At least they can rebel together. (Like this!)

 

So when an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto - medical orthodoxy believes male nerves are too dull to sense much pain (This could be clarified. What does the male nerves have to do with the situation? May help if you mention it's physical/sexual abuse), the policewomen won't listen, and anyway, female relatives have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, and Una accidentally worsens the situation, consequences become terrifyingly plain. Otto's life is in danger and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition, and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

Fascinating and very compelling. I think agents will love this concept, I really do. I only had a few comments and suggestions. I hope they're helpful.

 

Thanks for your help with my query!


I'd love for you to critique my latest query...

Clover:

http://agentquerycon...cience-fiction/

 

Or the first 250 words of my story...

Clover:

http://agentquerycon...cience-fiction/

 


#23 BadgerFox

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Posted 11 April 2018 - 06:47 AM

MASSIVE thanks to all critiquers so far! I really think we're making good progress here :) I'm extremely grateful at you taking the time to help.

 

(Note: I’m from the UK, querying a mix of UK and US agents – UK spellings should be ok . I’m choosing to put in the detail about a Scottish city setting from past experience with Americans, as some have been over-influenced by ‘Outlander’ and mistakenly think ‘Scottish setting = one big windy hill covered in heather and Loch Ness Monsters’, unless explicitly reminded that Scotland HAS cities. I realize it's not all Americans, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone…).

 

 

 

Query V. 6 – It’s a Query, Jim, but Not as we Know It:

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1888, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office-clerk job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

Una glimpses an alternative, though, following a chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit. As the friendship deepens, and the pair survive deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una’s political awareness grows. She realizes they both long to defy traditional gender roles – and perhaps they should do so together.

 

When an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous and violent domestic situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto. The policewomen won't listen, medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves can’t truly sense pain, and female relatives still have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, consequences become terrifyingly plain. The violence is endangering Otto's life - and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#24 IMB

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 02:39 PM

MASSIVE thanks to all critiquers so far! I really think we're making good progress here :) I'm extremely grateful at you taking the time to help.

 

(Note: I’m from the UK, querying a mix of UK and US agents – UK spellings should be ok . I’m choosing to put in the detail about a Scottish city setting from past experience with Americans, as some have been over-influenced by ‘Outlander’ and mistakenly think ‘Scottish setting = one big windy hill covered in heather and Loch Ness Monsters’, unless explicitly reminded that Scotland HAS cities. I realize it's not all Americans, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone…).

 

 

 

Query V. 6 – It’s a Query, Jim, but Not as we Know It:

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1888, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office-clerk job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face (I love this. Made me laugh, and I'm sure that'll be a plus with any agent): Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

Una glimpses an alternative, though, following a chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto (I'd change the order of this sentense. Starting with 'Following a chance meeting... etc', makes it more clean and direct, and more in agreement with the rest of your query, which is very direct. Makes it easier to read too, but maybe that's just me)Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit. As the friendship deepens, and the pair survive deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una’s political awareness grows. She realizes they both long to defy traditional gender roles – and perhaps they should do so together.

 

When an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous and violent domestic situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto. (this phrase on it's own is a little awkward, but you can totally leave it in, I don't think it'd make much difference. It's a taste thing, really. If I were to keep it, I'd put a semicolon instead of a fullstop, and go onto the policewomen) The policewomen won't listen, medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves can’t truly sense pain, and female relatives still have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, consequences become terrifyingly plain. The violence is endangering Otto's life - and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

Overall, very clean, clear, and concise. The 3 C's! :)

Honestly, I came over here to critique your query because you critiqued mine (thanks, by the way!), but I feel like I won't be of much help to you, because to me your query is pratically perfect. Everything I pointed out was the most nitpicked out of my nitpicking abilities. I love your query, and I love your story. If I found this on the back of a book, I'd buy it! Good job, and good luck!

Ps. The cityscape thing is important :D That stereotype is not only something with americans, it happens in my country too. I myself think of beautiful green fields when I think of Scotland (Sorry!).


Current Query (YA Urban Fantasy): http://agentquerycon...-urban-fantasy/

Any feedback is appreciated :)


#25 mkuriel

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Posted 12 April 2018 - 04:56 PM

MASSIVE thanks to all critiquers so far! I really think we're making good progress here :) I'm extremely grateful at you taking the time to help.

 

(Note: I’m from the UK, querying a mix of UK and US agents – UK spellings should be ok . I’m choosing to put in the detail about a Scottish city setting from past experience with Americans, as some have been over-influenced by ‘Outlander’ and mistakenly think ‘Scottish setting = one big windy hill covered in heather and Loch Ness Monsters’, unless explicitly reminded that Scotland HAS cities. I realize it's not all Americans, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone…).

 

 

 

Query V. 6 – It’s a Query, Jim, but Not as we Know It:

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una finds it dreams of travelling the world.It's (since the rest of the query contains nothing about traveling, this characterization is a distraction) surprisingly hellish, to live in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1888, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office-clerk job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

Una glimpses an alternative, though, following a chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit. As the friendship deepens, and the pair survive deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together,(redundant, if the pair survive, then they do it together) Una’s political awareness grows.(this sentence is awkward... and it's unclear what any of those elements have to do with political awareness - probably because they're all vague. Suggest cutting the political phrase and concluding the sentence with their resolve to defy gender roles.)  She realizes they both long to defy traditional gender roles – and perhaps they should do so together.

 

When an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, traps ping him Otto in a dangerous and violent domestic situation, Una vows to act. (Very weak; It sounds as though she's standing there promising to do something while he's getting whipped. The next sentences imply that she appeals to the legal system, suggest putting some sort of segue to that idea in here.)   The odds are against Otto. (you show this in the next sentence, so the statement is redundant) The policewomen won't listen, medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves can’t truly sense pain, and female relatives still have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. (what work? So far all context I have to work with is a crappy system and a weak vow)  As the abuse escalates, consequences become terrifyingly plain. T the violence is endangers ing Otto's life - and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, (unnecessary comma) with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto),(this could come across as, "In case you didn't follow that from earlier"... which could be a valid concern since you don't explicitly state this until here... I find it redundant, but others might not. Suggest counting the number of reviews that mention it before making any decisions.)  it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

 

Overall, very solid query. All of my comments are aimed at trimming distractions and potentially awkward sentences.

 

A thought: is it an indictment of the feminist movement to swap gender roles and still have everything in history happen exactly the way it did but with women as the 'bad guys'? It has the feel of a thought experiment about social revenge - and I honestly hope it isn't.

 

Best of luck, and thanks for your feedback on Red Initiate.



#26 Bkrasnik

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 12:03 AM

MASSIVE thanks to all critiquers so far! I really think we're making good progress here :) I'm extremely grateful at you taking the time to help.

 

(Note: I’m from the UK, querying a mix of UK and US agents – UK spellings should be ok . I’m choosing to put in the detail about a Scottish city setting from past experience with Americans, as some have been over-influenced by ‘Outlander’ and mistakenly think ‘Scottish setting = one big windy hill covered in heather and Loch Ness Monsters’, unless explicitly reminded that Scotland HAS cities. I realize it's not all Americans, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone…).

 

 

 

Query V. 6 – It’s a Query, Jim, but Not as we Know It:

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1888, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly fired from her office-clerk job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

Una glimpses an alternative, though, following a chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit. As the friendship deepens, and the pair survive deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una’s political awareness grows. She realizes they both long to defy traditional gender roles – and perhaps they should do so together.

 

When an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous and violent domestic situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto. The policewomen won't listen, medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves can’t truly sense pain, and female relatives still have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, consequences become terrifyingly plain. The violence is endangering Otto's life - and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1888, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book. But when Una's spectacularly (I don’t see how this word fits in this context) fired from her office-clerk job, and her fiance's parents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics, it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

Una glimpses an alternative, though, following a chance meeting (Might need to reword this because I had to reread this a second time to understand the sentence) with feisty prostitute Otto. Fetishized by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage (there is nothing wrong with this, but I would take this opportunity to think of something more clever to give your voice a little more spice) at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit. As the friendship deepens, and the pair survive (a) deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, (this phrase ruins the flow of the sentence, so I suggest doing some rephrasing) Una’s political awareness grows. She realizes they both long to defy traditional gender roles – and perhaps they should do so together.

 

When an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous and violent domestic situation, Una vows to act. The odds are against Otto. The policewomen won't listen, medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves can’t truly sense pain, and female relatives still have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, consequences become terrifyingly plain (This word doesn’t seem to make sense here. I don’t feel scared when I hear the word “plain.” Then again, I might be missing something). The violence is endangering Otto's life - and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will.

^ This section is too long. Based on my research on what agents are looking for, this part of the query shouldn’t be much more than 200 words.

Otherwise, I think you have some really good content here! Good luck & thank you again for the feedback on my own query!

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].


Have a moment to offer up some very much appreciated feedback? :)

My Young Adult Dystopian Query: http://agentquerycon...ate-on-post-15/


#27 BadgerFox

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 07:40 AM

(Re: mkuriel’s comment -

 

I don’t know what ‘a thought experiment about social revenge’ is.

 

As a feminist campaigner for over a decade, I find it clear that masculinity, not men, is the ‘bad guy’ (as you put it). There’s nothing inherently biologically evil about men. Any problems are caused by social conditioning; by the warped values we teach little boys from birth. This is a common misunderstanding of the women's movement. Men can always learn to be more humane if they're willing to try; if feminists didn’t believe in men’s power to change, they wouldn’t bother campaigning in the first place. It would be pointless. So the first point of the gender-swap novel is that any power corrupts. Matriarchy could theoretically be as crippling as patriarchy. Any social ideology that forces the two sexes into life-limiting stereotypes and demands that one dominate the other will hurt people.

 

The second point of a gender-swap novel is defamiliarization. We’re used to certain stereotypes about female abuse victims (‘She just likes it rough/ she probably provoked him by nagging/ she’s just being hysterical and overreacting’ etc). Familiarity makes us complacent and credulous. But if the sexes are flipped, we can more clearly see these stereotypes are ridiculous. As a society, we probably wouldn’t tolerate rationales like: ‘Secretly he just likes being kicked in the balls/ he probably provoked her with his annoying deep voice/ he’s just being testerical and overreacting because of his male hormones’. So, a satirical defamiliarization can make an illogical ideology more obvious.)


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!


#28 mkuriel

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 08:42 AM

(Re: mkuriel’s comment -

 

I don’t know what ‘a thought experiment about social revenge’ is.

 

As a feminist campaigner for over a decade, I find it clear that masculinity, not men, is the ‘bad guy’ (as you put it). There’s nothing inherently biologically evil about men. Any problems are caused by social conditioning; by the warped values we teach little boys from birth. This is a common misunderstanding of the women's movement. Men can always learn to be more humane if they're willing to try; if feminists didn’t believe in men’s power to change, they wouldn’t bother campaigning in the first place. It would be pointless. So the first point of the gender-swap novel is that any power corrupts. Matriarchy could theoretically be as crippling as patriarchy. Any social ideology that forces the two sexes into life-limiting stereotypes and demands that one dominate the other will hurt people.

 

The second point of a gender-swap novel is defamiliarization. We’re used to certain stereotypes about female abuse victims (‘She just likes it rough/ she probably provoked him by nagging/ she’s just being hysterical and overreacting’ etc). Familiarity makes us complacent and credulous. But if the sexes are flipped, we can more clearly see these stereotypes are ridiculous. As a society, we probably wouldn’t tolerate rationales like: ‘Secretly he just likes being kicked in the balls/ he probably provoked her with his annoying deep voice/ he’s just being testerical and overreacting because of his male hormones’. So, a satirical defamiliarization can make an illogical ideology more obvious.)

 

That's a story I want to read. Suggest including one of those phrases in your query to show this intent. A simple, "Una cannot believe that any man secretly likes being kicked in the balls and is tired of hearing it from the matriarchy" would show the point and could work as a hook. 

 

I agree that there's nothing inherently evil about anyone; good, evil, or otherwise is a choice. 

 

Have you seen the short French film Oppressed Majority? A ten minute look at the modern French equivalent to your story. 

 

I will unpack 'a thought experiment about social revenge.' 

 

A thought experiment takes an idea - or hypothesis, if you're scientifically inclined - and explores it using the imagination. Some people even go so far as to apply a scientific method (though technically, it's impossible because your imagination is not objective) as they challenge the assumptions and outcomes associated with the idea. One could say that all fiction is just a thought experiment that's been written down. 

 

Social revenge: the idea that after any group within a society leaves power, whatever takes its place is justified in revisiting the same inequalities on the group. So, after women cast down the patriarchy, the matriarchy is justified in treating men the same way that men have always treated women. Personally, it's my belief that revenge communicates emotional and creative deficiencies. Honestly, I see this happening more in our society in terms of "race" than gender. Which confuses me, because there's just one race... human. And yes, I realize that we are from different countries - our's is human society. Sometimes I wonder if it's going to take a Martian invasion for us to realize the basics.

 

Hope that clears up my comment,



#29 Oldborne

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 04:55 AM

MASSIVE thanks to all critiquers so far! I really think we're making good progress here :) I'm extremely grateful at you taking the time to help.

 

(Note: I’m from the UK, querying a mix of UK and US agents – UK spellings should be ok . I’m choosing to put in the detail about a Scottish city setting from past experience with Americans, as some have been over-influenced by ‘Outlander’ and mistakenly think ‘Scottish setting = one big windy hill covered in heather and Loch Ness Monsters’, unless explicitly reminded that Scotland HAS cities. I realize it's not all Americans, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone…).

 

 

 

Query V. 6 – It’s a Query, Jim, but Not as we Know It:

 

 

Dear X,

 

Against the cityscape of a gender-bent Victorian Glasgow, young libertine Una dreams of travelling the world. It's Life is surprisingly hellish, living in a matriarchy when you don't want to be a bloody matriarch. Here in 1888, respectable Scotswomen protect and provide for their households, ruling over their husband and servants with an iron cheque-book I like this sentence but I'm unsure about giving the year. We already know it's set in victorian times and giving the year makes it sound like your voice, not Una's. But when Una's spectacularly removed because it makes me want to know what was so spectacular about her termination when that's not the point of this query fired from her office-clerk job, and her fiance's perhaps not vital, but it might be a good idea to include the accent over the 'e' in fiancé. It feels like something an agent might penalise you for in a queryparents cancel her engagement over her debauched antics give a specific example. What was something she did to cause the engagement to end? ie: ...and her fiancé's parents cancel her engagement when she's caught at a men's rights rally (bad example, but you catch my drift)., it's plainer than her fiance's face: Una isn't fitting the mould.

 

Una glimpses an alternative an alternative what? Life, mould, partner?, though, following a chance meeting with feisty prostitute Otto. Fetishized American English or British English, not both (I'm guilty of this too). by his female buyers for his ‘exotic’ Turkish looks, Otto’s simmering with rage at a society that forces impoverished young males to become playthings for rich women. Una’s smitten by his beauty and his gutsy spirit I still really like Otto's introduction. As the friendship deepens, and the pair survive deadly illness, a same-sex romantic intrigue and a bereavement together, Una’s political awareness grows. She realizes they both long to defy traditional gender roles – and perhaps they should do so together. Nice set-up. 

 

When an old abusive relationship comes back to haunt Otto, trapping him in a dangerous and violent domestic situation, Una vows to act. But The odds are against Otto. The policewomen won't listen, medical orthodoxy holds that male nerves can’t truly sense pain, and female relatives still have legal rights over their male ‘property’. Much, much better than the last draft I read. It injects struggle and believable objects for Una to overcome in her mission to rescue Otto. I very much enjoy (in a chilling way) the idea that people would push and believe that men can't feel pain. Una's got her work cut out. As the abuse escalates, consequences become terrifyingly plain: The violence is endangering Otto's life - and if she doesn’t find a way to rescue him, nobody will. Great stakes. Very good paragraph.

 

THE UNWIFE, complete at 98,000 words, is feminist speculative-fiction. Darkly satirical, with diverse characters (including biracial, bisexual protagonist Otto), it’s told from two points of view. It covers similar territory to Louise O’Neill’s ‘Only Ever Yours’ and Naomi Alderman’s ‘The Power’, though with a distinctive historical twist. I’m a Scotswoman with an MA degree in Scottish Literature, who’s worked in the novel’s Glasgow setting as a Victorian re-enactor. My fiction recently won runner-up prize in the Adventures in Fiction competition and was longlisted for the Mslexia novel prize. [Insert personalized information on why this particular agent is being queried].

I had only a few suggested changes for the first two paragraphs and although it looks like a lot of comments, I don't think you have any glaring issues with this query. It flows well, has voice, believable stakes, and an interesting idea. I think you're 95% there. Just a little tidying to do and you're golden.

Best of luck with this! 

 


All feedback appreciated: http://agentquerycon...ust-sf-mystery/

 


#30 BadgerFox

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 06:10 AM

Thanks so much, all, for helping shape this query!

 

I'm going to call it day now, and go away and mull over the last few edits suggested, as a good number of the last critiques were saying they couldn't see that much left to change.

 

Your help's been invaluable! I'll be be sure to get involved again here if I need help with a synopsis or have questions about querying agents in certain circumstances. :) If something good comes of the work here, I'll report back and try to pass on useful information to others.


Spare a little feedback, if you have a moment? :)

My AU historical novel query: here. Thank you!





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