Dear AQCers. I'm working on this query once again. Thank you in advance for your feedback. I am happy to critique your queries, too.
When Henry sleeps with the ex-girlfriend of his longtime lover, Jack, it might cost him the only person he’s every truly cherished. (oooooooh intrigue)
It happens when Henry meets the ex-girlfriend, Althea, at a club. Henry loves Jack, he loves him as he’s never loved a woman. But although they are together, Jack sees other men and Henry sees women(because they're in an open relationship? I feel like it might be easier to say that. Because now I'm wondering why Henry is only seeing women? I mean some bi people can have preferences but it's odd? I guess for Jack it's because girls might remind him of Althea but for Henry to not see other men?). Years ago Jack was broken
, by a relationship with Althea, and now he needs more love than any one person can give(I don't really buy this. I'm not sure how these two things relate? Like literally, this isn't true. One bad breakup doesn't mean you need two boyfriends. Is it he has trouble committing, what's going on because this is just, not a statement I feel is logically connected?).
For decades Henry has trudged through the ashes of Jack’s relationship with Althea (So Henry and Jack have been together a while, like 20 years, wow), the details of which Jack won’t reveal. So now Henry steps into Althea’s bed, without telling Jack. He wants to learn the secret, to patch Jack’s gaping emotional hole (how on earth would this work). But soon Henry discovers that as desperate as he is to learn Althea’s secret, Althea is equally desperate to reclaim Jack for herself. She steals Jack’s number from Henry’s phone, she calls Jack and exposes Henry’s role in the affair. Jack hangs up on Althea, he leaves Henry. (As he should) Henry knows Jack will retreat to that place in his head he’s tried so long to escape.(Then why did you sleep with Althea Henry? Hmm? Sorry, but I find this logic to be nonsensical. I really can't buy this "I slept with her to help you!" that Henry is trying. That makes NO sense.)
Henry doesn’t know how to live without Jack, and he allows Althea to draw him into an abusive, mutually hateful relationship. Their malignant trysts erode Henry’s physical health. He recognizes in himself signs of an imminent breakdown. He knows that he and Jack need each other to escape this spiral; the question is whether they can ever reconnect to make that happen.
Love is a 100,000-word literary novel. Author bio, comps, etc.
So I think my main concerns are the logic of these characters. I'm going to assume they make more sense in the novel, but in the query not so much. You get across the stakes, I feel like, okay, Henry wants to help Jack, but that's sort of a bad reason giving his actions? And I'm not sure what the obstacle there is for Henry to help Jack before Henry sleep with Althea. Unless you mean just that Jack won't tell him because I'll back up a bit to my confusion.
I feel like, I don't understand why Henry makes any of the decisions he makes and his actions are completely illogical to what he wants. You sort of rescue that with Althea, who's actions are at least internally consistent with what she wants. But first 1) Why is Henry so supposed with Jack's past with Althea? I mean, you say a few things, Jack doesn't want to talk about it, Jack sees other people, but you don't really drive why this is important enough to Henry. I mean, here are some scenarios questions: is Henry dissatisfied by being in an open relationship? No? Then why is it remarkable that Jack is seeing other people BECAUSE of Althea (which makes 0 sense). If he is dissatisfied, is this is central aim to get Jack just to see him? If Henry just wants Jack to be better in general, why not, like suggest therapy?
Why does Henry think Althea is the be and end all of Jack's life? It's been twenty years and Jack's still not over her? How? In what way? I feel like there's some telling that Jack's upset or has issues emotionally, but I don't see it. If you're trying to go "well they have an open relationship so obvious Jack--" no. There are lots of polyamorous people who are happy in open relationships, or closed triangle relationships or all sorts of other things. Also, a bad breakup doesn't mean you have to see other people. If you're saying that since Althea dumped him he can't commit, say that. Show some emotional anguish. If Jack is supposed to be Henry's primary motivator, I don't get a lot of what Jack actually wants or what would make Jack better.
2) What is honestly stopping Henry from what he wants? If he just wants Jack to be happy, why can't he just suggest Therapy. Or be happy to have things as they are. Or continue to support Jack. In real life, trying to help someone who doesn't want it, doesn't help. In fiction, people generally have to have a reason to believe that if they dont' help NOW, something bad will happen, what is it?
What is the obstacle and how will overcoming it help Henry?
3) WHY ON EARTH does Henry think sleeping with Althea will solve things? Is this a case of "Henry is obsessing over this, coincidentally runs into Althea and then suddenly thinks "MAYBE THIS WILL HELP"" because that at least makes sense, since this is a bad decision, but the way that this is constructed seems like, he deliberately sought her out to sleep with her. Instead of just, like, talk to her about Jack?
Like, there is no world in which that could turn out well. Why does he think he's going to learn a secret that will help Jack? And again, I don't really feel like it WOULD help Jack. If it's clear in the novel he's making a mistake/is wrong in his belief, I think that should be communicated better.
Because Henry is 100% wrong in his belief. He THINKS that he wants to help Jack, but if he knows Althea hurt him, like, he shouldn't sleep with her? Obviously?
ALSO, why is this said to be an "affair" if they have an open relationship? Because this seems like Jack is like "WTH why did you do this when you know how much she hurt me."
4) I don't believe that Henry's major goal being all about Jack's emotional state, and Jack retreating makes any sense given his action, but also given that Henry is a person. Is he really more upset that Jack might be upset after their breakup than the fact that Jack broke up with him? I just, don't believe him.
Overall, you have a good hook, and good complications with Althea, but I don't believe or understand any of Henry's motivations or actions. I'm sorry, but I just, I feel like something isn't coming across because these actions genuinely baffle me and I'm not sure, based on the voice/tone of the query, how I'm supposed to take it.
I want to be clear that I know characters can make bad decisions, but usually, there's a kind of like "noooo, don't make that decision" feeling in books or queries when that happens, and here I don't get that. I don't get a tale of Henry spiralling into bad decisions. I seems like he set out to do this, and it backfired in a very easily foreseeable way that doesn't leave me with sympathy or a sense of pathos. For a "beautiful trainwreck" feeling I feel like you have to understand how things got to be this bad. Like a Tragic Flaw. But I don't understand.