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A Gust of Wind (Historical Fantasy)


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#1 NerdWitch

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 09:40 AM

Hello guys :) This is my newest project I finished a while ago. It's a historical fantasy and sort of a loose re-telling of Beauty and the Beast from Gaston's childhood. At the moment, I know it's way too long and reads more like a synopsis but I was hoping to have a bit of help to scale it down and tighten it a little to make it more query like. There's a lot in this story and I'm hoping it'll work as a query. Any help appreciate and I will return critique as always :) 

 

----------------------------

Dear [Agent’s Name],

[Personalised reasons about why I’m choosing this agent].

 

In 1887, post-revolutionary France has entered a new age of Steam and Magic. Sixteen-year-old Gus spends his day slaving away at his brother's shipyard but all he wants is to escape. He lives in Paris, the city of dreams, but to Gus, it’s the city where dreams are shattered. One day, when he scares off a group of thieves who are targeting an old beggar-woman. In return, the old woman reads Gus his tarot-cards. Reluctant and frightened, he listens to her warning; that if he chooses mind over heart, he'll accomplish great things but at the cost of what he holds dear. 

 

When Gus returns home, he receives tragic news: one of his brothers has died in battle. For months, soldiers have been protecting the borders. While his family grieves, Gus sees an opportunity to escape the life he’s always hated..He seeks out the regiment captain, known as the Beast, and offers to take his brother’s place but his offer is declined.

 

Humiliated and angry, Gus rebels and finds himself becoming friends with the same thieves that he scared off. After a failed robbery, Gus is sent to take up apprenticeship with an old watch-maker named Maurice. During his apprenticeship, he once again encounters the regiment Captain and his sister, Belle, with whom Gus immediately falls in love. Seeing his new potential, The Beast offers Gus a new chance to take his brother's place in the regiment. 

 

Now finding himself at a crossroad, Gus has two choices: he can either choose love or follow the path of glory he's always wanted but in doing so, lose Belle forever. 

 

A Gust of Wind, is a 80,000 word historical fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Sally Gardner’s the Red Necklace, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Christina Henry’s Lost Boy.


Here's my latest query :) http://agentquerycon...turn-critique/ 

 

 


#2 Koechophe

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 10:05 AM

Heya Nerdwitch, hope I can be of some use. You're definitely right, it reads like a synopsis, not a query. I'm gonna take a cleaver to it to see if we can't pare it down a bit!

 

 

In 1887, post-revolutionary France has entered a new age of Steam and Magic. Sixteen-year-old Gus spends his days slaving away at his brother's shipyard but all he wants is to escape. He lives in Paris, the city of dreams, but to Gus, it’s the city where dreams are shattered. One day, when he scares off a group of thieves who are targeting an old beggar-woman. In return, the old woman When a beggar reads Gus his tarot-cards. Reluctant and frightened, he listens to her warning; that, she says if he chooses mind over heart, he'll accomplish great things but at the cost of what he holds dear. 

 

When Gus returns home, he receives tragic news: one of his brothers has died in battle. For months, soldiers have been protecting the borders. While his family grieves his brother's death, Gus sees an opportunity to escape the life he’s always hated..He seeks out the regiment captain, known as the Beast, and offers to take his brother’s place.  but his offer is declined.

 

Humiliated and angry, Gus rebels and finds himself becoming friends with the same thieves that he scared off. After a failed robbery, Gus is sent to take up apprenticeship with an old watch-maker named Maurice. During his apprenticeship, he once again encounters the regiment Captain and his sister, Belle, with whom Gus immediately falls in love. Seeing his new potential, The Beast offers Gus a new chance to take his brother's place in the regiment. 

 

Now finding himself at a crossroad, Gus has two choices: he can either choose love or follow the path of glory he's always wanted but in doing so, lose Belle forever. 

This is where the query really goes downhill. You summarize way too many events here in order to bring us the stakes. We don't need to know the circumstances behind Gus and Belle's courtship. What we do need to know (that's painfully absent) is why going off to war means losing Belle (since in those days, pretty much all the guys went off to war, and women wouldn't generally break up with them for it.) We also need to know why Gus falls in love with Belle in the first place. You don't need to tell us about failing to get be a soldier the first time, either. All you need to establish is:

1) Gus has a dreary life

2) he falls in love with Belle

3) he needs to pick between her and war

and why each of these 3 exist. 

A Gust of Wind, is a 80,000 word historical fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Sally Gardner’s the Red Necklace, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Christina Henry’s Lost Boy.

 

 

Hope that's helpful! I'd be interested to know how you work this one out, since it sounds like Belle and the Beast are siblings (effectively quashing any love they might have) so your retelling has got some pretty strong deviance from the original. 

 

Good luck and all the best!



#3 NerdWitch

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 10:14 AM

Thank you! That's really helpful! I'll work on a more concise query and hopefully it'll read a lot better :) I didn't want the re-telling to be exactly like the original story as I wanted my own spin on it :) 


Here's my latest query :) http://agentquerycon...turn-critique/ 

 

 


#4 NerdWitch

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 12:04 PM

I've changed the wording slightly and thought more about the plot. I'm still not certain about the stakes, but I've got a long way to go before this is a good query. Hopefully this sounds slightly better than the earlier attempt. 

 

--------------------- 

 

Dear Agent,

Sixteen-year-old Gus dreams of marrying his childhood friend Belle, the sister of a local military Captain. He spends his days slaving away at his brother’s shipyard, hoping to earn enough money to finally win Belle’s affections. When Gus saves an old beggar-woman from thieves, she reads his tarot-cards in return. She tells him that if he chooses mind over heart, he’ll accomplish great things but not if he stays in Paris. If he stays in the city, his life will be filled with tragedy.

 

While his family grieves the death of his brother, the captain offers Gus a chance to take his place, if he stops courting Belle. The captain tells him that a young man would do better to serve his country in war and that he’ll never stand a chance with his sister.

 

Years later, now a grown man, Gus works as an apprentice for an old watchmaker; Maurice. Belle is set to marry another man and Gus is both resentful and heartbroken. When Maurice dies of old age, Gus inherits the business. When war breaks out again, Gus once again has to choose between staying in Paris - or following a path that might lead to honour and glory. 

 

A Gust of Wind, is a 80,000 word historical fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Sally Gardner’s the Red Necklace, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust and Christina Henry’s Lost Boy.


Here's my latest query :) http://agentquerycon...turn-critique/ 

 

 


#5 Robin LeeAnn

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Posted 07 January 2019 - 01:16 PM

Sixteen-year-old Gus dreams of marrying his childhood friend Belle, the sister of a local military Captain. (This first sentence doesn't have much punch. I would play around with something big that happened to him and try to put that in.) He spends his days slaving away at his brother’s shipyard, hoping to earn enough money to finally win Belle’s affections. (Doesn't sound like a good relationship if he has to "win" her with money. What kind of money is she requesting?) When Gus saves an old beggar-woman from thieves (This seems to happen at random. Why did he do this? Where did this come from?), she reads his tarot-cards in return. She tells him that if he chooses mind over heart, he’ll accomplish great things, but not if he stays in the city. (Is the girl in the city?) If he stays in the city, his life will be filled with tragedy. 

 

While his family grieves the death of his brother (His brother? Why? What happened? This seems random. Is this cause he stays in the city?), the captain (As in the sister's brother or...) offers Gus a chance to take his place, if he stops courting Belle. (Is he really courting her because it just seems like he's trying to buy her so far.) The captain tells him that a (It's already assumed that he's still talking.) Young men would do better to serveing his country. in war and that He’ll never stand a chance with his sister anyways.

 

Years later, now a grown man, Gus works as an apprentice for an old watchmaker named Maurice. Belle is set to marry another man. and Gus is both resentful and heartbroken. When Maurice dies of old age, Gus inherits the business. (This just seems randomly placed too. I still don't even know if he left the city yet.) When war breaks out again (War with who?), Gus once again has to choose between staying in Paris or following a path that might lead to honor and glory. 

 

Sounds interesting, but there's a lot of information that just seemed to be placed there and not explained. I put my comments in there so you can see which ones. They just seemed to jump out of me instead of being a smooth transition. I also have to ask: Is this all in the beginning of your story? Don't go much past the first 30 pages of your story because when you got to the "years later" part, I just felt that I was already half way through the novel than anything else. Stick to the beginning and keep the reader wanting more.

 

Good luck! You got this!

 

If you can, please return the favor: http://agentquerycon...ique-in-return/



#6 Corry

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Posted 08 January 2019 - 04:28 AM

I think, first and foremost, your query is missing a hook. Something along the lines of;

 

Gus longs for glory. But the glory of the elusive Belle is a longing he never anticipated. 

 

Once you've established a hook, the rest should come easier. Right now your query is too bogged down with unnecessary detail. Stick to the main characters, no need to throw all the other players in unless it's relevant to the what, how and why of your query. What does Gus want? How will Gus get what he wants? Why do I care?



#7 NerdWitch

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Posted 08 January 2019 - 09:10 AM

Thanks again for your input. I think it's coming together a little bit but it take time. I'll get there though. Giving it another try :) 

 

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Dear Ms/Mr Agent,

 

When his brother dies in battle, sixteen-year-old Gus is expected to take his place. But all Gus wants is to marry his childhood love, Belle. Unsure about what his future holds, Gus seeks out a witch who reads him his tarot cards. She tells Gus that he’ll accomplish great things if he leaves Paris but if he stays in the city, his life will be filled with tragedy and hardship.

 

Frightened by these words, Gus curses the witch because he wants nothing more in life than to marry his childhood love, Belle. When he’s finally about to confess his feelings to her it’s too late; she’s already chosen another man. To make matters worse, Gus’ army captain is Belle’s older brother who despises him.

 

Heartbroken and resentful towards those around him, Gus runs away from home. He takes up apprenticeship with an old watchmaker; Maurice. He lives in secret until one of his brothers seeks him out and begs him to come home. Gus’ father is on his deathbed. When Gus refuses to come home, his brother turns out to be the witch in disguise. She scorns Gus for his selfish behaviour and puts a curse on him: he’ll never physically be able to leave the borders of the town unless he performs three selfless acts before his 20th birthday.


Here's my latest query :) http://agentquerycon...turn-critique/ 

 

 


#8 Corry

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Posted 08 January 2019 - 03:35 PM

Thanks again for your input. I think it's coming together a little bit but it take time. I'll get there though. Giving it another try :) 

 

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Dear Ms/Mr Agent,

 

HOOK?

 

When Gus's his brother dies in battle, sixteen-year-old Gus is expected (who expects him...?) to take his place. (And why?) But all Gus wants is to marry his childhood love, Belle. Unsure about what his future holds, (not being sure about one's future under these circumstances is a given) Gus seeks out a witch who reads him his tarot cards. She tells Gus that he’ll accomplish great things if he leaves Paris but if he stays in the city, his life will be filled with tragedy and hardship.

 

Frightened by Heeding the words of a foretelling witch, he knows escaping his fate means escaping Paris for a new life. There, she tells him, he's bound for great things. But Belle's not going anywhere and his love for her has his feet firmly planted. (tarot cards mention not necessary, only that she delivered bad news) Gus curses the witch because he wants nothing more in life than to marry his childhood love, Belle. When he’s finally about to confess he finally confesses his true feelings to her it’s too late.; She’s already chosen another man. To make matters worse, Gus’ army captain is Belle’s older brother who despises him. (not necessary unless the capt. is vital to the story. And matters can't get much worse than being dumped. It kind of speaks for itself)

 

Heartbroken, and resentful towards those around him Gus runs away from home. He takes up apprenticeship with an old watchmaker; Maurice. He lives in secret until one of his brothers seeks him out and begs him to come home. Gus’ father is on his deathbed. When Gus refuses to come home, his brother turns out to be the witch in disguise. She scorns Gus for his selfish behaviour and puts a curse on him: he’ll never physically be able to leave the borders of the town unless he performs three selfless acts before his 20th birthday.

 

That last part is muddled and rushed, so I think a re-write is in order there. Plus, the twist of the brother being the witch seems out of place. It might be part of your story, but does not belong in the query. Too many character references. Stick to the protagonist/antagonist as your main focus. Up 'til the point I crossed out it's rather interesting, but you need to wrap up with what draws him back to Paris in an enticing way. Draw the reader of this query in with Gus's plight, how he'll resolve it, win his love and life back and the stakes involved in doing so. What will it take? What does he risk? 



#9 NerdWitch

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Posted 13 January 2019 - 06:03 PM

One more attempt. I'm really struggling with the last paragraph so any help would be appreciated.

 

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16-year-old Gus longs to be in control of his own fate, but fate - who is disguised as a witch - has other plans for him.

 

When Gus’ brother dies in battle, his family expects him to honour their name and take his place. But all Gus wants is to marry his childhood love, Belle. Heeding the words of a fortune-telling witch, he knows escaping his fate means escaping Paris for a new life. There, she tells him, he’s destined for great things. But Belle isn’t going anywhere and his love for her has his feet firmly planted in the city.  

 

When he finally confesses his true feelings for Belle, it’s too late. She’s already chosen another. Heartbroken, Gus runs away from home and takes up apprenticeship with an old watchmaker; Maurice. There, he learns the art of watchmaking and almost forgets about Belle.

 

As war breaks out on the French border, Gus is given a new chance to take his brother’s place in battle. Gus wants to stay away and even plans to settle in the countryside with Maurice when Belle shows up on his doorstep. She asks to be taken back and tells him she’ll wait. Gus remembers the witch’s fortune and now has to make a choice: does he leave Paris behind or does he join the army for a chance at Belle’s love?


Here's my latest query :) http://agentquerycon...turn-critique/ 

 

 


#10 callalilly

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Posted 14 January 2019 - 04:50 PM

Hi NerdWitch. I'm here to offer a few thoughts on your query :) Please feel free to use what works and thrown out what doesn't -you'll know what works for your query more than anyone else.

 

One more attempt. I'm really struggling with the last paragraph so any help would be appreciated.

 

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16-year-old Gus longs to be in control of his own fate, but fate - who is disguised as a witch - has other plans for him. (Not that it matters, but why is your hook bold? I crossed out the above because I feel it makes the hook feel a bit jumpy. If that makes sense. I think it reads smoother if it's taken out. Maybe introduce the witch info in the body. Others -and maybe you- may disagree with me on this point, but I might suggest you change the entire hook. I know there are agents who wary over the idea of "fate" because it gets used a lot. I would hate to think a agent/ publisher would read only your hook and not be interested just because they got turned off by the fate element. BUT -just a thought. Please ignore it if you disagree)

 

When Gus’ brother dies in battle, his family expects him to honor their family name and take his place (in battle?). But all Gus wants is to marry his childhood love, Belle. Heeding the words of a fortune-telling witch, he knows escaping his fate means escaping Paris for a new life. There (where is "there"?), she tells him, he’s destined for great things (like?). But Belle isn’t going anywhere (does she refuse because she doesn't love him? Because she's loyal to her home? what exactly keeps her?) and his love for her has his feet firmly planted in the city.  

 

When he finally confesses his true feelings for Belle, it’s too late. She’s already chosen another. Heartbroken, Gus runs away from home and takes up an apprenticeship with an old watchmaker; Maurice. There, he learns the art of watchmaking and almost forgets about Belle.

 

As war breaks out on the French border, Gus is given a new chance to take his brother’s place in battle. Gus wants to stay away and even plans to settle in the countryside with Maurice when Belle shows up on his doorstep. She asks to be taken back (back where?)  and tells him she’ll wait (she'll wait for what?). Gus remembers the witch’s fortune and now has to make a choice: does he leave Paris behind or does he join the army for a chance at Belle’s love? (I'd try: "With the witch's fortune still on his mind, Gus is forced to make an impossible choice; leave Paris forever, or join the army and possibly win Belle's heart." Not great, but maybe you'll decide to re-word

 

So, it sounds like a cool tale, am I right in assuming there are Beauty & the Beast undertones? It sounds like a epic plot with difficult decisions to be played out. I ask a lot of questions because I think with more info. the query would feel more focused, I also suggest cutting some things. I unfortunately think the third paragraph about Maurice can be removed altogether -it is a smaller bit not needed in the query. I think focusing on the war and Gus' love for Belle will focus your query more; add a bit more info, maybe on the witch -I'm sensing her motives are not all benign and that could be fascinating to learn about.

Sounds like a great tale. These suggestions may not work and if that's the case delete. Good luck! Hoping this is helpful



#11 NoraP

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Posted 19 January 2019 - 01:50 AM

One more attempt. I'm really struggling with the last paragraph so any help would be appreciated.

 

-------------------------

 

16-year-old Gus longs to be in control of his own fate, but fate - who is disguised as a witch - has other plans for him. A hook is supposed to be short and sweet, and adding this in disturbs the flow. If you really need the line, it can probably be worked in somewhere else. Also, I agree with the person that said you might want to redo this hook; fate as an opening line has been done a lot and it's important that your hook showcases what sets your book apart.

 

When Gus’ brother dies in battle, his family expects him to honour their name and take his brother's place. But all Gus wants is to marry his childhood love, Belle. Heeding the words of a fortune-telling witch, he knows escaping his fate means escaping leaving Paris for a new life. There (where? In the previous sentence, no specific place was mentioned other than Paris. I would suggest either give us the specific "there" where he's destined for great things, or replace it), she tells him, he’s destined for great things. But Belle isn’t going anywhere, and his love for her has his feet firmly planted in the city.  

 

Unfortunately, Wwhen he finally confesses his true feelings for Belle, it’s too late. She’s already chosen another. Heartbroken, Gus runs away from home and takes up apprenticeship with an old watchmaker; Maurice . There, he learns the art of watchmaking and almost forgets about Belle. (So we've gotten off track of the original conflict: Gus's family wanting him to take his brother's place, but Gus wanting to stay in Paris to marry Belle. Also, if the only reason he doesn't want to take his brother's place is that he doesn't want to leave Belle, then clearly the witch's solution is not a solution at all, and it doesn't make sense to pose it as such. I suggest rewording this to add some more reasoning for his not wanting to take his brother's place, aside from Belle.)

 

As war breaks out on the French border, Gus is given a new chance to take his brother’s place in battle. Gus wants to stay away, and even plans to settle in the countryside with Maurice that is, until when Belle shows up on his doorstep. She asks to be taken back and tells him she’ll wait. Gus remembers the witch’s fortune and now has to make a choice With the witch's fortune ringing in his head, Gus has to make a choice: does he leave Paris behind for good, or does he join the army for a chance at Belle’s love? (What does joining the army have to do with Belle?)

 

So unfortunately, there are some cohesiveness issues. It seems like the main plot is Gus trying to win over Belle, but it's unclear how joining the army is going to help with that. Also, it seems like there's something larger going on with the army and the witch's fortune, but it's all glossed over. The last sentence reads like it's trying to set up the main conflict, but that choice doesn't seem like it's something that will carry the whole plot of the book. What are the larger stakes here? What is the army fighting for? What does Gus have to do to win Belle, and why? What are these "great things" Gus is destined for?

 

I think if you condensed the stuff about Maurice into one sentence, you could make room to answer those questions and develop that side plot a little more and give us a larger conflict. For example: Gus is poor and Belle won't marry him unless he has money, so Gus joins the army and gets recruited into an elite team tasked with killing "The Beast", an enormous machine being built by the enemy that could turn the tide in their favor. Obviously I don't actually know what your book's about so that wouldn't work, but hopefully you get the idea.

 

Right now, we have Gus's personal goal and motivation (winning Belle over), but we don't have the overarching conflict of the book. What does he have to accomplish to win Belle over, and what's standing in his way?

 

Hope this helped, and good luck with your revisions!






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