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Devil Game -- YA Christian Urban Fantasy (Will critique back)

Fiction Christian Fantasy Offbeat/Quirky Young Adult

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#1 speedchuck

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Posted 21 June 2019 - 08:00 PM

Revision in Post #6
 
Mr./Ms. X
 
I am writing you because I've seen that you represented X. You may be interested in my YA Christian Fantasy novel, DEVIL GAME.
 
Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is the kind of guy who gambles his soul in even a simple game of basketball. It's not a prize that eggs him on, it's not his demon talking... it's the knowledge that he will win, whatever the cost.
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting powers and facilitating devil games. The wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a bit of soul into the winner's pot.
 
Kale doesn't care about the price. He can't refuse a challenge, and he never loses. A part of him wants to be a better person, one who resists the temptation to play, but the games draw him like a moth to hellfire. It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned.
 
But when Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, a challenge is presented beyond the paltry games Kale is playing. The man claims to have contracted a tournament-style devil game with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of unsouled wretches controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their fate on the young players he can recruit and train.
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, but it also presents an opportunity to cheat the system. Kale sees this as a chance to do good for others while still doing what he does best - winning. With this, he'll prove victory over the games, the Lost Legion, and his mother's moral quibbles. But every game toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't find a righteous path to victory, he might lose himself to his demon and become the terror he fights against.
 
Ted Dekker meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. It is complete at 91,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

#2 Derrick

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Posted 05 July 2019 - 11:17 AM

 

Mr./Ms. X
 
I am writing you because I've seen that you represented X. You may be interested in my YA Christian Fantasy novel, DEVIL GAME.
 
Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is the kind of guy who gambles his soul in even a simple game of basketball. It's not a prize that eggs him on, it's not his demon talking... it's the knowledge that he will win, whatever the cost.
 
The above tells me about your character. But I don't get the sense of the premise, which I think should be present in the hook.
 
Answer these questions up front: What is the story about? What makes is different?
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders Is this literal?, granting powers and facilitating devil games. The wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a bit of soul into the winner's pot.
 
Kale doesn't care about the price. He can't refuse a challenge, and he never loses. I feel like this reiterates what you already have present in your first sentence. It can be here if you change up that first para, but or you could move this into the first para, once you illustrate better what it is all about. A part of him wants to be a better person, one who resists the temptation to play, but the games draw him like a moth to hellfire. It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned.
 
But when Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, a challenge is presented beyond the paltry games Kale is playing. The man claims to have contracted a tournament-style devil game with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of unsouled wretches controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their fate on the young players he can recruit and train.
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, but it also presents an opportunity to cheat the system. Kale sees this as a chance to do good for others while still doing what he does best - winning. With this, he'll prove victory over the games, the Lost Legion, and his mother's moral quibbles. But every game toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't find a righteous path to victory, he might lose himself to his demon and become the terror he fights against. I guess I don't understand what the righteous path would be here. I mean, you don't have to give it away, but you also don't leave me completely out of the loop either. Maybe just a hint earlier to what other options there could be. I guess I don't understand what is happening outside of the Devil Games in the story, and that might help me.
 
Ted Dekker meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. It is complete at 91,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 


Would you do me the kindness of critiquing my query?


#3 speedchuck

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Posted 08 July 2019 - 04:18 PM

REVISION
 
This addresses some of the above critique, and hopefully gives the reader a firmer idea of the stakes and setting. The intro is hard, because everything I've seen online says 'begin with the main character.' I've tried to put the core feel of the story into that first paragraph.
 
-
 
Mr./Ms. X
 
I am writing you because I've seen that you represented X. You may be interested in my YA Christian Fantasy novel, DEVIL GAME.
 
Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is the kind of guy who gambles his soul in even a simple game of basketball. He can't refuse a challenge. It's not the prize that eggs him on, it's not his demon talking... it's the knowledge that he will win every devil game, whatever the cost. Even when his being is at stake.
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting divine powers and facilitating devil games. The game can be anything, the wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a bit of soul into the winner's pot.
 
Kale thrives in this apocalypse, fighting and playing against his layabout schoolmates for whatever they wager. Part of him wants to be a better person, one who resists the temptation to play, but these unholy games draw him like a moth to hellfire. It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned.
 
But when Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, he presents a challenge beyond the paltry games Kale plays. The bookish man claims to have contracted a full tournament of devil games with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of unsouled terrors controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their fate on the young players he can recruit and train.
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, but Kale sees it as an opportunity to cheat the system. This is a chance to do good for others while still doing what he does best - winning. With this, he'll prove victory over the games, the Lost Legion, and his mother's moral guidance. But each game toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't master the devil games, he might lose himself to his own demon and become the terror he fights against.
 
Ted Dekker meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. It is complete at 91,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


#4 Derrick

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Posted 08 July 2019 - 04:41 PM

Starting with Character is fine, but if it's all character with no sense of premise to the story, I'm not gonna be hooked.

 

Does the book start with the Devil Games or is the character thrust into it?

 

I think later in the query you hit the nail on the head as to why the character matters in the premise, but I think it needs to be up top.

 

Something like, "Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is the kind of guy who gambles his soul in even a simple game of basketball. But when the apocalypse happens, he'll have to gamble his soul for real or... this thing will happen."

 

So something like that gives it all up to me right away.

 

Just a thought. I think you need to really hone your hook. Make it as awesome as possible, and wherever you land, fill in the gaps with the brief synopsis in the body of your query.

 

Hope that makes sense.


Would you do me the kindness of critiquing my query?


#5 lionspaws

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Posted 09 July 2019 - 10:32 AM

Cool to see that you're writing Christian fiction that sounds fun and intriguing! I'm a follower of Jesus but gave up on reading Christian a long time ago because so often it felt "preachy" and just not very interesting. 

 

Here's some thoughts: 

 

Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is the kind of guy who gambles his soul in even a simple game of basketball. He can't refuse a challenge. It's not the prize that eggs him on, it's not his demon talking... it's the knowledge that he will win every devil game, whatever the cost. Even when his being is at stake. This has some interesting description, but I think it's more than you need in a query and it's bogging the hook down. What if you clean it up -- something like, "Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur has to gamble, even in a simple game of basketball. He has to win every devil game, whatever the cost--even if the cost is his soul"? 
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting divine powers and facilitating devil games. The game can be anything, the wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a bit of soul into the winner's pot. I know this isn't touching on the plot but I actually like it; it has solid voice, sets some world building, and is intriguing. 
 
Kale thrives in this apocalypse, fighting and playing against his layabout schoolmates for whatever they wager. Part of him wants to be a better person, one who resists the temptation to play, but these unholy games draw him like a moth to hellfire. It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned. Just some suggestions for cutting unnecessary details; since queries are supposed to be succinct that will leave you more word count available for plot. 
 
But when Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, he presents a challenge beyond the paltry games Kale plays. The bookish man claims to have contracted a full tournament of devil games with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of unsouled terrors controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their fate on the young players he can recruit and train. 
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, but Kale sees it as an opportunity to cheat the system. This is a chance to do good for others while still doing what he does best - winning. With this, he'll prove victory over the games, the Lost Legion, and his mother's moral guidance. But each game toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't master the devil games, he might lose himself to his own demon and become the terror he fights against. These last two paragraphs are really interesting and do seem like the "meat" of your book and query. The plot and "what's at stake" feel a little crammed into this last paragraph, so I'm rereading trying to make sure I actually understand. Again, I think if you reduce/clean up the first half of your query a little, you can give us a clearer understanding of your plot. I really like the stakes though, and it certainly seems like a unique take on end-time Christian fiction ... no "Left Behind" here! 

 

 

 

 

I'd appreciate any thoughts on my query, too! http://agentquerycon...l-the-stars-ya/


http://agentquerycon...sail-the-stars/

http://agentquerycon...ique-in-return/

 

"You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." - Mark Twain 

"There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds." - G.K. Chesterton 


#6 speedchuck

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 09:45 AM

Cool to see that you're writing Christian fiction that sounds fun and intriguing! I'm a follower of Jesus but gave up on reading Christian a long time ago because so often it felt "preachy" and just not very interesting. 

Same. I'm trying to turn that on its head a little. Thanks for the critique!



#7 speedchuck

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 10:14 AM

Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is driven to gamble in even a simple game of basketball. He can't refuse a challenge, and he will win every devil game, whatever the cost—even when it's not just his soul that is at stake.
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting divine powers and facilitating devil games. The game can be anything, the wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a chunk of soul into the winner's pot.
 
Kale thrives in this apocalypse, challenging his schoolmates for whatever they'll wager. Part of him wants to be a better person, but these unholy games draw him like a moth to hellfire. It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned.
 
But when Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, he presents a challenge beyond the paltry games Kale plays. The bookish man claims to have contracted a tournament of devil games with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of desouled terrors controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their redemption on the young players he can recruit and train.
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, but Kale sees an opportunity to cheat the system. This game is a chance to be 'righteous' while still doing what he does best—winning. He'll use this battle with the Lost Legion to prove victory over the games and his mother's moral guidance. Along with a score of other recruits, he faces Raj's devil games in an attempt to pass the stringent training and qualify for the fated tournament.
 
Each game played toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't master the devil games before facing Lucifer's soulless thralls, he might lose himself to his own demon and become the terror he fights against.
 
The book of Revelation meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. It is complete at 91,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


#8 London C

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Posted 10 July 2019 - 01:01 PM

 

Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is driven to gamble in even a simple game of basketball. He can't refuse a challenge, and he will win every devil game, whatever the cost—even when it's not just his soul that is at stake. "he will win every devil game" makes it sound like he can't lose. I think what you mean is he'll do anything—regardless of how ethical it is—to win.
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting divine powers and facilitating devil games. The game can be anything, the wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a chunk of soul into the winner's pot.
 
Kale thrives in this apocalypse, challenging his schoolmates for whatever they'll wager. Part of him wants to be a better person, but these unholy games draw him like a moth to hellfire. It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned. 
 
But when Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, he presents a challenge beyond the paltry games Kale plays. The bookish man claims to have contracted a tournament of devil games with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of desouled terrors controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, (This is a little confusing, since you've established souls are always at stake: can you clarify a bit?) and Raj has gambled their (the Lost Legion's or some other group's?) redemption on the young players he can recruit and train.
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, but Kale sees an opportunity to cheat the system. This game is a chance to be 'righteous' while still doing what he does best—winning. He'll use this battle with the Lost Legion to prove victory over the games and his mother's moral guidance. Along with a score of other recruits, he faces Raj's devil games in an attempt to pass the stringent training and qualify for the fated tournament. (This isn't a bad paragraph, but I don't think it adds anything. Maybe—maybe—cut it)
 
Each game played toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't master the devil games before facing Lucifer's soulless thralls, he might lose himself to his own demon and become the terror he fights against.
 
The book of Revelation meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. It is complete at 91,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

 

 

I think this is really strong. My only quibble would be I don't see how Kale can grow morally within the game—it strikes me that playing it would automatically mean one loses, theologically. But that's probably utterly irrelevant  :wink: Good luck with this!


——————

My latest query is here. I appreciate reciprocal critiques


#9 Sreid

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Posted 17 July 2019 - 05:35 AM

Your thread title said it's a Christian urban fantasy and that conjured a picture of vampires in church, drinking up all the communion wine--the blood of Christ. Thankfully that's not your story.

 

Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is driven to gamble in even a simple game of basketball. This is your opening line--your hook--and if it doesn't catch a busy agent's attention they won't read on. It didn't grab me. There are a lot of people who gamble on sports. So what. Perhaps you might consider something like "The miniature devil on seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur's left shoulder drove him to gamble on anything, even highschool basketball." He can't refuse a challenge, and he will win every devil game, whatever the cost—even when it's not just his soul that is at stake. This sounds like it's impossible for him to lose, which makes it no longer a gamble and kills the excitement. I suggest you add some doubt as to the outcome.
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting divine powers and facilitating devil games. So, devils and angels, archenemies, agree to just sit there, playing by some agreed-upon rules, like a divine/devilish Geneva Convention? Doesn't sound very biblical, where Angels are God's warriors with flaming swords and all. Please give us a hint how this change came about from fighting for righteousness to playing games. The game can be anything, the wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a chunk of soul into the winner's pot.
 
Kale thrives in this apocalypse, challenging his schoolmates for whatever they'll wager. So people still do mundane things like go to school in the apocalypse? Part of him wants to be a better person, but these unholy games draw him like a moth to hellfire. "Unholy games" makes it sound like they are a devil's construct, so why do angels participate? It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned. You repeat that he never loses. This is getting boring. The excitement of any game is that the outcome is unsure. He's cheating, playing fixed matches.
 
But when Raj Patel This could be interesting. That's an Indian name, so I presume he's a Hindu. Does he have Kali or Durga siting on his shoulder, or perhaps Ganesh with his elephant head? steps into Kale's bedroom, he presents a challenge beyond the paltry games Kale plays. The bookish man ??? Does the man look like a book? Is he supposed to be a bookie? claims to have contracted a tournament of devil games with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of desouled terrors controlled by Lucifer himself. Hey wait a minute. This makes no sense. You said the entry cost for playing devil's games is a hunk of soul. If the Lost Legion are desouled, that makes them soulless, so they can't play. You are breaking your own rules. Explain this please.. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their redemption on the young players he can recruit and train.
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, Yes, because there are no souls to win from the soulless, and therefore there's no upside for your protagonist. but Kale sees an opportunity to cheat the system. This game is a chance to be 'righteous' while still doing what he does best—winning. This no longer makes sense to me, and I hope it's just your query and not your story. He'll use this battle with the Lost Legion to prove victory over the games and his mother's moral guidance. Along with a score of other recruits, he faces Raj's devil games in an attempt to pass the stringent training and qualify for the fated tournament.
 
Each game played toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't master the devil games before facing Lucifer's soulless thralls, he might lose himself to his own demon and become the terror he fights against.
 
The book of Revelation meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. If your query hasn't shown this already, there's no use telling it now. it just wastes words better used elsewhere. Compare it to some published work instead. It is complete at 91,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

You may have a good story, but your query has gaping logic gaps, and since that's all I have with which to judge your story. If this is a problem with your story, then no query letter, no matter how good, will get this published. I trust it isn't a problem with your book. Anyhow, I lost interest. In your next version, make sure you craft a killer hook, show us who Kale is other than a compulsive gambler, show us what his deepest desire is and what stands in the way of him getting it and what he will win or lose if he does or doesn't get it.



#10 SuzieTheWriter

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Posted 01 August 2019 - 12:48 PM

 

Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is driven to gamble in even a simple game of basketball. He can't refuse a challenge, and he will win every devil game, whatever the cost—even when it's not just his soul that is at stake. With the first sentence, I was thinking that this is an angsty contemporary YA novel
 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting divine powers and facilitating devil games. The game can be anything, the wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost? Throwing a chunk of soul into the winner's pot. Ah, I'm glad you thoroughly explain what a devil game is because for a second, I was confused.
 
Kale thrives in this apocalypse, challenging his schoolmates for whatever they'll wager. Part of him wants to be a better person, but these unholy games draw him like a moth to hellfire. Is there a psychology of why that would be interesting to note? It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned.
 
But when Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, he presents a challenge beyond the paltry games Kale plays. The bookish man claims to have contracted a tournament of devil games with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of desouled terrors controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their redemption on the young players he can recruit and train. 
 
Playing this devil game is lunacy, but Kale sees an opportunity to cheat the system. This game is a chance to be 'righteous' while still doing what he does best—winning. He'll use this battle with the Lost Legion to prove victory over the games and his mother's moral guidance. Along with a score of other recruits, he faces Raj's devil games in an attempt to pass the stringent training and qualify for the fated tournament. This is is interesting, but the more I'm reading this, the more I'm wanting the backstory that led Kale to start playing in the first place.
 
Each game played toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't master the devil games before facing Lucifer's soulless thralls, he might lose himself to his own demon and become the terror he fights against. (I get what you're going for here but I think you should just end with he might _ not _ and _).
 
The book of Revelation meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. It is complete at 91,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 


Please check out my latest query:

http://agentquerycon...antic-thriller/


#11 janeald

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Posted 17 August 2019 - 06:14 PM

Seventeen-year-old Kale Macarthur is driven to gamble in even a simple game of basketball. He can't refuse a challenge, and he will win every devil game, whatever the cost—even when it's not just his soul that is at stake.

 
In the last days, the heavens descend. Personal devils and angels sit on shoulders, granting divine powers and facilitating devil games. The game can be anything, the wagers are limitless, the reward is pleasure. The entry cost is ? Tthrowing a chunk of soul into the winner's pot. Kale thrives in this apocalypse, challenging his schoolmates for whatever they'll wager. Part of him wants to be a better person, but these unholy games draw him like a moth to hellfire. It drives a rift between Kale and his mother, but so be it. (a plot point I think can be left out the query) As long as Kale never loses, he won't get burned.
 
But wWhen Raj Patel steps into Kale's bedroom, he presents a challenge beyond the paltry games Kale plays. The bookish man claims to have contracted a tournament of devil games with the Lost Legion, an infamous band of de-souled terrors controlled by Lucifer himself. Souls are at stake, and Raj has gambled their redemption on the young players he can recruit and train. Playing this devil game is lunacy, but Kale sees an opportunity to cheat the system. This game is a chance to be 'righteous' while still doing what he does best—winning. He'll use this battle with the Lost Legion to prove victory over the games and his mother's moral guidance. (first cut sentence is vague because it doesn't show how he could be righteous while gambling. I recommended cutting second sentence if you cut mention of Kale's mother which will also help shorten the query.) Along with a score of other recruits, he faces Raj's devil games in an attempt to pass the stringent training and qualify for the fated tournament. (this last sentence is cut because I think the next sentence is enough to show the stakes.) Each game played toes the line between evil and good, and every wager must be kept. If Kale doesn't master the devil games before facing Lucifer's soulless thralls, he might lose himself to his own demon and become the terror he fights against.
 
The book of Revelation meets Yu-Gi-Oh, DEVIL GAME combines allegory, sports, mind games, and harrowing action into a focused and personal story. It is complete at 91,000 words.
(space here)
Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

Really interesting plot here. I think the query can be shortened and you can save some points for the synopsis/actual manuscript! I hope my suggestions are helpful!

 

I'd love your feedback on my query: http://agentquerycon...girls/?p=361490 !







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