Re: Opening Paragraph
I think this query has some problems, including grammatical mistakes that will loom large to an agent...
Jack Hibbard has never ridden on a horse that can gallop on water. He has not soared in the sky with a man who can fly, travelED in an underground city using glowing rocks to find his way, and doesn’t know THIS DOES NOT MATCH THE OPENING CLAUSE, WHICH IS "HE HAS" - YOU COULD TURN THIS INTO "OR LEARNED" how to open portals to other worlds.
All Jack has ever knows KNOWN is a life of poverty in a small catholic CATHOLIC SHOULD BE CAPITALIZED, OTHERWISE YOU'RE NOT REFERRING TO THE RELIGION, ONLY THE WORD MEANING "UNIVERSAL" community in the South Pacific. One day, ONE DAY IS SUPERFLUOUS - HOW MANY TENTH BIRTHDAYS CAN HE HAVE, AFTER ALL? he spends his lonely NOT SURE ABOUT "LONELY" SINCE IT SEEMS TO DIRECTLY MODIFY "TENTH BIRTHDAY," SUGGESTING THAT IT'S AN INHERENT CHARACTERISTIC OF A TENTH BIRTHDAY RATHER THAN JUST A PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCE THAT HAPPENS TO ATTEND HIS TENTH BIRTHDAY tenth birthday playing around a mysterious ruin in the jungle and stumbles upon a passage to another world. I'D RETHINK THIS SENTENCE AS IT SUGGESTS HE SPENDS HIS ENTIRE TENTH BIRTHDAY STUMBLING ON A PASSAGE TO ANOTHER WORLD, WHEN REALLY THAT'S SOMETHING THAT JUST HAPPENS AT THAT MOMENT - MAYBE SOMETHING LIKE "ON HIS TENTH BIRTHDAY, HE EXPLORES A MYSTERIOUS RUIN IN THE JUNGLE AND STUMBLES UPON A PASSAGE TO ANOTHER WORLD."
Stuck in a place called Zajitar, Jack is awestruck at first by its ocean in the sky and a giant moon hovering dozens of feet DOZENS OF FEET FEELS LIKE IT'S EMPHASIZING A GREAT DISTANCE, WHEN WHAT YOU WANT TO CONVEY IS THAT THAT'S IMPOSSIBLY CLOSE FOR A MOON off the ground. THIS SENTENCE MAKES YOUR PROTAGONIST SEEM, HOWEVER BRIEFLY, TO BE PRETTY PASSIVE - MAYBE SHIFT THE FOCUS TO THE PLACE BY SAYING "JACK FINDS HIMSELF STUCK IN A PLACE CALLED ZAJITAR, WHERE THERE IS AN OCEAN IN THE SKY AND A GIANT MOON HOVERING ONLY A DOZEN YARDS FROM THE GROUND" However, this surreal beauty is only a deception: Zajitar is gripped by a violent war. HOW DOES THAT MAKE THE BEAUTY OF THE PLACE A DECEPTION? IT'S STILL BEAUTIFUL, IT JUST HAS ANOTHER SIDE TO IT.
Desperate to find a way home, Jack befriends a lovelorn shape-shifter and her prophetess sister. PROPHETESS MAKES ME BLINK, MIGHT WANT TO RETHINK THAT WORD But when the rival leaders of Zajitar discover that he is from the ‘mythical’ world of Earth, the war suddenly becomes all about him. THAT SHOULD BE THE SOURCE OF YOUR TENSION, BUT NOTHING COMES OF IT IN THE QUERY - SO THE WAR IS ALL ABOUT HIM, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT HIM? Now he’s in a race against time as the only person that knows how to return him home is a warrior slowly turning to stone. THIS SEEMS ENTIRELY DISJOINTED FROM THE PREVIOUS SENTENCE AND COMES OUT OF NOWHERE
THE BOY FROM EARTH is a middle-grade fantasy of approximately 60,000 words I DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT MG - IS 60,000 WORDS MARKETABLE IN THAT GENRE? and part one in a series of four volumes. I'VE HEARD IT'S NOT A GOOD IDEA TO INTRODUCE YOUR WORK AS THE FIRST PART OF A SERIES The fantasy/adventure theme is akin to the PERCY JACKSON series, with darker elements of alienation and dystopia that may appeal to readers of INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher.
Hope that helps. Good luck.
Re: Opening Paragraph
I think your strength here is your ability to write vivid images.
I think the major weakness is that you're not focusing the Q effectively.
Look at the first graph.
"Jack Hibbard has never ridden on a horse that can gallop on water. He has not soared in the sky with a man who can fly, travel in an underground city using glowing rocks to find his way, and doesn’t know how to open portals to other worlds."
You're not really telling us what you say you're telling us here. It would absurd to tell us a bunch of things a character has never done if the reader wasn't to understand that these things will occur in the book. Right? Bet Jack has never eaten popcorn while hanging from a trapeze either. So all these images/events are really functioning here as glimpses into Jack's story after he enters the alternate world. But you're trying to pass them off as a glimpse into Jack's life/state before he goes off on the journey. See how this technique really does neither job well? I'm not getting to know Jack pre-adventure, or getting into his adventure. It feels artificial to use them in this never-done method. When I read these never-done hooks, and they're very common in Qs, I think the writer is being lazy. It may sound right to your ear, but only because you read these kind of hooks so often, not because they are the most effective use of your Q's prime real estate. It also kind of forces the reader backward in time in the second graph, when you tell us about Jack before he enters the special world. Does that make sense?
I'd rethink your opening altogether rather than tweaking. What have you got that's not already on bookshelves and piled in the slush on an agent's desk? Make the most of that. By the way, since your hero here seems a little unique, at least in the limited MG fantasy I end up hearing or reading with my son, I'm not sure why you'd strip that uniqueness with a name like Jack? Don't you want to play up the South Pacific? Catholic community?
I'd consider being more specific than "South Pacific." Is this Palau? The Solomon Islands? Seems like you could add some panache with a specific place.
I'd consider swapping out your "stumbles upon a passage" with something more specific. You're already in danger here of your Jack being too passive for his own story and I think it starts here. And is that even accurate? A boy willingly exploring mysterious ruins ain't stumbling; he's poking around, looking, exploring. He's wanting something right? What's he wanting? Why does he go? Not that you need to answer those questions, but I'd look at reworking his entry into this other world so that the reader sees Jack as searching rather than stumbling. Does that make sense?
This next graph has some great images, but you've got some awkwardness that strips them some.
"Stuck in a place called Zajitar, Jack is awestruck at first by its ocean in the sky and a giant moon hovering dozens of feet off the ground. However, this surreal beauty is only a deception: Zajitar is gripped by a violent war."
Your construction here has left you having to use too many words. Since you left the last graph with "another world," you don't need anything but. "Zajitar's ocean flows in the sky..." Just want to reiterate what John said about the "deception" bit. The wording makes me think that the beauty is a mirage or something. Also John's point about the "dozens" holds for me, too.
So for me this next bit about Jack discovering there's a war and only wanting to get home just feels too standard and comes so quick. I think this is what you get when you strip a bunch of the cool events out to use as your hook. I don't get to picture the horse and the flying and rock while I'm in this world with Jack. Think you cheated yourself here.
Desperate to find a way home, Jack befriends a lovelorn shape-shifter and her prophetess sister. YOU'VE SET THIS SENTENCE UP SO THAT JACK'S BEFRIENDING SEEMS DEPENDENT ON HIS DESIRE TO GET HOME. BUT I DON'T SEE THE CONNECTION. But when the rival leaders of Zajitar discover that he is from the ‘mythical’ world of Earth I LIKE THIS IDEA THAT EARTH HIS MYTHICAL TO THESE FOLKS, the war suddenly becomes all about him SOMETHING IS OFF HERE. THIS IS A BIG MOMENT, RIGHT? THE PHRASING DOESN'T FEEL POWERFUL ENOUGH TO CARE THIS MAJOR CHANGE. Now he’s in a race against time as the only person that WHO knows how to return him home is a warrior slowly turning to stone. THINK THE IDEAS COME IN THE WRONG ORDER HERE. WE NEED TO KNOW HIS ONLY HOPE IS TURNING TO STONE BEFORE WE KNOW HE'S IN A RACE AGAINST TIME. PROBABLY IT WILL BE OBVIOUS AND YOU WON'T NEED TO TELL US.
So I get done and I think you've got some neat concepts, and nice imagery. But I don't see Jack's mission or character arc? What got Jack into this trouble? What was he looking for? What does he have to confront/deal with to get home. The story feels pretty one dimensional in this Q. Boy accidentally gets into another world, doesn't like it there, wants to get home. That's not really a story. What does Jack have to risk/confront to get home? How does he have to change? What does he risk if he fails?
You've got a character goes on a journey book, right? The character leaves for a reason. He learns and deals with something he could not have found at home on this journey. He returns (or doesn't) but he's a different character. Not that you have to cover everything in the Q, but I don't think you want a Q that makes the agent think you don't have all the elements in book. I think this Q would make me think that.
Guess if I had one overarching bit of advice for this one, I'd say, make this one page you have work for YOU, for YOUR book. Not some template or what you've read in a bizillion other Qs. For YOUR book.
Hope something here helps.
Re: Opening Paragraph
Thanks guys, very valuable input!
@JohnHawkwood: thanks for the grammar lesson - much needed (your kinda like a literary surgeon ;-). I will def. heed your comments about phrasing and hierarchy. And 60K for middle grade is the 'maximum' if it's also a fantasy, but various blogs and agencies have their own take on word count.
@CK: I'll be busy this weekend following your great suggestions! And I love your objectivity - I've overlooked some nasty pitfalls. With regards to the MC's name, I used 'Jack' as I needed a common Earth name (relevant to the story). He was originally Peter, and then John. Also plays on his catholic background (he's bi-racial - father is an English missionary, mother is native).
Re: Opening Paragraph
'All Jack has ever KNOWS is a life of poverty....'
As already mentioned, grammar is a real issue. I read to the above line and as soon as I read KNOWS instead of KNOWN, I stopped.
My brain told me 'this will be filled with grammatical errors and this will frustrate me' - perhaps too harsh as it is more than likely you haven't proof-read your QL but REMEMBER the lit agent reads this FIRST - your QL is a sample of your writing ability as well as a window into the storyline. If the QL is shyte or grammatically incorrect then the reader/lit agent will assume your MS is also.