Query Workshop B-13: THE SIMPLE TRUTH

It’s the final day of the query workshop with me and three of my blogging friends. Two queries on four blogs for ten days. This final day is only on my blog. They’re winners of a drawing on the Beyond The Hourglass Bridge Blog  So here’s my next critique…

     
 Dear Awesome Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Johnny thought getting beaten and branded out of gang life was the worst thing imaginable. He was wrong.

When a couple of thugs chase him away from the shelter he currently calls home and into a different neighborhood, a woman helps him escape and then offers him a place to stay. Motivated by food, clean clothes, and a shower, he accepts, vowing to make a break for it at the first sign of trouble.

Seventeen-year-old Alicia has kept quiet about a lot of the changes her mom made after her brother, Danny, died—a new neighborhood, new school, and new dreams. But when her mom saves a thug from the streets, she draws the line. She’s been avoiding scum like Johnny her whole life. But her mom is on a mission and fails to listen which means war. Johnny’s gotta go.

But as Johnny and Alicia begin to trust each other, they realize they have more in common than avoiding scum: Guilt.  Johnny’s guilt over his girlfriend’s death doesn’t allow him to trust his feelings, and Alicia’s guilt of surviving her brother has left her ignoring her dream to dance.

When trust begins to turn into something more, Alicia’s mom makes it perfectly clear she won’t tolerate a relationship between the two, leaving Johnny with a choice: give in to his feelings for Alicia and end up back on the streets, or bury his feelings like he’s buried those he loves.

THE SIMPLE TRUTH, a YA contemporary romance manuscript complete at 60,000 words, is a story about finding truth in dreams, hope, and love. I hope it will appeal to readers of Simone Elkeles.

Thank you for your consideration. 

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

B’s critique …

Dear Awesome Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Johnny thought getting beaten and branded out of gang life was the worst thing imaginable. He was wrong. (Okay, I’m hooked.)

When a couple of thugs chase him away from the shelter he currently calls home and into a different neighborhood, a woman helps him escape and then offers him a place to stay. After causing his girlfriend’s death, he doesn’t feel worthy of the kindness. (You should mention the girlfriend’s demise up here before tying it in with Alicia’s brother. You mention it as something that drives her in her paragraph but not in Johnny’s – make sure to keep it balanced – just make it fit your story.)  Motivated by food, clean clothes, and a shower, he accepts, vowing to make a break for it at the first sign of trouble.

Seventeen-year-old Alicia has kept quiet about a lot of the changes her mom made after her brother, Danny, died—a new neighborhood, new school, and new dreams. But when her mom saves a thug from the streets, she Alicia (“she” could mean her mom in this sentence) draws the line. She’s been avoiding scum like Johnny her whole life. But her mom is on a mission and fails to listen to Alicia, which means war. (This sentence needs clarity.) Johnny’s gotta go.

But as Johnny and Alicia begin to trust each other, they realize they have more in common than avoiding scum. (use a period here not a colon) Guilt.  Johnny’s guilt over his girlfriend’s death (Maybe mention the girlfriend’s death above before mentioning it here. You mention her brother’s death in her paragraph. Keep it balanced.).doesn’t allow him to trust his feelings, and Alicia’s guilt of surviving her brother has left her ignoring her dream to dance.

When trust begins to turn into something more, Alicia’s mom makes it perfectly clear she won’t tolerate a relationship between the two, leaving Johnny with a choice: give in to his feelings for Alicia and end up back on the streets, or bury his feelings like he’s buried those he loves.

 THE SIMPLE TRUTH, a YA contemporary romance manuscript complete at 60,000 words, is a story about finding truth (I don’t get “truth” – maybe “safety or acceptance”? Or trust? Maybe I just don’t see it because all I see in the query is trust issues not lies. It may just be me and other may feel differently so see what they think.) in dreams, hope, and love, I hope it and will appeal to readers of Simone Elkeles.

Thank you for your consideration. 

This sounds like it would be a heart wrenching read. Getting the dual POV down in a query is difficult. Some say you should pick one POV and do the query in their view. And they’re right most of the time. I say, if you can do it right and keep it balanced between the two, then it’s great to get what’s driving both characters and how they intersect together. I think yours works and flows nicely. But I would suggest trying both ways and see which one really captures your story and voice.

I love this sort of West Side Story!

I hope this helps. If you decide to revise and would like me to read it again, just post it in the comments of this post.

Okay, everyone, what do you think? 

And don’t forget to stop by the other blogs and read their query critiques. For each critique you leave in the comments, you get an entry into the drawing to win one of three first chapter critiques from me. The opportunity ends 8/25 at 9AM EST.

Becca C.
Becca (Becks) Coffindaffer
 Marieke Nijkamp

Sarah Nicolas
 Sarah Nicolas

10 comments to Query Workshop B-13: THE SIMPLE TRUTH

  • Cool premise! I agree – mention the girlfriend’s death earlier.

    Instead of truth, are they searching for: peace, the perseverance to follow their hearts/dreams, love, desire? If it’s truly truth, make that clearer in the query.

    Good luck!

  • I love the West Side Story vibe in this, too. Something very nit-picky that is nagging at me is how stereotypical the name Johnny is for a gang member. Have you thought of switching it to something less expected? Otherwise, I think you do a good job with the dual perspectives, and I agree with Brenda’s suggestions.

  • I agree.
    And the 2 POVs is very hard to make flow in a query… I know. I think you did a very nice job here. I think Brenda is right, though. See which way sounds best. It couldn’t hurt. You can always go back to this original with the fixes that Brenda suggested.

  • Thanks! Some awesome suggestions. I’ll try to post it again. =)

  • I can’t see anything to add to this critique, but I do want to point out that it often irks me when I read queries that try to give two POV sides to a story. This one didn’t.

    Good luck!

  • Okay. I reworked and added both different options–one POV vs. two. Johnny is the character that influence both character arcs and his pov is the first chapter,so I used his.

    Seventeen-year-old Johnny thought getting beaten and branded out of gang life was the worst thing imaginable. He was wrong.

    When a couple of thugs chase him away from the shelter he currently calls home and into a different neighborhood, a woman helps him escape and then offers him a place to stay. A year ago he would’ve told her to shove her charity where the sun don’t shine. But a year ago he had Cherry, and Cherry’s dead now. Because of him. Food, clean clothes, and a shower is what he needs at the moment and so he accepts, vowing to make a break for it at the first sign of trouble. He didn’t expect trouble to come in the form of the woman’s teenage daughter, Alicia.

    Though Johnny’s never met Alicia, or her family, before, Alicia blames him for her brother’s death. Johnny can’t help to think that she’d throw him to the wolves if she had the chance. But he begins to challenge her, liking the way she’s always pissed, and liking the way she dances as if she’s in her own world and no one can touch her there.

    As Johnny’s feelings for her begins to grow into something more, he realizes he’s in trouble. After he finds out Alicia’s mother won’t tolerate a relationship between the two, Johnny has to make a choice: give in to his feelings for Alicia and end up on back on the streets, or bury his feelings like he’s buried those he loves.

    Written in both Johnny’s and Alicia’s point of view, THE SIMPLE TRUTH, a YA contemporary romance manuscript complete at 60,000 words, is a story about believeing in the power of dreams, and will appeal to readers of Simone Elkeles.

    or- dual pov

    Seventeen-year-old Johnny thought getting beaten and branded out of gang life was the worst thing imaginable. He was wrong.

    When a couple of thugs chase him away from the shelter he currently calls home and into a different neighborhood, a woman helps him escape and then offers him a place to stay. A year ago he would’ve told her to shove her charity where the sun don’t shine, but a year ago he had Cherry. And Cherry’s dead now. Because of him. Food, clean clothes, and a shower is what he needs at the moment and so he accepts, vowing to make a break for it at the first sign of trouble. He didn’t expect trouble to come in the form of the woman’s teenage daughter, Alicia.

    Seventeen-year-old Alicia has kept quiet about a lot of the changes her mom made after her brother died–a new neighborhood, new school, and new dreams. But when her mom saves a thug from the streets, Alicia draws the line. She’s been avoiding scum like Johnny her whole life. But her mom is on a mission to save Johnny and fails to listen to Alicia, forcing Alicia to war. Johnny’s gotta go.

    But as Johnny and Alicia begin to trust each other, they realize they have more in common than avoiding scum. Guilt. Johnny’s guilt over his girlfriends death doesn’t allow him to trust his feelings, and Alicia’s guilt of surviving her brother has left her ignoring her dream to dance.

    When trust begins to turn into something more, Alicia’s mom makes it perfectly clear she won’t tolerate a relationship between the two, leaving Johnny with a choice: give in to his feelings for Alicia and end up back on the streets, or bury his feelings like he’s buried those he loves.

    THE SIMPLE TRUTH…

    Thank you. =)

  • The rewrite is great. My only issue is one paragraph ends with Alicia declaring war on Johnny, and the next begins with them starting to trust each other. It feels like we’re missing a transition.

  • This sounds like it would be a real tear-jerker. I’m already hooked.

    When it comes to multiple POV stories/queries, it’s my personal opinion that you should show both (as long as the story has only two primary POVs, more than that, and I’d stay stick to whoever has the most to lose/gain.) I think of romance pitches: it’s always about the girl and the guy and they both have their story. But the plot is about how those stories intersect, so I want to know what’s on the line for both of them. It’s the romance reader in me.

    That being said, I like the rewritten queries, both of them. I still lean towards the dual POV because Alicia has just as much to lose as Johnny, and her outlook has equal importance to events.

    In Johnny’s new paragraph, watch out for charity and Cherry. They sound alike, look alike at first glance and are near each other. I stumbled over it and actually read “Cherry” as “Charity” the first time.

    In Alicia’s paragraph, instead of “she’s been avoiding scum like JOhnny her whole life” that might be a good place to implicat her blaming Johnny for her brother’s death (especially if her brother was killed by a gang, which the single POV query makes it sound like).

    Hope that helps. Good luck!

  • I love the dual POV one. I think Susan and Kelly already point out some great things, and I have nothing more to add. Great job!

  • Thanks everyone and thanks Brenda for hosting. =)

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