Wednesday, October 26, 2011

QUERY CRITIQUE #13: MAX’S HOUSE #1: NEW BEGINNINGS


Dear Ms. Kaynak,

Max Seward, Jr., thought the summer of 1941 would be the best summer ever. His summer vacation starts with his dream come true, the girl he’s always liked finally approaching him and becoming his girlfriend. But later that same day, Max’s father announces he’s divorced Mrs. Seward, who’s nowhere to be found. Everyone in town knows they never exactly had the greatest marriage, but that wasn’t a reason to do something so scandalous as get divorced.

To make matters worse, the very next day Max’s father brings home a strange woman with three young daughters and announces they’re getting married within weeks. Max, his siblings, and his cousin Elaine are scandalized when they learn Mr. Seward has been having a longterm affair with this woman. Not only that, but the girls are monsters.

This sets up the premise, characters, and conflict nicely, but the wording can be tightened a bit. You also repeat versions of "scandalize." Avoid using clichés like "dream come true" and "nowhere to be found." Later on, you mention a "mansion," but I think that if they are living in a mansion, then they aren't just average citizens, and that status should come out sooner.

Max Seward, Jr., thought the summer of 1941 would be the best summer ever. His summer vacation starts with the girl he’s always liked finally becoming his girlfriend. But later that same day, Max’s father announces he’s divorced his mother, who has disappeared. Everyone in town knew they didn't have the greatest marriage, but divorce is something scandalous, especially for the town's wealthiest family.

The very next day Max’s father brings home a strange woman with three young daughters and announces they’re getting married. The discovery that the two of them have been having an affair for years shocks Max and his siblings, and his new "sisters" are monsters.

Elaine, the new girl in town, is meanwhile having problems of her own. As hard as she tries to make friends, no one but Max’s new girlfriend wants to befriend her. She also quickly makes an enemy when she discovers another girl has long had her eye on her new boyfriend. This girl is convinced Elaine maliciously stole him from her, and even enlists his annoying little sister to try to break them up at every turn.

I think that the jealous girl is important enough to the storyline that you might want to mention her name. I'm naming her "Mary" here, just for the example.

Max's cousin Elaine is the new girl in town, and no one but Max’s new girlfriend seems to like her. She also makes an enemy by dating a guy whom Mary, a local girl, has had her eye on. Mary turns half the town against her--even recruiting the guy's little sister to her cause--in her efforts to break the two of them up.

The nightmare culminates in being forced to pack up and take their first summer vacation together as a family after Mr. Seward prematurely comes home from his honeymoon. Max, his older sister, and Elaine can take it no longer and start a fight that gets them sent back home to fend for themselves.

But if Max and Elaine think the nightmare is finally over once they come home, they’re in for more rude surprises. Coming home to a locked mansion, having to enter through the chimney, and finding the water out are only the beginning of one of the most unforgettable summers of their lives.

This next part confuses me as a reader. It includes too much plot details, I think. I'm also confused as to whether Elaine is now living with Max's family, whether Max's father is part of this family vacation, and I'm wondering whether Max is going to look into where his mother has gone, since that seems like a big issue. I also think the details of how they get into a house that doesn't have the water turned on are unnecessary, while the event(s) that make it an "unforgettable" summer should be included.

When Max and Elaine are sent home early from the first "family" vacation, they return to a locked mansion, and then… (?)

MAX’S HOUSE #1: NEW BEGINNINGS, the first in a YA series combining historical fiction, humor, and social satire, is complete at 60,000 words.

There's nothing in the narrative voice of this query that indicates humor or satire. Either bring that out more in the opening paragraphs or cut the description here. I'm also not thrilled with the title, especially with the number in it; perhaps shortening to MAX'S HOUSE would be more compelling. 

I have a degree in history from [redacted] and worked in the production room of a local newspaper for five years.

Sincerely,

2 comments:

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

Very fascinating post! I enjoyed seeing how you transformed the wordy synopsis into a more succinct and intriguing summary.

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