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Windcutter
02-23-2012, 12:02 AM
There is a certain story structure that goes like: main character stumbles across some strange stuff, investigates it, then discovers a conspiracy/huge secret/amazing truth.
Should we reveal it all in a query--or use the last part only in the form of a teaser?

For example (totally made up): MC's sister is kidnapped, MC sets out to find her, MC finds out she was kidnapped by werewolves, and at the end MC finds out that a secret organization of werewolves plans to turn everyone on the planet into a werewolf to end the industrial age. Where would I need to stop in a query letter if the secret organization stuff happens only in the last few chapters, the rest is an investigation/adventure leading up to it?

If Pullman was writing a query for the Golden Compass, would he need to reveal what they really needed the kids for? Or would he end the query saying that Lyra sets out to find them against incredible odds?

Drachen Jager
02-23-2012, 12:14 AM
Well you should at least hint at the secret. It's really a simple rule. If the plot twists help make the query stronger, use them. You won't 'spoil' the manuscript for the agent by giving later plot points away. If the plot twist makes the book stronger then odds are it makes the query stronger too.

I think you're confused on the plot of the Golden Compass. The Gobblers are just trying to 'free' the children of the ability to sin (their souls/daemons represent freedom of will, without freedom of will they cannot sin). Asrael was the only one who 'needed' a kid to achieve an objective. All of that would be complicated to fit into a query, but you might show how important daemons are, mention that Gobblers are kidnapping kids and Lyra wants to rescue her friend, then she finds out the horrible truth, the Gobblers are severing kids from their daemons. I'm not sure if you'd really mention the Asrael thing in a query, it's kind of tacked on at the end of the story and doesn't really have much play in the main plot of the novel.

Or you might just say, "Nobody knows what evil purpose the Gobblers have put the children to, but when Lyra discovers the truth she'll find out it was worse than she'd ever imagined." (not the best example, but I think you get what I mean)

Windcutter
02-23-2012, 12:52 AM
I was just trying to avoid spoilers so I described it vaguely. :)
But it's a good example of what I mean: there are basically two twists, both developments are unexpected.

So if revealed, it would be something like: when Lyra finds out the Gobblers are severing kids from their daemons, she has to risk losing her own daemon to stop them. [okay, this is terribly dry, but the general direction...]

Second question, so stuff like "it was worse than he feared" actually works? People over at SYW tend to shred such queries for being too generic.

Drachen Jager
02-23-2012, 01:06 AM
I think it depends on the whole content of the query. You can't get away with too much generic sounding stuff, and like I said it was a rushed example.

Really, don't avoid spoilers though. Agents have seen it all. If the twist is important to the story then it is important to the query. There's no point in holding back so they enjoy the manuscript more if they don't open the manuscript.

quicklime
02-23-2012, 01:17 AM
So if revealed, it would be something like: when Lyra finds out the Gobblers are severing kids from their daemons, she has to risk losing her own daemon to stop them. [okay, this is terribly dry, but the general direction...]

.


as one of the shredders, yes, the above is dry and could be tweaked, but is already far better than "or really bad things will happen...." or some similar, because that really doesn't tell us anything. Turn off the lights, i will leave the room instead of being kept in the dark. Human nature in an imperfect analogy. The other thing is anyone can use a vague cliche like "she must find the secret, before its too late"...it doesn't tell me you have any idea how to close things, or even a plan to do so. Remember,y ou want to tempt an agent to read, but more than that, you want to convince them you can (and did) write.

tko
02-23-2012, 02:00 AM
Even your example doesn't go far enough, and has a lot of stuff left out. I would keep in everything in your example.

Left out: what happens when they find the secret organization? How do they stop them? At what cost? What are the consequences?

You've got to tell the story - and the story certainly includes finding the secret organization, finding out what the SO plans to do, and what danger the protags find themselves in. That's part of the cliffhanger.

Your query could leave out the resolution - how do the protags escape, stop the SO, and end the threat to world happiness.




For example (totally made up): MC's sister is kidnapped, MC sets out to find her, MC finds out she was kidnapped by werewolves, and at the end MC finds out that a secret organization of werewolves plans to turn everyone on the planet into a werewolf to end the industrial age. Where would I need to stop in a query letter if the secret organization stuff happens only in the last few chapters, the rest is an investigation/adventure leading up to it?

OohLaLaura
02-24-2012, 05:07 AM
I'm glad you brought this up. My novel has a few twists, and I was wondering how to handle that in the query, too.

I like the suggestions of leaving it a bit open ending...alluding to a secret, but not making to really obvious