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Query for Raven Son
Voran
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 5:23 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Voran is possessed by an inexplicable restlessness.  Frequent visitations by the mysterious Syrin, whose women’s faces blend seamlessly with eagle wings and bodies, do not assuage his disquiet.  Even the love of the king’s daughter Sabíana is not enough to satisfy his longing.


His restlessness is eerily accompanied by the drying up of the waterfalls, the withering of the forests, the apparent fading of the entire mountain region he calls home, even the sudden disappearance of the Syrin.  Driven by a desire to find the source of this mysterious Fading, Voran leaves the mountain city, accompanied by the king’s son Mirnían.  


Tragic failure bedevils them at every turn. A beguiled Voran unwittingly commits Mirnían to the torture of a shape-changing hag.  Sabíana, destroyed by Voran’s apparent treachery, plans to exact revenge on those nearest and dearest to him.  And everywhere whispers are heard of the return of the Raven, a terrifying spirit of the forest who can possess men’s bodies. 


Inspired by Russian fairy tales and folk motifs, Raven Son is an intimate story of how a sheltered people must grapple with an unpredictable enemy that strikes in the least expected of places - the human heart.  Somehow amidst chaos and darkness they must find the courage to find beauty, even in the face of death.



Amy Sterling
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 2:22 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 26


Nicholas, like Voran, you have embarked upon a quest. This quest will encompass everything about you. You must discover not what mythical creatures lie in this world of Vasyllia, but what truly lies in the human hearts of those few who will stand against the coming darkness.

When this is revealed to you, whether it be by dream or by writing itself, you will know why it is that Voran is the chosen one. You will know why the Raven calls upon him, and why his heart has been ever-stained by the wild desire to maim and despoil like a rabid animal with no soul.

You will know how Mirnian is truly the heir to the throne, or if he is indeed, such heir. You will know why Sabiana turns from light to dark, and why she is compelled to destroy all related to Voran. Perhaps you will know why those that Voran and Mirnian leave behind to defend the darkening city will fight on, despite overwhelming odds. You will know the exact nature and danger brought on by the coming of the darkness and the Raven.

Once you answer these questions, I believe you will find your story - and query - easy and natural to write.

RJBlain
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 2:27 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224


Hi Voran -- this is where I am definitely the weakest in my writing. The Query letters bother me sooo much. I will definitely be watching this thread, because I would love to hear the opinions and thoughts on your letter.

I wish I had feedback for you that is worthwhile, but I don't have the experience to know what makes up a good query letter or what to suggest to improve yours. So, I will sit here, admit I'm ignorant, and watch and see what the more experienced have to say on it!

That said, your story looked interesting enough to me. There were so many names that my head was spinning from it all though.
serpentscribbles
Posted: Saturday, April 30, 2011 7:36 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 2


On the AbsoluteWrite forums they use a three question system to help you streamline what to include in your query:

1. What does your protagonist want?
2. What does he have to do to get it?
3. What happens if he fails? (the stakes)

As it stands right now, the query has too many names/characters imo. Here's my attempt at answering the questions from what information you've given:

1. He wants to find the source of the Fading.
2. I have no idea.
3. I... also have no idea, actually. His homeland is fading, but I can't tell that it matters to him, since his restlessness seems to indicate a lack of attachment. I guess my question is, why does it matter (to him)? What's he going to do when he finds the source? After he (presumably) fixes it? Start feeling restless again? Actually, overall he doesn't seem like a very active character to me. He's "possessed", he's "driven", he "unwittingly commits" -- things happen to him, rather than him making things happen. That may be the book you've written, but surely there's *something* he feels strongly enough about to be making his own choices over (and so far the only hint of this is in his choice to leave home). It's difficult to care for a passive protagonist who just lets himself get swept along by events without ever reacting to them.

Anyway, the thing about queries is that they aren't meant to be summaries, exactly. You have a limited space to hook the agent/editor's attention. You don't need to put in absolutely every little subplot -- just the main thrust of the book. Something intriguing, something that makes the person reading the letter want to read more. You have a lot of interesting elements here, but they're floating around in a really unfocused, disconnected way.

I don't really consider myself an expert on queries either, but I do hope this gives you some stuff to chew on.

edit: Having read the synopsis on your upload now, I have to say that the most interesting hook for me (aside from the Russian folktale/myth element), is this line: "But what if the only way to save his people is to let them be defeated?" That's a good starting point to work from, I think.
Voran
Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 6:06 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Thanks a lot! I'll definitely take what you've said on board! Keep watching this thread if you're interested, and I'll have an updated query up in a few days! In the mean time, read Raven Son Thanks again,

Nick


Voran
Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 4:38 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Any comments on this revision? Thanks!


Voran, a young warrior of the mountain citadel of Vasyllia, is possessed by an incurable restlessness. The restlessness is echoed by the fading of the land he loves, and the sudden incursion of an enemy that has been waiting for centuries to wipe out his people. Leaving love and home behind, he ostensibly searches for answers, but hopes to find peace in his travels.

The exact opposite happens. He seduces a maid, only to find her a shape-changing hag who then binds him to slavery to the Ancient Darkness, the very enemy he has been avoiding. Voran must endure slavery, horrifying physical ordeals, and impossible truths before he can even hope to reclaim himself, much less his people, from the Ancient Darkness. But the more he knows, the more it becomes terribly apparent:

What if the only way to save his people is to let them be defeated?

Jay Greenstein
Posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 11:39 PM
The second version is MUCH better. Were I reading it I would probably have turned to the first pages to see if the writing lives up to the blurb. I wouldn’t have finished reading the first version because it was a mini-synopsis.

The one thing that bothered me with both, though, is the apparent, but unexplained connection between his mood and the land “fading.” Added to that, I haven’t a clue of what fading means in the context of this story.
Voran
Posted: Saturday, May 14, 2011 11:15 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Does this improve on the previous ones?

Voran, a young warrior of Vasyllia, is suddenly faced with a changing world. The spectacular natural beauties of his mountain country are beginning to die. The Syrin, mysterious protectors of the city, have abandoned the Vasylli. Rumors abound of the return of the Ancient Darkness, an ageless enemy that had been waiting to strike for centuries. Leaving love and home behind, Voran tries to find the source of this change.

His quest goes quickly awry. He seduces a maid, only to find her a shape-changing hag who then binds his will to the Ancient Darkness. Voran must endure slavery, horrifying physical ordeals, and impossible choices before he can even hope to reclaim himself, much less his people, from their enemy. But the more he knows, the more he dreads a terrifying possibility:

What if the only way to save his people is to let them be defeated?
Mahesh Raj Mohan
Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 9:51 PM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 60


Hi Voran, I think this latest query is the strongest. It may be a question of personal taste, but I don't like the word "hag," it takes me out of the query. Maybe witch or sorceress? At any rate, the first paragraph is great.
Voran
Posted: Saturday, March 30, 2013 4:36 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Hello everyone! It's been a while, but I'm ready to take on that elusive query letter again! Here's the latest version, please feel free to comment!

Vasyllia’s hundred-year peace is violated by an army of marauders. They have leagued themselves with the Raven, a dark spirit who can possess men's bodies before he devours them. City after city falls, until only Vasyllia stands. One last hope remains - a mysterious prophecy of a wandering Pilgrim - “Nothing but Living Water can save Vasyllia.” But Living Water has not been seen for a thousand years. Only one claims to know where it is - Voran, a young warrior who has been struck mad by the song of the Syrin, and whose father betrayed the Vasylli years before. Torn between his duty to help his people and his own hidden desires, Voran is pursued by a Darkness that never shows the same face twice. But the more Voran searches, the more he begins to fear:


What if the only way to save his people is to let them be defeated?



Voran
Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013 2:14 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Really? I tried out the old pitch once at pitch-a-palooza and the question at the end seemed to work really well with the two agents who were there. If you don't mind me asking, where have you heard that the question at the end is frowned upon? thanks for the input, it's really appreciated!
Voran
Posted: Sunday, March 31, 2013 5:51 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Any improvement in this version?

Voran, a young warrior of Vasyllia, is faced with a changing world. His country’s hundred-year peace is violated by an army of marauders. Rumors abound of the return of the Raven, an ancient enemy with a centuries-old grudge, who feeds on the souls of his victims. But Voran has a hidden hope - he knows where to find the Living Water, a mysterious substance that alone can keep the rising Darkness at bay. Leaving love and home behind, Voran seeks the Living Water, pursued at every step by an enemy that never shows the same face twice. 


Torn between his duty to his people and his own hidden desires, Voran endures deprivations, horrifying ordeals, encounters with sirens, wolf-men, and flying serpents. He finally learns a horrifying secret that could rid the land of the Raven forever. But to do it he must face an impossible choice - either save himself and abandon his people to the Raven, or save Vasyllia, and die in the process. 



Rich B Knight
Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 11:33 AM
Joined: 4/7/2013
Posts: 4


Being that I'm not into heavy fantasy, I may not be the best critic for all of this, but I'm kind of lost in all the strange names. Also, I think you should get right to the problem right away. Keep it concise. Try to land only 120 words or so. Can you do that?

Voran
Posted: Monday, April 8, 2013 2:55 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 57


Here's a slightly different version: any improvement? Thanks to all the very helpful feedback, by the way!



Sirens, many-headed dragons, maidens trapped in the bodies of wolves. The Vasyllian legends that young Voran grew up with are suddenly coming to life. Some of them are the stuff of nightmares. Worst of all is the Raven, a formless spirit who can possess the bodies of his victims. 


But Voran has a secret hope - he knows where to find the Living Water, a mysterious panacea that alone can rid Vasyllia of the Raven. Leaving love and home behind, Voran seeks the Living Water, pursued at every step by an enemy that never shows the same face twice. 


Voran overcomes hags, wolf-men, excruciating physical ordeals to become a warrior equal to the greatest of the legends. But as the Raven closes in, Voran realizes the horrifying truth about the Living Water - its power remains dormant until the ultimate sacrifice is made - a life for a life. He is faced with an impossible choice - to attack the Raven openly and risk losing Vasyllia, or to save his people, and die in the process.