September 26, 2010

QUERY: JEHOVAH'S HITLIST (a draft)

Jehovah knows a secret. On Sundays when they parachute down the charity box, you can see where they open the sky to make the drop. The first one to the box gets the best charity: food rations, medicine, ammunition. Today all he needs is a new pair of shoes. He nabs himself a pair of boots made out of real leather, and he only has to kill one person to get them.

There's a list hidden inside one of the boots. Five names written on the back side of a bible cover. The list is branded with a noose. Those names are the means to deliver a message to the world up above. The Hanged Man says Jehovah is going to deliver a message for him or he'll kill Jehovah, his family, his friends, and his neighbors.

JEHOVAH'S HITLIST (or DOWN BELOW THE UP ABOVE) is a 100-000 word post-apocalyptic commercial fiction. The oceans have risen, nations have fallen, and the rich and powerful live in platforms in the sky. The rest live in ghetto cities below.

This will be my first novel publication. Thank you for your time and consideration.

4 comments:

  1. Joe, I think you've got a pretty good start here. Although most people say to start with either the action or the conflict in the first paragraph, I like how you've introduced the world Jehovah lives in. I'd keep that as is.

    In my opinion, however, the second paragraph could use more tightening. Here's my attempted revision starting at p.2:

    Inside one of the boots, he finds a list of five names written on the back of a bible cover and branded with a noose. According to the Hanged Man, these names are the means to deliver a message to the world above. And, unless Jehovah delivers this message for him, the Hanged Man will kill Jehovah and everyone he holds dear.

    [Insert more about conflict here (see below)]

    JEHOVAH'S HITLIST, a work of post-apocalyptic commercial fiction, is complete at 100,000 words.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.


    Although I like the phrase "The oceans have risen, nations have fallen," I'm not sure that part really adds anything to the query. If you do keep some version of it it, I'd move it before the paragraph with the title.

    You may still need to explain how the Hanged Man fits in. Also, I assume Jehovah is grappling with whether he's doing the right thing by following the Hanged Man's orders or if there's another way. I'd insert a sentence or two about this internal conflict after the 2nd paragraph.

    I don't know if I've helped at all, but I hope I've at least given you some things to think about. Best of luck as you revise.

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  2. Your second paragraph is definitely stronger. Thank you, Nate.

    You know, I wasn't going to include the "oceans have risen" part, but here I am saying it's post-apocalyptic and not showing any post-apocalipticism. Hell, I can't even bring myself to call it science fiction, which it was when I started. All the science fiction stuff is up above. I'm telling the story about life in the ghetto below.

    I'm starting to notice a trend in my writing. Science fiction? Yeah, that's the part of the story you don't see. I tell the story where the main character uses a model of pistol invented in 1911 and runs around a city on foot because there is not private or public transportation (other than a zip line that runs above Jesus Street).

    One of these days, I might actually write a traditional story. ...I don't know when that will be, but I'm sure I'll do it. :)

    Thank you for your comments, Nate. (And I was unsure of where to post it, but I love the footnotes in your blog. That's just too much fun!)

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  3. I think the post-apocalypticity comes through a little in the first paragraph with the charity package, but perhaps you can also sneak in another detail or two when you insert Jehovah's conflict.

    Interestingly enough, the one element of science fiction in my WIP is also the part you don't see. Of course, that's because it's invisibility. And although it's central to the plot, I still see the book as a thriller of sorts, rather than sci-fi. (I won't find out if I've been deluding myself until I let others read it.)

    I have a couple ideas for traditional stories, but the non-traditional ones are much more fun. I figure if I ever go traditional, it'll be for the tale with the serial killer...

    And hey, glad you enjoy the footnotes! I have a lot of fun writing them, too. And at some point in the future, I know I'll have at least one post where the footnotes again outweigh the content itself. (After this one, I got requests.)

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  4. I think you have a great outline of your query letter! You do a good job of conveying tone and the basic plot of the piece.

    I would like to see a little more about the Hanged Man though. I understand if Jehovah doesn't comply, he'll kill Jehovah's family and friends, but there are still huge motivation questions you might want to address in the query letter. If these people need to die, why did the Hanged Man let it be by chance? Does contract killing occur often in this world? How does Jehovah know the Hanged Man will kill his family? If you give a little more detail about this, I think it will also separate the "only had to kill one man" statement in the first paragraph as a "kill or be killed" situation, instead of it seeming like Jehovah doesn't care about killing people.

    It's hard to believe a decent person would kill other people just because someone told him to, so you might want to put a few more details in there about why Jehovah is agreeing to do this. I also think something more about Jehovah's internal conflict would help us envision the struggle that Jehovah is going to endure.

    Excellent work!

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