Sunday, September 25, 2011


Guess the Plot

Hybreed Rising

1. Geneticists create wolf/man hybrids. Also known as werewolves. One thing leads to another and soon an inter-species war looms, threatening to destroy all life on Earth. Also, the usual shadow organization with its own agenda.

2. The secrets of the industrial metal music neoplastic underworld are revealed with interviews and historical notes of some of its greatest contributors: Low Distortion Unit, In-Fused, Dual Proform, Skinny Puppy and Ooomph, as well as some up-and- coming new artists like Frequency Construct and Luser Dazed.

3. All the farmers around Oskaloosa Iowa told Frank he was crazy to let them put a chemical storage facility on his land, but with his vegetables dominating the fair circuit, it looks like Frank will get the last laugh . . . until the deer start growing fangs.

4. Four vikings set sail across the Atlantic hoping to establish their new strains of sweet peas in the new world. But when the manuscript containing their research falls into the hands of an Imperial agent, the last Roman legion rows out after them.

5. Geneticist Judith Fancher perfects the world's fastest growing yeast, but when she uses it in her chocolate souffle recipe, she--and the entire town--get an unpleasant surprise. Now it's up to the National Guard.

6. Mankind destroyed the world, but from the ashes and stew of chemicals and poisonous air rises a new breed, the hybreed...who will stop at nothing to search out and obliterate the remnants of man. Can one reporter from the Galaxy News Network save us from an army of mutants?

Original Version


I am seeking representation for my novel, Hybreed Rising, the first in a series called The Hybreed Chronicles. [I can tell you've formed a strong attachment to the word "hybreed," but if you can't somehow manage to break free of it, this project and your writing career are essentially doomed.]

By the 22nd century the American Empire has ruled the Earth for two hundred years, and now it is on the brink of a paradigm shift. [It's already the 21st century, so you're saying 100 years ago the American Empire started ruling the Earth. Either the math is off, or this is planet Earth but with a completely different history--which makes it Rigel IV.] Christopher Hansen can do a little 'shifting' of his own, but he doesn’t know how or why. When he is forced to put aside his version of community service to find answers, help comes from a most unlikely source: Department 118 of the American Empire. With their aid Chris discovers an inner threat to the livelihood of his kind [His kind has a livelihood? I can think of many livelihoods shapeshifters (if that's what he is) would be good at: body double, female impersonator . . . Elvis impersonator . . . but it's hard to believe all shapeshifters' have one livelihood.] and an outer threat to their very existence – both of which are set against him. What’s more, exposing the threats may lead to the destruction of life on Earth through inter-species war. Can Chris neutralize the dangers to his kind while keeping his life and values intact? [Screw values. When the stakes include the destruction of life on Earth, no one's gonna worry about whether shoplifting is bad.] What are the true intentions of Department 118 and the Empire toward his people? Will Chris ever find a place where he can belong? [And most importantly, will I ever clarify what the hell I'm talking about?]

Hybreed Rising is the first book of an epic tale wherein werewolves play an integral part, but don't be fooled: This is not part of the horror or paranormal genre. [I tried not to be fooled, but you got me.] The story is set in the future where America is an empire, so it might be considered Commercial Fiction or Alternate Reality. [I'd go with alternate reality. I feel like I'm in one now.] It is told in two parts which correlate fluidly and offer further installments. [You lost me after "two parts."] Part One (38,364 words) sets the stage, introduces the main characters, and allows them to meet and overcome challenges. [This sounds like a new season of Survivor.] [Part Two is the Tribal Council, right?] Part Two (50,892 words) brings in lycanthropic cultures [Wait a minute . . . Did you say lycanthropic cultures?!] (you read it right: lycanthropic cultures), a shadow organization with its own agenda, and a grand battle between tribes of werewolves. [Survivor would be much more interesting if it had tribes of werewolves.] The story addresses moral and ethical issues, [Like, is it wrong to vote a tribemate off the island just because he tears out Jeff Probst's throat?] and also offers mystery, action, and humor (bad puns included). [Bad puns are never a selling point.] The full manuscript (97,615 words) [Part 1 (38,364)+ Part 2 (50,892) = 89,256 words. Apparently this is one of those novels where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.] and a synopsis are available upon request. Novellas which explore the adventures of Chris and his comrades are also available, [as are flash fiction pieces and limericks,] and a novel-sized sequel is currently in development.

My name is ______________, but I use the pseudonym _______________. I’m nowhere near as interesting as this story. [Anyone more interesting than his story should trash the story and write his autobiography.] I believe wolves and werewolves are among the most misrepresented and misunderstood creatures in literature and cinema. [I might buy that about wolves, but werewolves? How do you misrepresent a werewolf?] My aspirations include discussing these subjects [You aspire to discuss the misrepresentation of werewolves?] and other related storylines, seeing my works published, and perhaps building a fan base. [For you or for werewolves?] One of the short stories based on this storyline appeared in the final issue of Fang, Claw and Steel, and another appears in beginning issues of Is this Reality? Magazine. [A magazine that publishes werewolf stories can't come up with a better name than Is this Reality?]

I posted queries and excerpts on internet forums to gain feedback on my innovative take on werewolves. Many readers commended my portrayal, which incorporates self-awareness, unique cultural aspects, and authentic wolf characteristics [like fangs, claws, lungs that can blow a house down, and an uncanny resemblance to Red Riding Hood's Grandma] into the creature. Hybreed Rising effectively re-envisions werewolves while telling an endearing, entertaining story with strong, relatable characters. Testimonies from readers are available upon request. [It's always helpful, when a query is too long, for it to have a paragraph like that one, so I can just say delete the whole thing.]

Further research proves audiences are tired of the same old 'Jekyll-and-Hyde' storyline forced upon the werewolf mythos. [If you think audiences are tired of it, you should hear what the werewolves have to say.] [If audiences are tired of the same old wolfmen, instead of giving them different wolfmen you might give them kangaroomen or cowmen. Maybe it's not the mythos people are tired of, maybe it's the fact that it's always a wolf. If you're reading about a hybrid, why must it be man/wolf?

Geneticist 1: We have the means to create a hybrid of a man and any animal in existence. Which animal should we use?]

Geneticist 2: How about a wolf?

Geneticist 1: That's what I was thinking.]

Fortunately, Hybreed Rising takes this classic back player of monster stories and brings them into the limelight from the direction of soft genetic science, addressing many never-answered questions of werewolf existence. [For instance, Q: Do werewolves exist? A: Yes.] Hybreed Rising investigates the coexistence of the dual natures such a creature would inherit, exploring what a merger between man and wolf might create under individual circumstances and life experiences.

I hope this short explanation [Short? My Masters thesis was shorter. (But hey, how much can you write about the religious symbolism in John Grisham's novels?)] captures your interest. I give my sincerest thanks for your time and attention, and stand ready to send my work at your request. I can be reached at _________ or __________ for your convenience.

Kindest Regards,


Werewolves don't exist. Thus anyone can portray werewolves any way they want without fear that they are misrepresenting them. I'm sure you wouldn't like it if someone read your book and declared that you misrepresent werewolves.

The first long paragraph, which is your plot, is too vague. What is meant by paradigm shift? What is meant by "shifting"? What is meant by "his version of community service?" What is the inner threat? What is the outer threat? Tell us specifically what's going on. Focus on Chris. If he's a werewolf, say so.

Most of the rest is more likely to hurt your cause than help it. Get rid of everything that could be construed as bragging about your book. Every author thinks his book is innovative and original. An agent can't tell which ones really are until she reads them, so just make the plot sound intriguing/exciting/fun/whatever. That's the way to get her to want to read it. Not by declaring it great. The author is the last person she's gonna believe.

Selected Comments

A lot of that was stuff that's fun to talk about with your fellow aspiring authors, but it sounds daffy in a query letter. The "HYBREED" word does not seem to be an asset. I don't see the benefit of spelling hybrid wrong. If you need to make up a new word, think of something that doesn't look like you can't spell hybrid.

I'm guessing the plot is meant to be a literary expose of racism using space werewolves as the minority, combined with an epic space opera quest in which protagonist must save the world from baddies & machines. More plot detail would be more helpful than the discussion about werewolf genre.

150 said...For me, the most telling detail is that you didn't round off your word count. Round it to the nearest thousand. Giving it to the word indicates that you're not used to rewrites or chopping a few hundred at a time. Read a few good examples in the archives and try again. You're leaving out important information and giving us way, way too much unimportant stuff.

Blogger writtenwyrdd said...Gak! This is all about you and not about the book. Start over please and tell us the story. And I have to agree the word hybreed should go, it's silly sounding.

Steve said...If your novel is about werewolves in the 22nd century, I think it's most likely to be shelved in the SF section of bookshops, despite your attempts to push it into a More Respectable Genre (with or without Superfluous Capitals). As an unashamed SF/fantasy/horror fan, I think you should wear your genre label with pride, but that's just me.

I've lost count of how many times I've heard someone say they've got a uniquely new (and also accurate) take on werewolves ... I like werewolf stories; I'd probably read this. But to convince me you've genuinely got something new and original you've got to fill in some of the details. What are the challenges your protagonist faces? How is he threatened, and how does he respond? What is this "Department 118"? (It's not what you'd call either informative or evocative, that name.) Basically; I'm not interested in your Internet focus groups, I want to know what happens in the story!

Adam Heine said..."The story is set in the future where America is an empire, so it might be considered Commercial Fiction or Alternate Reality." I'm fairly certain it wouldn't be considered Commercial Fiction. Putting it in the future, with a scientific (rather than a magical or merely racial) explanation for werewolves, puts this squarely in the Science Fiction or Horror genre.

Anonymous said...It was very dry reading. For as long as it is, you have barely anything about the story. I don't care what it might or might not do for werewolves in fiction. As is, I wouldn't read this book at all.

Also, aren't epics supposed to be really long? For some reason, 93k doesn't strike me as long enough to really classify as an epic. Especially if it's only in two parts. You might want to look up the requirements for something to be called an epic before you claim your work is one. That's one of my pet peeves.

Another thing, which might just be me, but your side story novellas, are those from the same period of time as the two part story you're talking about here, or are those afterward? If they're part of the story you're discussing, why not go for a real epic and put them in there where they belong? And if they're after, why not just put them in the sequel? It strikes me as odd that you'd want side novellas for what I'm guessing is an adult work. I know children authors do that occasionally, but I don't think I've heard of that being done by adult authors...though I could be wrong.

Moth said...Ok, here’s my issues with this query:
1. Hybreed. It just looks like you don’t know how to spell hybrid. I’d trash this word and come up with a new one.
2. “the first in a series called The Hybreed Chronicles.” You can mention this is part of an intended series, but it’s really not a good idea to write your epic Wheel of Time-esqe series until after you’ve sold the first book. Unless you intend every book in this series to be a stand-alone you'll be wasting your time if the first book never sells.
3. “Can Chris neutralize the dangers to his kind while keeping his life and values intact?” This whole section, with all the questions is really cheesy. It feels a bit like a Flash Gordon serial: “Will our brave hero make it out in time?” Probably not the feeling you want to evoke. Also, don’t ask questions you’re not going to answer in the query. This doesn’t really create anticipation, just annoyance.
4. “The story is set in the future where America is an empire, so it might be considered Commercial Fiction or Alternate Reality.” Or Science Fiction? How much research can you have done if you don’t realize this reads as SF?
5. “It is told in two parts…” They don’t care how you structure your novel. Just give them a rounded up word count at the beginning along with the genre. IE: “My novel, XYZ, is a SF novel complete at 95K words.”
6. “…a novel-sized sequel is currently in development…” Think you mean a novel-length sequel.
7. My name is ______________, but I use the pseudonym _______________. Unless you’re famous for writing under that pseudonym, agents won’t care at this point in the game. Wait until you’ve got a contract to worry about your pseudonym. This line is just wasting space. So is:
“I can be reached at _________ or __________ for your convenience.” As you can put all pertinent contact info in a header at the top of your query.
8. Also, like EE said, telling the agent everything out on the market currently is crap is a good way to insult agents who might already have some of those “same old 'Jekyll-and-Hyde'” werewolves on their lists already.
9. Also, I’m not going to take your word for it that the story is “innovative”, “endearing” or “entertaining”. You telling me it is all of these things makes me think it’s not going to be. Let the writing speak for itself.
10. "and perhaps building a fan base" Perhaps? You're not sure you want to build a fanbase?

I hope you’ll give another whack at this and post the revision here when you’re ready. Best of luck with this.

Matthew said...Show us how werewolf Chris is different than common werewolves, don't tell us. Start a new query and focus on your main character. Explain his ultimate goal, his motivation and what/who stands in his way. Anytime you feel the urge to add something about your views on werewolves, roll up a $5 bill and throw it out the window.

Aimee K. Maher said..."Anytime you feel the urge to add something about your views on werewolves, roll up a $5 bill and throw it out the window." Best. Advice. Ever.

Whirlochre said...Everything after paragraph 2 can go — as WW says, there's too much info about yourself here. This leaves werewolves in the future, which is intriguing, especially if they have zap guns. Flesh that idea out more specifically, and condense all the stuff about the American Empire into a couple of nippy lines and you may have something.

Oh — and 'hybreed' counts against you.

Eric P. said...When I hear "hybrid" I immediately and only think of lettuce (my dad's a gardener). So if you must call them "hybreed," you could make them werelettuces. Now that's an innovative take on the mythos.

Steve said...Eric P., curiously enough, a friend of mine at school (many years ago, obviously) used to regale us all with tales of a character called Fred Lettuce, the Abominable Werecabbage. Sometimes I wonder what became of him. (The friend, that is. Not the werecabbage.) But I think you're right - generally speaking, the story potential of werevegetables has not been adequately exploited.

Dave F. said...Were-vegies hasn't been explored but the kiddie version - Veggie-Tales - and the adult version - Aqua Teen Hunger Force - explores the variety of cinematic adventures that vegetables and household objects can solve.

I don't mind "Hybreed" at all. This is Sci-Fi and if Douglas Adams can have Vogons, Vl'hurgs and G’Gugvuntts and a computer with a John The Baptist fixation, I can live with Hybreed.

Not to mention Viltvodle VI where they invented the underarm deodorant before the wheel.

Anonymous said...I dated a werecabbage once but it didn't work out. They go to seed so fast...

Stick and Move said...Specifics. Details. What are the obstacles and the stakes? The agent doesn't care about your aspirations, or your feelings about the poor misrepresented werewolf. Do you have a story they can sell or not? Show the agent critical glimpses of your story that will interest them in reading some pages, don't tell them what is wrong with the current genre selections. And the next time you have the urge to offer testimonies from your beta readers, take a tack hammer and hit yourself between the eyes with it until the urge goes away.

Lick your wounds, take some deep breaths, then consider the sound advice given here and start over. Chances are you have a good story, but it isn't coming through in the query.

1 comment:

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Dang, that was one condescending query letter.

The $5 bill thing is a great idea, but for lines like "but don't be fooled" and "you read it right: lycanthropic cultures" a writer ought to chuck at least a $30 bill out the window.