The Saturday Slash

Meet my Hatchet of Death (or, some other colorful description RC Lewis and I come up with at any given moment). This is how I edit myself, it is how I edit others. If you think you want to play with me and my hatchet, shoot us an email.

Art by Lynn Phillips Nelson
We all know the first line of a query is your “hook.” I call the last line the “sinker.” You want it to punch  them in the face, in a nice, friendly kind of way that makes them unable to forget you after having read the 300 other queries in their inbox.
Also, for my brave Saturday Slash volunteers I will gladly do follow-up slashes (each more kindly than the next) on your query if you post them on the Query Critique board over on AgentQuery Connect. You’ll get advice from me, and also people who are smarter than me. If you do post on AQ, be sure to follow the guidelines and let me know you posted so that I can follow up!

Justin and his brother Tom share one life: They feel each other’s physical pain and emotions. Are they twins? I feel like if they were that would be mentioned here. Also, I’m getting no indication of genre here, this could be anything from contemporary to hardcore SF. It’s not *imperative* that we get the feel right off, but it helps. This is definitely something that makes your concept original, but the hook itself needs more spice.

At thirteen, Justin gets phrasing – “is shot” shot with a poisoned arrow. In a last attempt to save his life, a healer works dangerous magic to forever link him to Tom. OK – so this is a step backward in time from the hook, right? The hook is a statement of their linked status, but this is telling us how the link happened, so there’s some confusion here. Also, the poisoned arrow, healer, and magic tells us more about genre, so get the “how” of the linking up with the fact of the linking with your hook. But living with the constant echo of someone else’s feelings isn’t easy, especially when Justin knows Tom can’t stand him. Even better – forever linked and they hate each other? There’s your hook.

As farm hands, the brothers both want more from life than hauling grain and shoveling manure. After Justin finds out his father has lied to him his whole life about what? The price of tea in China?, the brothers run off to join the military. When the brothers become soldiers in a global war, they must learn to work together because their bond makes them vulnerable. Oh, nice twist here. If one dies, the other will too. But it also makes them powerful. They can bend elements to their will, sending waves of scorching hot flames, shards of ice, and bolts of lightning upon their enemies, How does this bond give them special superhero powers? Is it residual magic at work? who counter with blurring speed and a taste for torture.

Years of war leave the brothers exhausted. Neither side is winning, people are starving, and the ground is covered in blood. Justin and Tom will do anything to stop the war, and they might just be their country’s last hope, because of the one thing they never wanted. Their bond. Decent sinker here, but how does their bond and super powers make them so special? It sounds like magic is fairly common in this world, so what’s so special about them? Exactly how can this bond make or break the war?

You’ve got an original concept here, and overall the query is pretty good. You need to address the timeline issues and get the idea of them not liking each other up into the hook. That’s your hook – bonded to someone you hate, not just the bonding itself. Also, I need to know more about this war. I get that the main idea of the story isn’t necessarily the war, but I think an idea of Who and Why are very important in the query. Otherwise, it just sounds like the war only serves as as backdrop for the brother’s story. And yes, that might be the case, but right now the war doesn’t sound fully fleshed out because of the wording of the query. Tell us who is fighting, and why, otherwise the reader has nothing riding on hoping that a war ends if they’ve got nothing invested in it, plotwise.