3rd SR Crapometer #99 plus 4

Dear Miss Snark,

AVERY'S STORY is a 92,000 word psychological suspense about a neighborhood feud that refuses to die. It's set in the fictional Pittsburgh borough of Kaiser Heights, where they like their sidewalks swept clean and their secrets buried deep.

Thirty years ago an illicit affair burned as hot and steamy as a rustbelt summer – until the couple's secret love child went missing. The passion turned violent. Before it ended, two men landed in the Allegheny Cemetery, and one woman took out a long-term lease in the Mayview State Hospital.

Now it's the thirtieth anniversary of the child's disappearance. Dr. Avery Graves, the eighty-three year old borough physician, looks agitated to his protégé, Rebel Figg. Avery paces his darkened den. Rebel waits. Avery's preparing to tell him about the feud that haunts him. Moments later, a bullet shatters the window of the den – and Rebel's life – as the man he loves like a father dies.

In Kaiser Heights, nothing is as black and white as truth and lies. Rebel's quest to write AVERY'S STORY pits him against the iron will of his uncle, the Commissioner of Kaiser Heights, who's determined to obscure his own father's duplicity in the crime, and the revenge agenda of the woman newly released from Mayview State Hospital. Even worse, it places him squarely in the middle of the escalating feud between Avery's son and grandson.

Thank you for considering my query.


You can't expect me to take you seriouisly if you name a character Rebel, in Pittsburgh. Macon, Georgia maybe..but Pittsburgh?

This query letter is hype on steroids. You have a couple good starting points then you fly off into hyperbole.

Just answer these questions:

Who is the protaganist?
What dilemma does he face?
How does it get resolved?

Answer each question in less than 25 words. That's the skeleton for a good query letter. It may not be your finished version, but it will give you the bone structure you need.

If you CAN'T do that...don't query me. Your novel needs the work then, not the query.


Ever since he was a yard ape, Rebel Figg felt about as relevant to the world as the slag heaps out Nine Mile Run. The only thing he had going for him was his name. So he used what he had. He was Rebel, not Reb, and it was Figg with two g's.

The only person who thought Rebel's future was bigger than surviving an unfortunate name stood across the den from him that night. Dr. Avery Graves was dictating his life into a top-of-the-line, 256 megabyte digital recorder. Ninety-three friggin hours of capacity. Rebel doubted his own life could fill up a 32 megabyte cheapo. Maybe, if he could count all the things that didn't happen. Rebel drained the last of his orange pop – flat now. Tangy but fizzless.

Avery lifted the recorder to his cracked lips. He continued his message to his grandson, Ramón. "Will I die with a bellyful of regret?" He winced as he folded at the waist and sat. The lamp on his desk illuminated his project. The rest of the den – the three chess boards in play, the dust-free portraits of his favorite mathematicians, Rebel's fingers kneading the old, soft leather of Avery's reading chair – was in shadow.

"A legitimate question, I suppose." Avery sucked a breath through his teeth making his freaky whistling sound. "A legitimate question if one were to look only at the case of Tina Savage."

The dead girl rose again to haunt Avery. Rebel saw it in his eyes.

Avery pushed the pause button, turned his faded denim pupils toward Rebel. "Did you verify the changes with Wakefield ?"

Rebel nodded. Of course he'd verified the changes with Wakefield. "In your middle drawer. You sign tomorrow at ten." Rebel had lost count of the revisions. He'd gleaned a decent understanding of Pennsylvania probate law though.

The foyer clock chimed twelve times. Rebel sat forward. "Getting late."

"It's not late." Avery's head trembled as he pushed a scrawny finger tip along the edges of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette clippings he'd pasted onto parrot-green card stock. Thirty-year-old news. About the dead girl.

The tangy odor of the glue Avery used soured in Rebel's nostrils. It reminded him of the poster he made his last semester at CMU – his new methodology for finding the primary solution to the Four Queens chess puzzle. Three of Avery's mathematician buddies in his chat room declared it brilliant. Professor Ling didn't agree. The failing grade scribbled on Rebel's project was punctuated by the mock: You? Right!

Avery pushed out of his chair and shuffled to the lone window in his den. He reached for the heavy rust-colored drape, his fingers curling inward like a dying spider's legs. He pulled the fabric aside.

"It's eerie. So like it was thirty years ago," he said. His head was bent forward and it trembled so that the pale tip of his nose almost touched the frosty pane. "Come see."

Rebel bent over to look out. Avery's breath fogged the window. Rebel used the sleeve of his sweater to wipe the glass.

This is a mess.
Find a critique group, junk yard dog variety.
Listen to them.


Anonymous said...

"Rebel Figg" is the name of a fruit-themed cartoon character, for kids. Sorry, but it is.

Susan said...

Faded denim pupils?

wonderer said...

Backstory, backstory, backstory. Stay in the moment and you'll draw us in.

Dave said...

I hear August Wilson's voice in this.

If so, don't try so hard, let the characters develop a bit slower and clean up the writing.

Anonymous said...

I think this has something. There's a good premise, and some of the writing has a lot of flair.

Just quit trying to force every single bit of backstory into the first scene. We can't take in the scene AND both characters' entire life stories at once, so we end up vaguely dizzy and with no clue what we're reading.

Like Wonderer said, stay in the moment. Give us the scene, with only those bits of backstory that are absolutely essential to our understanding of this specific scene. Work in the rest as you go along.

Anonymous said...

Where's the action? Kill the old guy, give the backstory later. Weave the backstory in as "Rebel" watches the news. Start it with "The glass exploded as the bullet...." More interesting, less blabbering.

JRBrown said...

Another person who couldn't get past "Rebel Figg". You may want to seriously consider renaming your character.

And the query letter was over the top. If it was back-cover copy I'd drop the book like a dead fish. The story might work, but the query letter sounds like the worst kind of direct-to-video budget melodrama.

Anonymous said...

I like the name Rebel. It sure beats "Cat," a name you find in every other chic lit novel. And the story wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. I disgree with Miss Snark. I think you have something; it just needs polishing.

McKoala said...

First anonymous, you owe me a keyboard.

This kind of drew me in...and then pushed me away...and then drew me in...and then pushed me away... All kinds of reasons really. The back story. The description - which sometimes was bang on and sometimes wtf. I think that it could all be fixed, but it would be a lot of work.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Mars ain't far from Pittsburgh, and I've been in or around the city for all but three years of my life.

I've never met an Avery, let alone a Rebel.

And Mayview's closed.

Oh, and a fictional borough around Pittsburgh? Damn, that one needed a beverage alert. No one here talks like that, even those of us who don't root for the Stillers or shop at Gint Iggle.

Anonymous said...

Ah, there it is! The pearl I've been waiting for: protagonist, conflict, resolution in less than 25 words each. -Wish I wouldn't have set my hair on fire with #93. My query meets this standard. Woohoo! -Sorry, I'm giddy from lack of sleep. This obsession has been keeping me awake at night.

Macon Native said...

Miss Snark, your Macon, GA reference impresses me. You must have been there at some time. But I betcha there are more little "Rebels" in Vidalia.

I agree--Rebel Figg needs a name change.