Query help please

Hi
After trudging through most of Query Shark I attempted my first query. Most of the websites suggest a certain points to be listed - MC, Goal, Stakes, Antagonist etc. I have attempted that but not sure if it actually fits the bill. Will really appreciate if you have any feedback on the below. Thank you!

Revised Query on post 10 below

Dear [Agent]
I am seeking representation for my psychological thriller.

After a harsh childhood spent in foster homes, ALICE BENNETT thinks she has it all figured out.
A nurse’s job in the NHS – check
A one-bedroom flat in East London – check.
And one heck of a migraine for company – check, check, check.

What’s definitely not on Alice’s list is being haunted by a shadow from her past.

When Alice returns home one evening to discover her abusive neighbour dead, she is thrown into the spotlight of the friendly, neighbourhood British police.

A few more run-ins with the police convince Alice she has a stalker. And biological-mother, residing in Wakefield prison, might know the stalker.

But Mum offers no answers. Instead, Alice finds she could land with an ex-con for a flatmate, and somewhere along the way Alice has lost five years of her life.

The Shadow strikes again. An abusive mother is killed. The DS on the case is threatened. Even Alice’s newly adopted pet cat is at risk.

Alice is forced to confront her dark childhood memories. Her past explodes in her face. Alice discovers she has a deadly Midas touch. Every abusive person she comes in contact with, drops dead.

Alice must dig out the truth from the murky gutters of her past before the over protective shadow kills everyone she knows.

The manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. Thanks for your time and consideration!

Okay so…

First section -

After a harsh childhood spent in foster homes, ALICE BENNETT thinks she has it all figured out.
A nurse’s job in the NHS – check
A one-bedroom flat in East London – check.
And one heck of a migraine for company – check, check, check.

(Eliminate the checklist things is my first instinct. Because you already have something undesirable on her list in the migraine and then the joke of not being hunted by her past falls flat because of it)

I would trim to -

After a harsh childhood in foster care, ALICE BENNETT is finally a semi-stable adult, with her nurse’s job in the NHS, a tiny flat in East London, and one heck of a migraine for company, courtesy of her drunken neighbour.

(So that provides the setup for the second paragraph of the murdered neighbor and why she would be questioned.)

Alice returns home one evening to discover the loudmouth murdered, and is questioned by the police. A few more strange occurrences and interviews with the officers convince Alice she has a stalker. Her biological mother, resident of Wakefield prison, might know the stalker, but offers Alice no answers.

(Now this is where the problems seem to set in moreso. Things get very confusing and jump around too much.)

Instead, Alice finds she could land with an ex-con for a flatmate, and somewhere along the way Alice has lost five years of her life. (This whole sentence is strange - pops out of nowhere and doesn’t feel rooted to anything - she could land a roommate? Or does? Who is the ex con? Is it her Mom?)

The Shadow strikes again. An abusive mother is killed. (How is this connected to Alice? Is it her Mom? We know how the neighbour is, but this is not clear.) The DS (What’s a DS?) on the case is threatened. Even Alice’s pet cat is at risk (don’t need to know it is newly adopted)

Alice is forced to confront her dark childhood memories. Her past explodes in her face. Alice discovers she has a deadly Midas touch. Every abusive person she comes in contact with, drops dead. (I feel like these sentences should go somewhere in the 5 year paragraph above)
Alice must dig out the truth from the murky gutters of her past before the over protective shadow kills everyone she knows.

— With some of the answers to the above questions I can help edit further.

Hi @BridgesTunnels - Thank you so much for taking time to edit. Your response prompted some questions in my head as to how my query comes across as a first glimpse. I was debating if the checklist is a bit of overkill. And I that para about the Ex-con… has been bothering me since I wrote it Lol. I will rewrite this one and post (I think I can edit the OP?). Your feedback is really helpful , thank you once again.

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Post the edit in a new response and then maybe edit OP to say “See edited version below”

Because I’ll get a notification for a new post, but not your edit.

Ok I posted it as a new reply because as you say, it’s not obvious otherwise. I had a few questions on the query letter. I haven’t mentioned the below plot points, does that matter or should I leave it for the Synopsis.

  1. She dates a doctor from the hospital who turns out to have some skeletons in his closet too. He is one of the suspects.
  2. She falls for the main Detective on the case but she can’t date him while the case goes on. The detective too behaves a little odd.
  3. The story revolves between these three as suspects.

Secondly, the main selling point I think of the story is Alice is very quirky and eccentric but I am not sure how to portray that in the query letter. That is why I had the check list in there. Is it necessary to show the humour in the query letter?
I liked your suggestions a lot. I embedded them in.

After a harsh childhood in foster care, ALICE BENNETT is finally a semi-stable adult, with her nurse’s job in the NHS, a tiny flat in East London, and one heck of a migraine for company, courtesy of her drunken neighbour. (Her migraine is more related to her memory gaps although I didn’t want to mention that straightaway. Is this misleading then? The neighbour also gives her a lot of headache.)

What’s definitely not on Alice’s list is being haunted by a shadow from her past.

Alice returns home one evening to discover the loudmouth murdered, and is questioned by the police. A few more strange occurrences and interviews with the officers convince Alice she has a stalker. Her biological mother, resident of Wakefield prison, might know the stalker, but offers Alice no answers.

The Shadow strikes again. An abusive mother, whose son was Alice’s patient, is killed. Next, the Sergeant on the murder case is attacked. Even Alice’s pet cat is not left alone.

Alice is forced to confront her dark childhood memories. Her past explodes in her face. Somewhere along the way, Alice has lost five years of her life and instead, attracted a deadly Midas touch. Every abusive person she comes in contact with, drops dead.

Alice must dig out the truth from the murky gutters of her past before the over protective shadow kills everyone she knows.

Okay this is how I would tweak what you have…

After a harsh childhood in foster care, ALICE BENNETT suffers from murky memory gaps and terrible migraines. Despite this, she’s managed to put together a semi-stable adult life, with her nurse’s job in the NHS and a tiny flat in East London. Things are looking up for once, and if her drunken neighbour would just stop beating his wife, then maybe her headaches would improve too.

One evening, Alice returns home to discover the loudmouth murdered, and the police ready to question her. A few more odd occurrences result in further interviews with the constables. While they might consider her a suspect, Alice is convinced that she has someone shadowing her every move, and this figure is responsible for everything. Her biological mother, resident of Wakefield prison, might know the stalker, but offers Alice no answers. Then when the abusive mother of one of Alice’s young patients is killed, she is certain that this “Shadow” has struck again.

Forced by the circumstances to finally confront the darkness of her own childhood, Alice realizes that somewhere along the way she lost five years of memories and gained a deadly Midas touch. Every abusive person she comes into contact with lately, drops dead, albeit with a little help. Eventually, the homicide detective* on the case, who she’s grown increasingly close to, is also attacked. Now Alice is even afraid to leave her pet cat alone, and realizes she must dig out the truth from the dingy gutters of her past to finally stop the “Shadow” for good!

*Homicide Detectives are the people that investigate murders here in US - but maybe it’s different in the UK

Trying to make it less wordy I trimmed it down to about 224 words…

After a harsh childhood in foster care, ALICE BENNETT suffers from murky memory gaps and terrible migraines. Despite this, she’s managed to put together a semi-stable adult life. With her nurse’s job in the NHS and a tiny flat in East London, things are looking up. If her drunken neighbour would just stop beating his wife, then maybe her headaches would improve too.

When Alice returns home to discover the loudmouth murdered, the police question her. A few more odd occurrences result in further constable interviews. While they consider her a suspect, Alice is convinced that someone is shadowing her and is responsible for everything. Her biological mother, resident of Wakefield prison, might know the stalker, but offers no answers. When the abusive mother of a younger patient is killed, Alice is certain the “Shadow” has struck again.

Forced to confront the darkness of her childhood, Alice realizes that she somehow lost five years of memories and gained a deadly Midas touch - as lately every abusive person she comes into contact with, winds up in a body bag. Finally the homicide detective on the case, who she’s grown increasingly close to, is also attacked. Now, afraid to leave even her pet cat alone, Alice must dig out the truth from the dingy gutters of her past to finally stop the “Shadow” for good!

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Oooh, I like that one!

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Hey! Sorry, had to disappear on chauffeur duties, I mean kid pick up :slight_smile:
This is great. Wow! You have changed my first attempt to a proper thriller story. I will revise mine again. Just a few tweaks where obviously, you won’t know my plot details. I like the shorter version. It comes across tight and concise. Thank you so much for your time. This is really appreciated.

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Okay, here goes. It’s almost same as yours except for a couple of things I changed. I hadn’t made it clear before that the junior detective gets attacked, not the one Alice is interested in, but it was all too much information so I changed it.
Final questions I hope you don’t mind me asking -

  1. Slammer is a very British term for prison. Should I change something it to prison to appeal to US agents or do you think it would be okay to have such a slang?

  2. The book starts off with the Shadow’s POV. Most of the book is in Alice’s POV but there are few short ones from the Shadow to increase the tension. Would it confuse the reader to read this query and then jump to a story where they are reading a different POV?

After a harsh childhood in foster care, ALICE BENNETT suffers from murky memory gaps and terrible migraines. Despite this, she’s managed to put together a semi-stable adult life. With her nurse’s job in the NHS and a tiny flat in East London, things are looking up. If her drunken neighbour would just stop beating her cats, then maybe her headaches would improve too.

When Alice returns home to discover the loudmouth murdered, the police question her. A few more odd occurrences result in further constable interviews. While they consider her a suspect, Alice is convinced that someone is shadowing her and is responsible for everything. Her biological mother, resident of Wakefield prison, might know the stalker, but offers no answers. When the abusive mother of a younger patient is killed, Alice is certain the “Shadow” has struck again.

Forced to confront the darkness of her childhood, Alice realizes that she somehow lost five years of memories and gained a deadly Midas touch - as lately every abusive person she comes into contact with, winds up in a body bag. Finally the detective on the case, who she’s grown increasingly close to, informs her 'fresh out of slammer’ Mum has also been murdered.

Alice must dig out the truth from the dingy gutters of her past to finally stop the “Shadow” for good!

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Slammer is fine.
No worries on POV change.
No need to cap Alice’s name in the query. That’s a synopsis thing.

I like the tone, but it’s very this happens, then this happens, which is more synopsis territory than pitch. A few suggestions:

After a harsh childhood in foster care, Alice Bennett suffers from murky memory gaps and terrible migraines. Despite this, she’s managed to put together a semi-stable adult life. With her nurse’s job in the NHS and a tiny flat in East London, things are looking up. If her drunken neighbour would just stop abusing her cats, then maybe her headaches would improve too.

When Alice returns home to discover the loudmouth murdered, the police consider her a suspect. But Alice is convinced that someone is stalking her and that someone is the murderer. Her biological mother, resident of Wakefield prison, knows something but offers no answers. More murders, including her mother’s, throw more suspicion on Alice. Somehow she has lost five years of memories and gained a deadly Midas touch – rather than turning to gold, people she touches are turning up in body bags.

Alice must dig out the truth from the dingy gutters of her past to finally stop the “Shadow” for good!


The last paragraph… what choice does Alice have to make? What are the stakes? Is there anything on the line other than being killed by the Shadow (or having more people die)? Is there a particular person who is being targeted that she has to protect?

Okay further working with all of the versions so far…

After a harsh childhood in foster care, Alice Bennett suffers from murky memory gaps and terrible migraines. Despite this, she’s managed to put together a semi-stable adult life. With her nurse’s job in the NHS and a tiny flat in East London, things are looking up. If her drunken neighbour would just stop abusing her cats, then maybe her headaches would improve too.

When Alice returns home to discover the loudmouth murdered, the police label her a suspect. Odd occurrences and victims mount, throwing increasing suspicion on her. Yet Alice is convinced that someone is shadowing her, and this stalker is the killer. Wondering how she lost five years of memories and gained a deadly Midas touch where anyone she is connected with becomes a corpse, she turns to her biological mother, resident of Wakefield prison, for answers. As usual Alice gets nothing from the encounter. But shortly after, her Mum gets something - (a broken neck, gunshot wound, etc) courtesy of the Shadow.

Now Alice must unlock the hidden truths from the dingy gutters of her past, so she can cure her headaches, clear her name, and stop the Shadow slayings forever!

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You are really good at this!

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Slammer would be fine to use.

I don’t think you need to work in the POV change into this blurb. After all I feel that there’s a bit of a suggestion that maybe the Shadow is an alter of Alice, like maybe she is the killer and the gaps in her memory might be happening now…

So that POV change that happens in the novel would support that hint you have here, and I don’t think you need to address it more directly than that.

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It’s so much easier when it’s someone else’s blurb. Then I find it almost fun.

When it’s my own it is TORTURE! :joy:

PS - THANKS :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Wow! You ladies are wonderfully helpful. I spent half hour this morning worrying if I should post as I don’t usually post much here on the forums and to expect something to get ripped apart is usually hard Lol. But so glad I did. You are great help.

The slight worry I have is whether I should change the book more :smiley: as the query is turning out differently. The entire story I have the reader guessing if Alice could be behind all of it but it’s very subtle right now in the story. Because keeping it subtle makes it more suspicious. Or at least I thought.

Is there a rule for Queries as to how much of the book you should give out? Some of these plot points (such as her Mother’s murder) is quite late in the stage - does that matter?

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This is perfect. This was my intention so seeing you write exactly that makes me very happy!

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You want the readers to keep guessing. I wouldn’t stress about keeping the agent guessing. It’s okay to spoil them.

Generally the set up, the inciting incident, and then the key goals and stakes are what you include in a pitch. You may have to add more to make the goal (or whatever) understandable, so it’s not a strict rule.

If our playing around has made it WRONG, definitely fix it. You don’t have to change the book, though, unless when working on the query you realize you’ve missed an opportunity. (I’ve had that happen! It’s also REALLY common for the synopsis to reveal plot holes.)

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Query blurbs can be a bit spoiler-y (so not a word lol)

You’re not revealing the final ending - who the killer is - so you’re fine.

Totally agree.

We didn’t read your book @anupamarc so we might have missed the mark on some elements.

Don’t change it because of that.

But if you feel that there are things you can tighten up, plot holes to fix, then you should do that before you query.

Put your best effort forward!

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