Query Shark

Dear Query Shark, Johnny is kidnapped on the day of his birth. Beth is a divorced, childless, and jaded nursing supervisor who's given up hope of ever finding love and happiness. BABY JOHN DOE is the story of how the course of their futures are forever altered the instant their paths cross. This is so general it's meaningless. The one specific thing you have -- "Johnny is kidnapped"-- gets buried instantly. We don't even know if Beth kidnaps him, or is the one who gets the heat (she should have been supervising more closely) when he goes missing. Start with something specific---and connect it to the next thing that is also specific. The moment Beth sees the mysterious baby, injured, unconscious, and alone, she believes she's been placed in his path to save him. While trying to adopt Johnny, she battles hospital administrators who want to take him off life-support, skepticism from her new friends, and even betrayal from the man she loves. When all seems lost and Beth contemplates ending her life, the baby miraculously awakens. What? This doesn't make sense to me. Because you start with the fact that Johnny's kidnapped, we're expecting Beth to be the victim or the perpetrator. You've led with the wrong thing. The important thing isn't that Johnny is kidnapped. The important thing is that Beth found him alone and tried to help. One of the elements of good storytelling is knowing where to focus your reader's attention. If you tell me to focus on the kidnapping --which you did by virtue of it being your first sentence--I'm expecting something other than what you're now telling me is the story. If I'd read past the first paragraph, this is where I'd stop because right here is where it's clear to me that you don't see that this is disconnected and that means you won't see it in your novel. Your query tells a story, it should entice me to read MORE of the story. As Johnny grows, Beth marvels at the remarkable person he's becoming in spite of his disabilities. The only thing marring her new life is the nagging fear that his real parents will appear one day to claim him. At midnight on Johnny's eighteenth birthday, the kidapper calls Beth to tell her who Johnny's real parents are. Expecting the worse, Beth is amazed when she becomes united with Johnny's family through the love of their son.


Post a Comment