#5 Query Corner: ‘Dance, Dance, DIE!’

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Morgan’s Query Corner:

Answering Your Query Quandaries

NOTE: If you submit your query to me (morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com), and you are selected for inclusion, I will give you a high-level review, in-line feedback, and my own draft of your query. If this is your query, feel free to use or ignore as much of the advice and suggestions as you wish.

[Disclaimer: Any query selected for the page will be posted on this website for perpetuity. I am an amateur with no actual accepted queries and a good number of form rejections. This does not guarantee an agent or even an amazing query, just a new take by someone who’s read The Query Shark archives twice and enjoys playing with queries.]

“Dance, Dance, DIE!” a modern retelling of “Red Shoes” a fairytale where a pair of enchanted shoes force a girl to dance…to her death!

Overall Impression:

It’s already pretty strong, so don’t take my comments as nit-picking.

Solid query! It’s got stakes, personality, and as a person who’s both taken classes in almost every type of dance known to man and loves fairy tale retellings? This query hits the sweet spot for query length (250 < 283 < 300).

The only things I would change are:

  • Replace the word ‘mystery(ious)’. It’s cliche and tells us nothing. With more precision, you can make sure your story is differentiated from all the other ones out there
  • Limit lists to 3 items. Usually, you can combine 2 or more of them and it helps with the flow.
  • Put the emphasis on the plot and not on Annora’s dyspraxia. I realize this is an issue near and dear to your heart AND provides your Main Character with a unique motivation. But a defter touch won’t take away that motivation and will keep from scaring off agents who might be wary of an ‘issues’ book.
#ownvoices is important, (and a good thing!), but the story rules all.

The Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear Agent,

For fifteen-year-old dyspraxic, Annora Genn, bruises, bumps, falls, and spills are daily par for the course. Until mysterious [a little cliche] red shoes transform her from uncoordinated klutz to graceful swan—just in time to impress Holmes, a cute parkour practitioner, at the homecoming dance [he’s performing parkour at the homecoming? or is that just where she impresses him].

Now that Holmes thinks she’s an urban ninja like him, [and/or start new sentence] he wants Annora to be his partner. In an upcoming tournament. For parkour. (Cue audible gulp and nervous chuckle.) Normally, walking and chewing gum together would be challenging enough. But she’d die if he found out how clumsy—to put her aptitude for blunders mildly—she really is.[We’ve already established her clumsiness. Dyspraxia gives a fresh take on the ‘clumsy girl’ trope, but we probably don’t need to over-emphasize it.] Desperate to hide her disorder, Annora continues wearing the shoes, but soon finds herself explaining away eerie dreams, ghostly visits, and strange scratches on her skin, with increasingly thin rationalizations.

 When bloody footprints stalk her in the school hallways and her locker erupts in flames, Annora steels her nerves and investigates the shoes’ haunting origins. She discovers that the ghost girl attached to them is gradually taking possession of her body. Meaning party’s over. Forever. Annora must solve the mystery surrounding the vengeful spirit [let’s be more precise], before the sinister shoes dance, flip, and tumble her straight into an early grave. [I think this is a cute line and left it in during my revision. But I’m not 100% sure it doesn’t add a more… Middle Grade flavor to the query?]

A 72,000 word YA retelling of “The Red Shoes”, DANCE, DANCE, DIE! combines the sweet romance of EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING with the spooky chills of THE DEAD GIRLS OF HYSTERIA HALL. Both myself and my teen son have dyspraxia, a neurological condition that affects movement, coordination, planning, judgment, processing, memory, and some other cognitive skills[that’s gotta be frustrating to deal with. But… let’s make this list a little shorter]. The disorder has recently gained more awareness as celebrities such as Daniel Radcliffe, Cara Delevinge, and Florence Welch have spoken about having it.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

[Q5]


The Revised Query:

Dear ———,

For fifteen-year-old dyspraxic, Annora Genn, bumps, falls, and bruises [I prefer lists of 3 items and this puts them in chronological order] are her daily par for the course, until [a thrift store visit/an afternoon exploring her attic] uncovers a pair of red shoes. When she puts on the shoes, Annora is transformed from uncoordinated klutz to graceful swan—just in time for the homecoming dance, where she impresses Holmes, a cute parkour practitioner.

Holmes recruits the “urban ninja” Annora to be his partner in an upcoming tournament. For parkour. (Cue audible gulp and nervous chuckle.) Desperate to hide her disorder and keep dazzling Holmes, Annora continues wearing the shoes, but her newfound grace isn’t the only side effect of wearing the shoes. Every morning, Annora finds new scratch marks on her arms and she’s beginning to see the ghost of someone else peeking out through her eyes: an angry, bitter, dancer. [I dramatized this a little. Hopefully, I guessed right-ish]

When bloody footprints stalk her in the school hallways and her locker erupts in flames, Annora can no longer rationalize the happenings away. That’s when she discovers the ghost girl attached to shoes is gradually taking possession of her body and taking the shoes off won’t stop the spirit [I’d assume. Otherwise, this is more ‘is she willing to risk her life to keep the grace the shoes grant her’ story]Annora must defuse the vengeful spirit before the sinister shoes dance, flip, and tumble her straight into an early grave.

 The 72,000 word YA retelling of “The Red Shoes”, DANCE, DANCE, DIE! combines the sweet romance of EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING with the spooky chills of THE DEAD GIRLS OF HYSTERIA HALL. Both I and my teen son have dyspraxia, a neurological condition that affects movement, coordination, judgment, memory, and other cognitive skills. Recently, celebrities such as Daniel Radcliffe, Cara Delevinge, and Florence Welch have spoken about their own struggles[experiences? -Pick whichever word better suits your feelings of living with dyspraxia] with dyspraxia.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q5
 
[email]
[Twitter]
[phone]

Now, this queryist was also revising her query with a mentor separately. After several passes back and forth, she took some of my suggestions and ignored some of them. Here is her current version:

Dear Agent,

For fifteen-year-old Annora Genn, life is a daily battle against her own body.

Having dyspraxia, a hidden disorder most people never heard of, means bumps, falls, and bruises are par for the course. Until Annora receives an anonymous gift: a pair of red shoes that transform her from uncoordinated klutz to graceful swan just in time to impress Holmes, a cute parkour enthusiast, at the homecoming dance.

Her newfound “urban ninja” skills prompt Holmes to ask Annora to be his partner in an upcoming parkour tournament. (Cue audible gulp and nervous chuckle.) No way would Holmes be into her if he knew how clumsy she really is, so Annora continues to wear the shoes, only to find herself explaining away eerie dreams, strange scratches on her arms, and the dead girl lurking in her mirror. When bloody footprints stalk her in the school hallways, Annora runs out of rationalizations. And if her growing suspicions are right—the compulsion to keep wearing the shoes isn’t coming from herself.

Terrified, Annora investigates their haunting origins and learns that a vengeful ghost is gradually possessing her. For all the times she’s considered her body a burden, Annora’s not about to hand it over without a fight. And maybe—just maybe—Holmes could actually like her for herself, blunders and all. But she may never get the chance to find out, because unless Annora surrenders to the ghost girl, the cursed shoes will dance, flip, and tumble her straight into an early grave.

DANCE, DANCE, DIE! is a 72,000 word YA Paranormal Suspense that offers a compelling modern take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes”. It will appeal to fans of lightly creepy tales such as Eileen Cook’s UNRAVELING ISOBEL and Katie Alender’s THE DEAD GIRLS OF HYSTERIA HALL. Both I and my teen son have dyspraxia, a neurological condition that affects movement, coordination, and some cognitive skills, such as planning and processing. The disorder has recently been gaining more awareness as dyspraxic celebrities, such as Daniel Radcliffe, Cara Delevinge, and Florence Welch, have spoken about their personal experiences.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,
Q5
[email]
[Twitter]
[phone]

You’ll see she took my advice but didn’t always use my wording suggestions. Which is what you should do with ANY editor’s advice. (Unless it’s a line-edit…) Make their edits your own!

Best of luck to Q5!


And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!

 

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3 thoughts on “#5 Query Corner: ‘Dance, Dance, DIE!’

  1. Nice!
    Grammatical error: “Both myself and my teen son have…” This should be “Both I and my teen son have…” The reason? “Myself” can never be the subject of a verb. We don’t say “Myself went to the store.”
    Little positive asides: I like Annora’s name, is it original? Haven’t heard it before.
    I learned something new – hadn’t heard of dyspraxia before.

    Liked by 1 person

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