Morgan’s Query Corner:
Answering Your Query Quandaries
“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!
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.
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.
The Revised Query:
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:
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]
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!