#25 Query Corner: NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”)

Welcome to:

logo5

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”) is a YA contemporary fantasy.

In this modern retelling of Momotaro, Jin is sent to his aunt’s in Japan. Can he trust a shape-changing fox to protect him from the bullies–and save the island?

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.]

Overall Impression:

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”) is coming into a market hungry for stories like this one.

I’m going to leave the query in this order, but know that some agents prefer the story to come first and the stats to come last.

A couple of things to think about:

  • 100,000 is a bit long for YA, even for a Fantasy, and may make it a harder sell.
  • Keep the background only as much as needed to set up stakes and goals for the main character.
  • You don’t need quotes to kick off the story portion of the query.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear [Mr./Ms. Agent Name Here],

I am currently seeking representation for my young adult novel, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (aka “The Field Fox and the Foreigner” in English) [can just use the English translation], which is complete at 100,000 words [Hopefully not too long]. A stylized retelling of the popular Japanese fairy tale Momotaro, my novel is a witty, action-packed adventure similar to Rick Riordan’s series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians[GREAT comps]. With a diverse and colorful cast that will appeal to audiences across the gender and sexuality spectrum, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN is a story about a reluctant hero in a modern world.

[<<unnecessary]Sixteen-year-old Jim Smith has always come second to his father’s career, so it’s no surprise when he’s sent away on a one-way flight to Toyohashi, Japan. Despite praying his Japanese features will help him blend in, Jim’s American roots make him an easy target for bullies. When a sympathetic shrine keeper offers him a bit of luck, he never expected Nogi. An eight-tailed fox who can shapeshift into a fiery young woman or a flirtatious young man, Nogi promises the impossible: a way to fit in. Despite the myths painting kitsune as untrustworthy tricksters, Jim believes in his new friend—but for how long?”

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN was inspired by Japanese myths involving the sun goddess Amaterasu-ōkami and the first emperor of Japan, Jimmu-tennō. Although it was written as a standalone novel, there is potential to weave additional myths into the world if the story were continued. [a little clunky, there’s some standard wording for this.]

To summarize my related experience,[<<unneeded] I have a certificate in Japanese Studies specializing in mythology, history, culture, and language. Additionally, I have traveled to Japan to personally explore locations featured NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN. As one of the first students to study under [College] [Program] undergraduate program, I achieved a BFA degree in [Year] and currently work as a [Job] in [City], [State].

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you. [<< Some agents find this line presumptious. I opt on the safe side and just skip it.]

Q25


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

I am currently seeking representation for my young adult fantasy, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN (“The Field Fox and the Foreigner”), which is complete at 100,000 words. A stylized retelling of the popular Japanese fairy tale Momotaro, that should appeal to fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. With a diverse and colorful cast that will appeal to audiences across the gender and sexuality spectrum, NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN is a story about a reluctant hero in a modern world.

Sixteen-year-old Jim Smith has always come second to his father’s career, so it’s no surprise when he’s sent away on a one-way flight to Toyohashi, Japan. Despite praying his Japanese features will help him blend in, Jim’s American roots make him an easy target for bullies. When a sympathetic shrine keeper offers him a bit of luck, he never expected Nogi: an eight-tailed fox who can shapeshift into a fiery young woman or a flirtatious young man, Nogi promises the impossiblea way to fit in. Despite the myths painting kitsune as untrustworthy tricksters, Jim must either trust his new friend or go it alone against the bullies.

NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN was inspired by Japanese myths involving the sun goddess Amaterasu-ōkami and the first emperor of Japan, Jimmu-tennō. Although it was written as a standalone novel, there is series potential.

I have a certificate in Japanese Studies specializing in mythology, history, culture, and language. Additionally, I have traveled to Japan to personally explore locations featured NOGITSUNE TO GAIJIN. I have a BFA degree in Creative Writing from [College] and currently work as a [Job] in [City], [State].

Yours Sincerely,

Q25

***

A great sounding fairy tale reimagining!

Best of luck to Q25!


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

Advertisements

7 Tips For Writing Better Villains

Write The Villain Your Story Deserves

As I’ve discussed before, there’s a difference between an antagonist and a villain. Your story doesn’t need a villain, but if you’re going to have one, you should have a memorable one.

  • Prince Humperdink/Count Rugen
  • The Joker
  • Voldemort
  • Emperor Palpatine

These are the names and the stories that stick with us. And sometimes? We love them anyway.

But how does one create a memorable villain, worthy of one’s story? Here are some tips.

#1 – Avoid under-developed villains

Remember, villains have their own lives, outside of thwarting your protagonist. They need to be 3-dimensional characters with motivations that make sense — even if you disagree with their decisions.

#2 – If you must use a cliche, add a twist

The childhood trauma, the revenge on the government/mob/whatever, the delusion that they’re doing good…make sure you’re not following the formula too closely.

#3 – Make Sure Your Villain Isn’t Underpowered

The protagonist has to work for their win, you don’t want to just hand it to them. There has to be credible belief that the villain might win. Readers appreciate (while they’re cursing you) the anticipation and anxiety they experience during a narrow win, much better than the easily thwarted villain.

#4 – Flawed Villains

Villains are only human. (Most of them) Typically, it’s their own personal flaw that leads to the protagonist’s ability to win the day–or at least a stalemate. Pride is traditional, but something has to get them to lose control of themselves and/or the situation.

NOTE: The flip side to this is that the protagonist should win by CONQUERING their own personal flaw. Maybe not permanently, but facing it and accepting it during the story’s climax.

#5 – Villain Doesn’t Need To Mean Evil

Bad guys don’t have to be evil to oppose the protagonist. Was Mr. Smith evil (at least at first)? They just need to have conflicting goals. The teacher who’s trying to get the class to behave, the parents who just want what’s best for their children, the dedicated priestess of Cthulu who just wants the ancient ones to devour humanity… Oh, wait. Ignore that last one.

In one recent movie that I won’t name for fear of spoilers, the protagonist ends up agreeing with the villain’s argument–albeit, not their methods. Just because you’re the bad guy, doesn’t mean you aren’t right.

#6 – The Villain doesn’t have to be there in person

Often, your protagonist doesn’t even know who they’re up against when they start out on their journey. They just keep running into impediments and/or conflicts without finding the source.

And if they do figure out who’s to blame? Often, it starts with just a little whisper. A rumor.

Voldemort. Fisk. The Serpent Queen.

wpid-img_7917-1024x1536.jpg

#7 – The Villain can be representational

Sometimes, the villain isn’t a distant bad guy. Sometimes, the true bad guy is an organization. And, be it the government, the mob, or some other sort of societal aim, you can use an agent of said organization to embody the villain for your protagonists.

The Operative in Firefly, Ms. Coulter in The Golden Compass, they’re both stand-ins for the true enemy.

 

And there you have it. 7 tips for writing better villains!


***

Good protagonists deserve great villains.

Who’s your favorite villain?

3 Tips for Deciding What Point-of-View to Use

Picking a POV

All The New Things

This has been a weird week for me. Between Amazon Prime Day last week, a little space in my budget, and my beginning dealings with a new story, I’ve been trying something new every day this week.

Last week, during Amazon Prime Day, I finally replaced my fitness tracker that I broke up with 2 months ago. If you’re gonna make me un-pair/re-pair every time I want to sync my tracker? AND not save any data from previous days? You’re not worth it.

So, this week has been full of reminders to get up and walk around every hour while at day-job. And me actually using the My FitnessPal App to track my meal intake. Which of course led me to put in for that standing/sitting desk topper that my work offers to get people if they put in a request. Which led me to finding a $50 elliptical on Craigslist. Which is now sitting in my sunroom, awaiting time to see if it can fit into my tiny spare bedroom of a ‘workout room’.

AND? I picked up an Instapot. A friend came over and we (mostly she) experimented. I’m still getting used to my new grocery store and I might have to switch because this one didn’t have everything I wanted. But the honey-garlic glazed chicken was AMAZING. (Plus, we finally got back to watching Grace and Frankie on NetFlicks for the first time since I moved!)

And? Remember that story I was talking about last week? That new one that I was scared to write, worried it could never measure up? Well, I’m about 900 words into it and I, for the life of me, cannot decide if I want to use 1st-person or 3rd-person point-of-view (POV).

True, I could also debate tense, but I’m comfortable in past tense and not looking to switch it up for a novel.

You’re more likely to see, “The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifted past the cupboards and made my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignored it.”

than

“The welcoming aroma of a savory stew drifts past the cupboards and makes my stomach grumble, but CHARACTER politely ignores it.”

Morgan looks stressed and confused

POV Decision Factors

    1. What are you most comfortable with?

      Me? I’m most comfortable with 1st-person. It’s how I think, how I see my world and characters. When I’m first learning about a character and world, I make notes, but when I’m starting a story, I fall directly into 1st-person.

    2. What are the genre expectations?

      Traditionally, novels were written in 3rd-person.

      You have options in 3rd that you don’t have in 1st.

      • You can have outside information.
      • If you have more than one Main Character, it can be less confusing to the reader.
      • You can be all-knowing. OR.
      • You can do what’s known as ‘3rd-person close’, in which your story is told from basically a GoPro watching over the main character(s), that can also dip into your main character’s head and share their thoughts.

      But I write YA (and maybe MG? A chapter book? What is this new thing turning into) These days, 1st person is becoming more and more popular.

      Look at your genre’s trends.

    3. What Feels Write Right For Your Story?

      When all else fails, just see what works for your story!

      If you need to, write a chapter in one POV, and then switch it to the other.

      Personally, my 3rd-person still feels clunky, but I’d like my story to have a fairytale sort of feel to it, so I’m going to keep on trying and see if I get it right. So, this is a case of ‘wrong for me, but maybe right for the story.’

      I’ll just have to keep writing to find out if I made the right call.


***

How do you decide what point of view and tense to use in your stories?

Have you ever gotten it wrong?

#24 Query Corner: ‘PEACEKEEPER’

Welcome to:

logo5

Morgan’s Query Corner:

Fresh Eyes For Your Query Quandaries

PEACEKEEPER is a YA dystopian SF novel.

Eli must find the courage to stop his domineering adoptive father from ruthlessly taking over the Domain, even if Eli has to kill his own dad.

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.]

Overall Impression:

PEACEKEEPER sounds like a pretty solid story.

(I’m going to flip the order around due to personal preference, but some agents prefer it in your order — just remember to check before submitting.)

A couple of things to think about:

  • Dystopian is on a bit of a downswing, so depending on the tech level, it may be better to dub this either a Fantasy or a Science-Fiction novel.
  • Even if you don’t have any writer stats, you don’t have to say it’s your debut novel. If you don’t put in writer credentials, it’s assumed. Most agents want at least a tiny bio. I keep mine to 2 sentences.

Querist’s Original:

[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]

Dear Agent,

I am querying you as I feel that my novel, Peacekeeper, provides the strong relatable characters that you are searching for. The heart-wrenching nature of their trials and tribulations will have you praying for their success. [Some agents like to know exactly why you picked them to query. Others prefer a lighter touch. There are less clue-hammer ways of saying this.]

Peacekeeper is a 79,400 [round to the nearest 1,000] word Young Adult dystopian [don’t italicize and think about other categories. Dystopian’s in a bit of a downswing right now.]novel. The story revolves around the strong-willed Eli Luther. [THIS is where the query starts, don’t hide it in the stats paragraph >>] Eli has only wanted one thing for as long as can remember. The title of CommanderDominus: the most prestigious military role in the Domain. Standing in his way from achieving his life-long goal, is his jealous and ruthless adoptive father Tobias Luther. Who is prepared to do anything to keep Eli from the position and seize it for himself. No act is considered too heinous.

After an encounter with a mysterious girl and narrowly surviving an attempt on his life, Eli finds himself in league with a secret organisation. Trojan offers Eli the role of CommanderDominus, so long as he aids them in their fight for independence, and he assassinates Tobias. Now fuelled by a sense of responsibility and revenge, Eli joins Trojan.

As the covert war wages on, a plot is discovered to subject the entire Domain to a ruthless iron-fist dictatorship under Tobias’ rule. With the freedom of the Domain hanging in the balance, Eli prepares to go to war to defend his new home.

Peacekeeper is my debut novel [This should be obvious because you’re not listing your other works, but don’t emphasize your inexperience.] I believe it has strong potential to be expanded into a larger series but reads just as well as a standalone book. [There’s a smoother phrase that’s standardly accepted for this.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you. [The QueryShark finds the ‘hope to hear from you’ a bit like nails on a chalkboard. It might not offend the agent you’re querying, but I opt to leave it off, rather than potentially annoy an agent.]

Yours sincerely,

Q24


My Revision:

Dear Agent,

To escape his repressive adoptive household, 17-year-old Eli Luther decides to seek training to become the Commander Dominus–leader of the Domain’s military. Then his adoptive father, Tobias, takes the role for himself and blocks all of Eli’s attempts to any position. [This implies the jealousy and ambition without spelling it out.]

After narrowly surviving an attempt on his life, Eli is rescued by Trojan. [I dropped the girl because she was never mentioned again. Name as few characters as possible during a query.] As the leader of an underground organization seeking to oust Tobias due to his war-atrocities, Trojan offers Eli the role of Commander Dominus. To earn the title, Eli must aid their fight for independence and succeed where so many others have failed–by assassinating Tobias. Fueled by a sense of responsibility and the need for revenge, Eli agrees.

When Tobias’s plot to become the Domain’s own dictator is uncovered, Eli knows the domain doesn’t have much time left. Eli must face his fears of becoming a monster like Tobias by killing his own adoptive father or allow the entire Domain to fall under Tobias’s ruthless control.

PEACEKEEPER is a YA science-fiction novel, complete at 79,000 words with series potential. A strong-willed character, Eli should appeal to readers who’ve dealt with oppressive authorities and wished they could do something about it. [This adds the ‘strong and relatable’ note, hopefully without you feeling like it’s awkward pandering]. I write from [A PLACE] and [have a degree]. I enjoy [hobbying] in my rare free time.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Q23

***

I think we’ve ended up somewhere a little easier to read while avoiding spelling things out for the agent.

Best of luck to Q24!


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

Writer’s Block – Intimidated By The Blank Page

I never thought it would happen to me.

I was arrogant and short-sighted.

I thought writer’s block was censoring out bad writing (you know, like rough drafts), an inability to apply butt-to-seat, or thinking you’re going in the wrong direction but not knowing the right one.

I didn’t think the blank page could scare me until I decided it was time for me to try something new.

Now? I understand.

Searching for a story

For the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize it’s time for me to start something new.

But what? A new story in my old world? A new world? A story in the real world?

And whose story should I tell?

I’ve been rolling settings and motivations around in the back of my brain. Letting ideas flow through my head without conscious attention, enjoying the feel of the endless possibilities.

And tiptoeing around my fears.

The thoughts that intimidate me?

Hand holding a magnifying glass

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Basically all the good reporter questions:

  • Who are my characters?
  • What do they want? What’s their goal? What stands in their way?
  • When and where is this set? [Either in the real world or on a technological advancement scale.]
  • Why? Why is this my story? Why do the characters want their goal?

Behind these questions, though, is where my real fears lurk.

Maybe what I’ve already written is better than any new world. Maybe the manuscript I’m querying was just a fluke. I know that story better than this vague inkling of an idea, how could I possibly do this new story justice?

Except, of course:

Signpost

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Only Way Out Is Through

I’d contemplated and thought about my first world for years before I wrote it.

This new story? These new characters? This new world? They’re all so durn new to me, they’re basically transparent. I don’t know them yet, how can I even imagine I could tell their tale?

But then I remember, it took me three attempts to figure out my first world, to actually get past that 20,000-word mark and get the full story out of me. Three tries before I committed and followed the story till it was long enough.

You know what happened AFTER I finished writing 131,000 words in my then-brand-new manuscript?

After I finished and looked around is when I began to realize the theme of my story–what it had been working toward the whole time. And every draft, it becomes clearer and stronger and better plotted.

The only way for me to know for sure what story is trying to come out of me is for me to write it.

So now what?

A path through a garden

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

My (Writing) Path Forward

They say every writer works differently, and that sometimes a writer’s method will even change from story-to-story.

My plan right now is to try what worked for me the last couple times.

Writing Plan

  1. Pick a setting
  2. Pick a character
  3. Do a stupidly high-level outline. Something like:
    • ch 1 – inciting incident
    • ch 2 – complain to a friend
    • … ch 19- final battle!
    • ch 20 – denoument
  4. Start at a beginning (likely 2 chapters early while I explore the world and main character) and write until I get stuck
  5. Look at the outline. Either:
    • it helps
    • or
    • I need to rewrite the outline cause I’m going a different direction

When you’re starting a new project, what’s your process?

Do you just wait for a new idea to intrigue you and start writing while it’s fresh?

Or do you decide when you want to write something new and seek out that new idea?

As always, thanks for watching and feel free to subscribe (<<<<) I’ll be back again next Thursday with more writing tips and writerly musings. If there’s something you’d like me to talk about, feel free to email me at morgan.s.hazelwood@gmail.com. See you next week.