Morgan’s Query Corner:
Answering Your Query Quandaries
I NEVER FORGOT YOU is family saga, set in Ireland.
When Una’s childhood best friend, Cullen, puts an appeal out on TV to find her, she learns her sister is dying–and dating him. Only, Una never told anyone that Cullen is the father of the babe she bore out of wedlock.
NOTE: If you submit your query to me (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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.]
This queryest sent me her synopsis and let me build a query from scratch, and then shared an old query–with agent feedback. We went a few rounds each with this one.
The problem with building a query from a synopsis is it can veer too easily into having a synopsis feel and it’s sometimes harder to capture the voice of the narrator.
My Original, After Reading Synopsis:
[my comments are in blue/italics/brackets]
In 1983 rural Ireland, a pregnant Una runs away from home, before her mother can force her to give her baby up for adoption. Determined not to ruin her best friend’s future, Una disappears without telling Collin why.
In Dublin, the local vicar finds Una a home with the couple that runs the local leather shop. Meanwhile, Collin falls in love with Una’s little sister, Ellie. The engaged couple’s happiness is broken when Ellie is diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer. Desperate to introduce his best friend to the love-of-his-life before it’s too late, Collin’s television plea reaches Una. Una and Ellie reconnect, but Una skips the funeral, unable to face her mother.
When the sister-in-law of Una’s adoptive parents sues to take the shop away, Una turns to Collin for help. With his close proximity, Una breaks down and admits the truth to Collin. Collin must decide whether he can forgive Una for her lies, and what sort of relationship to build with his son.
[Insert stats/bio here]
Her First Attempt With Agent Feedback:
In 1983 Una Gallaher’s family told her she must give her unborn child to the nuns for adoption, so she ran away without letting the boy’s father, Cullen, know about her pregnancy. She didn’t want to ruin his life, and at seventeen, that rationale made perfect sense. [REPHRASE THIS, sounds VERY AWKWARD]
Now, five years later, she’s found a new life for herself and her son up in Dublin, but the shop owners she found refuge with are facing eviction, and they might all be on the streets within weeks. [REWORK, to me, the stakes are zero, who cares?] And her son is asking about his dad.
Una must find a new place to live and give her son what he needs—his father—but to do so, she must become the one thing she fears the most. Vulnerable. And to top it off, Cullen, the man she’s never stopped loving, is dating her sister. [I am sure there is a great story here, but the stakes sound VERY LOW, and it reads generic…I get dozens of queries a day with these kind of stakes..dig more into the heart of the story!]
I wasn’t happy with my first draft, and I slept on it. And the next day, I came back with this.
My Second Version
When seventeen-year-old Una Gallaher’s mother demands she give her unborn shame to the nuns, Una refuses. Determined not to ruin two lives, she runs away to Dublin, without telling Cullen, the child’s father.
Now, five year’s later, the life Una’s built is at risk. The shop owners who took her in are being threatened with eviction. If she can’t find a way to stop the eviction, she’s going to lose her home, her job, and her new family.
Cullen was angry and confused when his best-friend left town without saying a word. Years later, he reconnects with Una’s little sister, Ellie, and they bond over more than just memories of Una. Their happiness is destroyed when Ellie is diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer. Cullen reaches out to the local television station, putting out a heart-felt plea so that his love can say goodbye to her sister, before it’s too late.
Beginning in 1983, rural Ireland, TITLE is complete at X,000 words. [Bio]
Thank you for your time and consideration.
And with a few tweaks of their own, the queryest made it their own:
In 1983 in rural Ireland, Una Gallaher’s mam demanded that she give her unborn child up to the nuns for adoption. So she ran away, without telling the boy’s father, Cullen, about her pregnancy, because she didn’t want to ruin his life.
Now, five years later, the new life Una’s built in Dublin is at risk. The shop owners who took her in are facing an eviction, and if she can’t find a way to stop it, she’ll lose her home, her job, and her new family.
Cullen was, and still is, angry and confused about his best friend leaving town without a word; but years later, he reconnected with Una’s younger sister, Ellie, and fell hopelessly in love. Their happiness and future plans, however, are almost destroyed when Ellie is diagnosed with stage 4 skin cancer.
Cullen sends out a heartfelt plea on Ireland’s main TV station so that the girl he adores can say goodbye to her older sister before it’s too late. But Una has spent five years running from Cullen, and now that life is crashing down around her, she’s not sure she knows how to stop.
I NEVER FORGOT YOU is a family saga, complete at X words. The Almost Sisters meets The Secret Life of Bees in this family saga of sacrifice, courage, and the tragedy of pride that follows three people tied by blood but driven apart by secrets and a life-threatening illness.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Well? What did you think of the revisions? Better or worse each time?
And for the rest of you out there?
Best of luck in the query trenches!