Query Hack: Critique #11 – NA Thriller

Dear Query Hack,

Lucy isn’t a killer, but Jean Rose must die.

Girl of Fire is the story of twenty-seven-year-old Lucy, who goes by the alias of Phoenix when she’s taking on her role as an assassin in the dark world of killing come to be known as The Underworld. She’s an exceptional assassin because this is her life’s work, but she does things differently. Rather than kill her targets outright, she uses a specially designed computer chip housed in the tip of her arrows to offer them a second chance. This gives retribution to those willing to be born from their ashes, as the remote-controlled chip interacts with the target’s brain to convince them that their body is on fire.

  • As always, be sure to write your manuscript title in ALL CAPS.
  • For your plot summary, you want to begin with the meat of the story/the inciting incident. Remove things like “This is the story about…” and jump right into the story itself instead.
  • You lost me at “dark world of killing.” Where is the story taking place? On Earth or in a fantasy world? Why is The Underworld different from the world the characters live in and how is it accessed? 
  • Be careful doing too much telling in your query “She’s an exceptional assassin because this is her life’s work, but she does things differently.” Instead, you could say something to the effect of, “Although Lucy’s worked for hundreds of clients, eliminating their desired targets, her eliminations aren’t exactly by-the-book.”
  • Interesting part about the arrows! I’m curious to see why these arrows are important and how they work. Do people have chips in their head/trackers and this arrow with the computer chip makes it so it appears these people have died by shutting of their personal trackers… or something? However, this might be too much detail to answer in a query. Instead, you could say: “Using technologically advanced arrow heads that disrupt her target’s internal hardwire, thereby making them appear as though she’d killed them…”
  • I’m not sure the last sentence in this paragraph is necessary to include in the query. Probably better left for discover in the pages. 

Lucy has one goal in life and has had it since she can remember: kill Jean Rose – The Underworld’s star assassin – or die herself trying. Lucy’s mother was murdered just after Lucy was born, and Rose had a part in the death. Lucy wants answers about that night and more than that she wants revenge.

  • I think getting to know who Lucy is as well as her vocation and the role in this world (which we still need to know more of) should be in the first paragraph of your plot summary.
  • Be careful on the wordiness in your first sentence. You could swap that to: “Lucy has one goal in life: to kill Jean Rose, The Underworld’s star assassin, or die trying.”
  • Be careful on your hyphen/dash use. The ones you have are hyphens, but you probably want to use em dashes. 
  • What night? Need more specific vs. vague conflict. (We need to know some of the overarching reasons of why Lucy wants Jean Rose dead.)

Not wanting to rush the final action of killing Rose, she follows him on his journey through excommunication – a fate Rose found himself in intentionally, further adding to her questions. Over time she discovers two things: that The Underworld she grew up in is experiencing a sense of civil tumult due to a sickness for power among high ranking members, and that Jean Rose may not be the enemy she’s believed he was from her very beginning. He’s a skilled killer with a softer side. He’s the only person in that seems capable of truly understanding her. As her expectations transform around her, she has to choose between gaining the answers she seeks about Rose, and whether or not she will kill him or fight by his side to save the only world they both belong in.

  • Why did you call Jean Rose “Rose” here? The swap confused me.
  • There’s a lot of vague conflict that I’m having a hard time following without context. (Why did he purposefully excommunicate himself? How did Lucy find this out?)
  • What is the sickness for power? Need more information (specific vs. vague conflict). 
  • I think these two sentences are best removed from the query: “He’s a skilled killer with a softer side. He’s the only person in that seems capable of truly understanding her.” Instead, state that the two begin to befriend each other/fall in love/whatever through [CONFLICT, such as a journey or teaming up to fight bad guys].
  • In general, I’d love to know more about the setting and the conflict in this world. At the moment, the final stakes don’t have as much impact as they could because the plot/conflict needs to be fleshed out more. 

Girl of Fire is a new adult manuscript that runs about 41,000 words and reads like an action thriller with literary aspects.

  • NA is an undeveloped age group at the moment. You may find more success in labeling your manuscript as adult and working with your agent one day to decide how to market your manuscript.  
  • Your word count is on the lower side. A happy-medium range is 80,000 words. 

I’ve got a BA in Journalism and Women’s Studies and write video games reviews and travel articles in my free time. I am a super-fan of the untouchable badass in stories; whether it’s in old kungfu films or modern titles like Atomic Blonde, I love a character that can literally take on the world. Bonus points if she’s a woman. Even more bonus points if she isn’t hypersexualized.