Query Critique: Circle of Reasoning
Hello, Ms. Gardner,
I am seeking representation for A Circle of Reasoning, a 77,000 word women’s mainstream novel. Catrine Teddi and Austin Sanchez have been separated for over four years because of a misunderstanding. They are reunited by the disappearance of their child because of someone’s mistake. Between the anger and blame, romance is rekindled between the estranged parents of the child as they suffer through his disappearance.
Through a series of errors in the overcrowded confusion of his classroom, three year old Brhin-Kristoffer Teddi is forced by his pre-school teacher to leave with an unknown woman. A Circle of Reasoning is a novel that delves into the depths of the emotions and thoughts of the parents and the child; it also exposes the motives of the abductor, the director of the daycare center and the teacher that mistakenly places the child in the abductor’s hands.
A Circle of Reasoning though written as entertaining fiction shows a different angle on stalking and child abduction, it entices parents to get more involved in the daily running of their child’s care center or school.
I have worked in the childcare profession for over thirty years; have seen many incidents that range from carelessness to dangerous life threatening neglect. I have had an essay printed in Essence magazine, several articles printed in the local paper and magazine. Thank you for your time and I look forward to working with you.
This sounds like it could have potential as a Jodi Picoult-type of women’s novel, issue driven and packed with tension and emotion. The author’s personal experience working in childcare would probably lend it a nice air of credibility. I like that the first sentence immediately gives the word count and genre, giving the query a nice context.
The first couple of sentences did a good job of setting up the story. But the last sentence in the first paragraph lost me. I can’t buy the idea of “romance” amidst the tragic situation of an abducted child. It’s possible that two people who once loved one another could grow closer through a dramatic and tense situation such as this—but on the other hand, it seems highly unlikely. Don’t people tend to turn away from each other in a time like this? Even blame each other, take out their anger on each other?
But let’s just say it was possible for this couple to grow closer together through fighting for their child. It’s still not right to say “romance is rekindled” because those words connote something wonderful and fun. I cannot imagine two parents whose child is abducted experiencing anything as whimsical as a “rekindled romance.” So for me, I immediately disconnected from the story in paragraph #1. It felt almost sacrilegious for a couple to be romancing each other while their child is missing.
Moving on to the second paragraph, we get to the heart of why this query isn’t working for me. I have a set-up (the child being abducted) but that’s it. There’s no story. I think I know what happens in the first ten pages. What happens between page 11 and page 300? The query tells me that the novel delves into emotions and thoughts and motives… but something has to actually happen. We need a plot.
Paragraph #3 tells us that the novel shows a “different angle” on stalking and child abduction, but I have no way of knowing what this means. Different from what? I have a feeling that if I watch TV shows like CSI and Criminal Minds and Law & Order, I’ve probably seen every possible angle on stalking and child abduction.
The second half of the sentence in paragraph #3 (“it entices parents to get more involved…”) takes the query in the wrong direction. It shows me that this novel has a specific agenda, and that’s a turnoff. People don’t want your agenda, they want your story—and they want to decide for themselves whether your story inspired them to change their minds about something, or to take some kind of action in their lives. I think in most cases, it’s a bad idea to speak of any kind of agenda when pitching fiction. (Since I deal with a lot of Christian fiction, this is often an issue. Don’t pitch your agenda, even in Christian fiction. Pitch the story.)
The last paragraph is fine and like I said, shows your novel would have some credibility. But unfortunately since you already revealed an agenda in the previous paragraph, now it feels like you’re underscoring it with the “thirty years experience in childcare.” When you mention that you’ve seen many incidents involving children, I’m feeling the agenda pretty strongly. I’m wondering if you’ve written a novel or a thinly veiled treatise on child abduction in schools and daycares. Or worse (I caught this between the lines) a 300-page rebuke of careless or neglectful parents.
I wouldn’t request pages from this query, for these main reasons: (1) the romance amidst the kidnapping turned me off; (2) I don’t know if there’s a story here; and (3) I’ve read enough books about child abduction and am not personally interested in another one.
I’d recommend the author clarify what is meant by the “romance” aspect, making it fit the story better; then after paragraph #2, insert a couple of brief paragraphs that summarize the story, the conflict, the stakes. Convey the tension. And remove the agenda.
Readers – Your thoughts?
Rachelle Garder, Literary Agent