Author Topic: Query letter for Murder On Marsh Island Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks  (Read 32234 times)

Writewayze

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Remember ... you said you can take it.   ;D

Dear agent, (good)

Frank Lightfoot did not (Beware negative use) run for sheriff to resolve the money and sex problems of (wordy) the rich and famous.  (Opening with telling the agent what Frank didn't do, as opposed to what he will, is a bad move. Also, this doesn't help the plot) But when the semi-nude (Consider an absolute: nude) body of an ex-Miss (Negatives again. Consider: a Miss Georgia or Miss Georgia) Georgia, wife of (wordy) a prominent (telling) South Georgia (There is no such place as 'South' Georgia. Also, you say Georgia four times in your query. This is the second. You get to say it once. Finally, not seeing a reason for having this dependent clause) developer, is found (passive) on the ninth (not needed) green of (wordy) an exclusive (telling) golf community (Not sure this is needed either), he is plunged (passive) into a world of (wordy) secrets (smells like a cliché)—starting (Beware -ing, dependent clauses and gerunds) with the seven DNA samples discovered in and on the body (This sounds promising with its distrubing imagery.  Can you use it as your hook instead?).

MURDER ON MARSH ISLAND (This title sounds like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Book from the 80s or something involving Nancy Drew. I recommend you change it) is an 83,000-word murder (Redundant. Most mysteries involve murder) mystery.  This is the sequel to TAKEN.  (You only CAPS ALL the title for the work you submit. For other works, from you, only caps the appropriate letters. [e.g., Taken] Also, unless this work saw publication from a mainstream press, you don't get to say this. Finally, this screams series.  And you know the rule about mentioning series in your query letter) Similar to Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change (italics), it takes place over a four-week period on St. Simons Island, Georgia. (repetition)

I am (Consider: I'm) a member of the Georgia (repetition) Association of Writers. (Can you rewrite this into active voice?) 

Thank you for your time. (good)

Brutal, I know...

Wolfe
I hate this 'Rule'...
It confuses tense with passive voice and negatives.

When Frank Lightfoot ran for Sherrif, his motives had nothing to do with  solving the problems etc... ' Probably correct, but it sounds clumsy and might get picked up as passive writing because of the 'had'. Hence, I turned off the 'style manager' feature of my 'Word' package.  ;D

I am not suggesting this as a replacement, but trying to explain why I don't like the harsh application of the Passive Voice rule. It means something entirely different to me. I don't see how the original poster could tell the agent which organisation he/she belongs to, without using the word 'Georgia' again, repetetive though it might be. As to passive voice here, I am reading up on that particular point right now!  ;)

John  ;)
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 05:47:20 AM by Writewayze »

Offline eric

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I have really no idea what you're getting at, John.  Are you suggesting that everything that's been done in the last 60 posts is unworthwhile?  Or am I just not understanding?
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 10:55:22 AM by eric »

Offline Swampfox one

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Thanks John, you echo much of what was said about my original post.  I would appreciate it if you would look at the later post and let me know what your thoughts are.
Thanks.

Writewayze

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Hi Eric.

I wasn’t aware I had suggested (Passive voice?) any previous posts were worthless.
If it seems I did, that wasn't my intention.

I wanted to point out that 'Passive Voice' is a 'so-called Rule' that is not graven in stone. It isn’t even a grammatical rule, because it is concerned with style and not grammar. So I merely said I hate this ‘Rule’. (One that isn’t a rule at all.)

For the purposes of style, I agree it is best not to use passive voice, but there are times when it is acceptable and even unavoidable.
 
Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” is one of the better authorities for our craft. In my copy it says on p 18:

‘The active voice is USUALLY (my capitals) more direct and vigorous than the passive. It also says "The habitual use of active voice produces ‘forcible writing’ ". To me then  forcible writing is considered, at times, as undesirable.

I don’t apologise for quoting Strunk and White. Stephen King virtually swears by this manual so that is good enough for me.

I normally write in MS Word, with grammar and style 'checkers' switched off and with ‘Strunk and White’ firmly closed and on my bookshelf. 

When I have my first draft finished, I switch the checkers on again and go through the Ms. paying attention to anything highlighted. I correct where I think is necessary and if needed I check with Strunk and White for clarity.

So, should I wish to comment on ‘Fred Bloggs’s ability as a shoemaker, then in normal narrative I might write:

Fred Bloggs was an expert shoemaker. He lived... etc.
 
In this case, when I say “Fred Bloggs was”, I am NOT saying that Fred is a deceased cobbler of fine repute!  I am merely informing the reader that Fred makes great shoes. (NB 'That' is another redundant word, most of the time.)

There are other ways to express Fred's expertise, but usually at the expense of excessive wordage.

So I had no intent to dismiss or belittle previous posts when I said 'I hate  'Passive Voice'. Passive voice is often picked up and sometimes unneccessarily so.

Regards

John  :)
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 03:07:24 PM by Writewayze »

Offline eric

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Yes, I understand your argument John, though some of us will differ in application.  S & W is great, isn't it?  Cheers
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 03:47:47 PM by eric »

Wolfe

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(laugh) Okay, rather than get into a debate about it, I'll step aside from query letters and allow John to demonstrate this with his experience in queries.

Yes, a time and place does come when you will and must use passive voice. But, in the modern query letter? Well ... please prove when passive form does a better job in a query than an active form.

Being intrigued, I'll step aside now.  :) Please do demonstrate.

Wolfe
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 04:26:51 PM by Wolfe »

Writewayze

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Hi Wolfie,

To paraphrase:
Is this a gauntlet which I see before me,
The cuff toward my hand? Come, let me don thee… 

Or art thou but a gauntlet of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable…
;) By the way, my style checker had a field day with Shakespeare's original words!

Now:

My post was not concerned with the rights and wrongs of query letters. I was pointing out my view of the passive voice. Nothing more.
 
I repeat, passive voice is NOT a grammatical rule. It is an issue of style. If you think otherwise that's your prerogative. In my view, inclusion or omission of passive voice, is no more or less important with query letters than with any other piece of writing.
We should get the message across, unafraid of using passive voice if it sounds more natural. Writing within certain rigid ‘rules’, can result in stultified work. That's my belief.

Most agents are sharp cookies, but I know of one or two that wouldn’t know passive voice from a dangling participle.

At the same time, when writing a formal letter, I would be chary of using the contraction "I’m", as you suggested, but then I am old-fashioned. I feel the same way about the split-infinitive, which these days, seems, overwhelmingly, to be in use.  ;)   But maybe that is pedantry up with which you need not put.  ;)

Regards and Stay Lucky


John
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 07:06:21 PM by Writewayze »

Wolfe

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Not to be fresh, but I'd be more inclined to hear your words if you didn't posture, post and then purge your account. If you cannot offer proof in practice, don't preach the profession.

JH, please repost your newest query and we'll continue.  :)

Wolfe
« Last Edit: March 27, 2009, 09:09:53 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Swampfox one

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Yes, you said the corpse dragged Sheriff Lightfoot off and killed him. Best rewrite it.
Wolfe

Now to continue:
And never again:

A corpse discovered sprawled on Marsh Island jolts Sheriff Lightfoot into anything but the run of the mill homicide.

Wolfe

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A corpse discovered sprawled on Marsh Island jolts Sheriff Lightfoot into anything but the run of the mill homicide.

It lacks excitement still.  You want something catchy with your opening lines...

Let's say your corpse was a former movie actress? You want the hook to show a potential twist (tagline) that draws attention.

Her blockbuster tanked, but her corpse drew headlines.

Since your victim was Miss Georgia, can you play with the runway or Miss America theme?  Feel free to add more powerful nouns and verbs, but lose the adverbs and adjectives.

Let's see your tagline. :)

Wolfe


Offline ma100

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Can I please remind members that this is JH Mulls query thread not a debate on the use of passive voice. If that is what
you wish to discuss John, please start your own thread.


Back to you JH.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2009, 06:33:20 AM by ma100 »

Offline Swampfox one

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Thanks Ma.  Let’s not forget this is a site to learn the craft of writing.  Personal attitudes should be checked at the door.  Now on with the craft.


Her naked body sprawled on the golf course drew more stares than she ever did as Miss Georgia.


Offline eric

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Thank you, Ma.  You'll note that John has stomped off into the ozone.

I think your new tack is promising, JH, but consider--she probably drew plenty of stares as Miss Georgia; the audience on the golf course and at the coroner's is going to be quite a bit more limited in number.  So there is something of a practical does-not-compute thing about your current effort.  Can you go further along that track?  What about the kind of stares?

Wolfe

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A corpse discovered sprawled on Marsh Island jolts Sheriff Lightfoot into anything but the run of the mill homicide.

Since John declined to demonstrate, I will put my money where my mouth is.  Yes, passive voice will work if you know the technique.  Death is the third passive voice exception. I discussed the other two exceptions in another thread, prior.

I'll provide an example that uses the death exception and passive voice. Tread carefully with this technique—especially in a query letter.

Fair warning.

This query opener below uses the five-line technique. I cheated though.  :D I used four.

The Mermaid. That’s what the paparazzi called the corpse found on Marsh Island, but Sheriff Lightfoot thought it just another homicide. He was wrong. And the events afterwards would forever mark him in infamy. She was the mermaid, but he was THE MARINER.

THE MARINER is an 80,000-word mystery.


In this way, yes, you can use passive voice.  I still suggest you use active voice in almost all cases. Yes, style has its place, but know when, where, and why you use passive voice.

Again, just an example when you use the third exception.

Perhaps, you would like to use this technique instead JH?

Let us know. :)

Wolfe
« Last Edit: March 28, 2009, 05:37:35 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Swampfox one

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No I would not.  I know as I told you the responce from Active voice is better, higher. 8)  It's learning how to write a great active voice query everytime is what I am after.  ;D