Author Topic: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut  (Read 18994 times)

Offline augustiner

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #45 on: May 14, 2014, 02:15:10 PM »
Thank you Wolfe. You keep saving me. I thank you in advance for the link and will read it now. Best, Aug

Offline Annmarie

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #46 on: May 14, 2014, 02:55:07 PM »
Great link, Wolfe.
Work hard. Believe. Take a chance.

Offline Dawn

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #47 on: May 14, 2014, 03:04:57 PM »
Excellent link, Wolfe -- very helpful, thank you. ;)

Maybe a mod could add it to the Author Resources? ::)

Consider it done
Time to take it serious and get the job done

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #48 on: May 14, 2014, 03:14:41 PM »
Merci, Cherie. ;D

Offline augustiner

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #49 on: May 14, 2014, 03:28:46 PM »
I've got the query down to 238 words. To show you what I'm working from, I pasted below the 1 page synopsis that explains the most important parts of the novel. It's rough and has not been edited. But maybe someone reading that synopsis  can help me out of my struggles to create a perfect query. Again, I thank everyone in advance.

In THINK OF THE CHILDREN, responsible twelve-year-old latch key kid Daniel Hoover see a way out by winning an athletic scholarship to the elite Fieldstone Place Academy. A straight-A student and a wrestling champ, he struggles to raise his mentally-challenged younger brother and keep the household running. While he accepts his lot in life, he wishes he has the opportunity to hang out at the Packard Mall like his classmates, wasting allowances at the arcades. But when Sammy, the school bully, fights Daniel, something within him snaps. All the indignities he has ever faced—his family’s staggering poverty, the weight of his single mother’s expectations—are in his fist that knocks Sammy so hard that he ends up in a coma. As his fate hangs on whether the bully will pull through, he must find a way to deal with all his anger or else it will consume him. And when Sammy’s parents decide to sue, in a desperate attempt to put things right, even him getting into prep school, Daniel concocts a plan so crazy that it might just work. It has to work—his life depends on it.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN, a 97,000 word new adult debut, is a cautionary tale about bullying and a story of a child’s indomitable spirit and fire against all odds. t will appeal to fans of Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and, more recently, Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation.

































ONE PAGE PLOT SYNOPSIS

Twelve-year-old latch-key kid DANIEL HOOVER has a strong moral compass and has never been in trouble at school. He’s a straight-A student and a wrestling champ. He believes his life would change if he wins a sports scholarship to the elite prep school Fieldstone Place Academy. In the absence of adult supervision, he raises his mentally-challenged younger brother Ricky and keeps the household running. 

Meanwhile, Judith, Daniel’s single mother, struggles to hold down three part-time dead-end jobs. She fights a constant internal quandary and conflict over whether or not she’s being a good mother. She can’t escape the painful memory of her having an affair while her husband Sissil was in prison. Sissil committed suicide when he found out—through means Judith has never understood. She conceals that Ricky is the son of the man with whom she had an affair. She conceals from her children her regret and sadness and makes a promise to herself to plow on as if nothing has happened. Judith chooses to become someone who laughs and makes jokes more readily than her predicament allows. But when she makes a slip to Daniel about Sissil, Daniel is finally able to unravel the secrets shrouding his dead father. He discovers something more dark than anything he could’ve imagined, and he must come to terms with the fact that he might have played a part in his father’s death.

SAMMY PEERYBINGLER, the captain of the wrestling team and the school bully, is sick of seeing their coach pay more attention to Daniel that he promises to mess him up while the prep school recruiter is around. After Sammy makes good on that threat, something within Daniel just snaps from all the indignities—large and small—he has ever faced and is in that fist that knocks Sammy so hard that he ends up in a coma. The recruiter, having arrived, has witnessed the whole thing. Daniel has spent his whole life trying to stay in control. Now he can’t. He uses his fists to let go of all the rage he has. He uses them to hit his brother, to destroy school property, and to punch a glass door so hard that it renders his entire wrestling career over. He must get back to his good side but he feels a long, long way from it.

That night, at Daniel’s house, Coach tells him the terrible news that Sammy is dead by Daniel’s own hand. Sammy’s parents file a suit against Daniel himself. A favorable personal injury verdict would be for Daniel to pay the Peerybinglews for their loss once he turned eighteen and gets a job. So Daniel is trapped. He has to go to work after high school, which means he can forget all about going to college. With only a high school degree, he will inherit the kind of jobs that his mother holds, the world of dead-end retail and server positions, and he might never have the opportunity to leave his small Midwestern town.

When Daniel’s mother returns from work, he admits to her the reason why his father died. He knows now that Ricky is his half-brother. His mother is beside herself; she’s so disturbed that she has to leave home, walking out on Daniel, whom she now can’t face. Daniel feels hopeless, and has no idea how to remedy everything, every single thing he has destroyed or lost. But it comes to him of what he can do. He finds himself on a divider on a highway in the middle of the night. He has promised himself that he’d find his way out of this town anyways. Daniel braces himself as he sees a semi approaching and when it’s a few inches from where he’s crouching on the divider, he jumps.

Offline Dawn

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #50 on: May 14, 2014, 03:52:14 PM »
Personally, I think you need a break from this. You're making silly mistakes with spellings. Take a rest you've earn't it. Your query isn't going anywhere, come back to it with fresh eyes. Jmo of course.
Time to take it serious and get the job done

hillwalker3000

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #51 on: May 14, 2014, 04:34:03 PM »
At the risk of getting my wrist slapped again for repeating the same advice over and over again:

In THINK OF THE CHILDREN, responsible twelve-year-old latch key kid Daniel Hoover see a way out by winning an athletic scholarship to the elite Fieldstone Place Academy.

As an opening sentence this won't work because we don't get to see why he needs 'a way out' - already your agent is confused.

A straight-A student and a wrestling champ, he struggles to raise his mentally-challenged younger brother and keep the household running.

You need to reveal this at the start so we can understand where the conflict might arise.

While he accepts his lot in life, he wishes he has the opportunity to hang out at the Packard Mall like his classmates, wasting allowances at the arcades.

I can't begin to understand why you still see the need to include this ^^^ in your query. It's inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, surely.

But when Sammy, the school bully, fights Daniel, something within him snaps. All the indignities he has ever faced—his family’s staggering poverty, the weight of his single mother’s expectations—are in his fist that knocks Sammy so hard that he ends up in a coma.

This is better. But a 46-word sentence? You have to trim this to the bone.

As his fate hangs on whether the bully will pull through, he must find a way to deal with all his anger or else it will consume him.

Now you're muddying the waters. Where's the scholarship plot disappeared to? Is it just his anger Danny has to get to grips with? Or the guilt of almost killing someone? Or the shame at failing to gain his scholarship? There's so much that you're better off not mentioning any of the above here.

And when Sammy’s parents decide to sue, in a desperate attempt to put things right, even him getting into prep school, try to focus on keeping this simple Daniel concocts a plan so crazy that it might just work. It has to work—his life depends on it.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN, a 97,000 word new adult debut I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean - if it's a debut it's obviously new - and an 'adult' novel about a 12-year-old kid? How are they expected to market this?, is a cautionary tale no no no - you sound as if you're writing a sermon now rather than a novel about bullying and a story of a child’s indomitable spirit and fire against all odds. t This underlined bit is superfluous and reeks of desperation imo will appeal to fans of Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and, more recently, Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation.

As others have already mentioned - there's more of a problem here than your ability to summarise your plot into a simple 3-paragraph query. You seem incapable or unwilling to write concisely.

Your synopsis? - I skimmed it because it's long-winded.
But I'm seeing at least two separate plot threads. Daniel's story and Judith's story. I'm not sure how one novel can sustain two such convoluted plots.
Also you use 157 words to tell us that Daniel loses his temper, punches school bully SAMMY PEERYBINGLER (questionable choice of surname btw) and risks gaining his scholarship.

The closing two paragraphs look sloppy and rushed. They do you no favours because now you've stopped summarizing. You're paraphrasing one particular element of the story in way too much detail.

You record how Daniel discovers news of Sammy's death - as if that's pertinent to the plot. Why did your query fail to mention Sammy's death? Surely that's a pivotal plot element - more important than him not being able to go to the mall.

And then we get a rather flat summary of what might lie ahead. . . including how he might be expected to make amends for his crime (no longer part of the story surely).
Then his mother turns up - walks out on him - and he ends it all by killing himself.

Honestly? Not so much plot resolution as trapdoor. Or are you hiding the twist from prospective publishers.

They won't like that. Good luck with selling this to an agent or publisher.

H3K

Offline augustiner

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #52 on: May 14, 2014, 05:46:25 PM »
I am not insolent and I have taken everyone's comments and have tried to pull this query together. I've been including the mall part because I keep reading about how you are supposed to start with character before leading to conflict and choice. That is my character in his norm before Daniel goes berserk. If you say I don't need it, I've cut it out. Again. I use the word "new adult" because that was in a post about my query. It's literary fiction for adults and a coming-of-age story. What's that? What do I have to convey that the agent won't be left confused?  I am not unwilling to write this concisely. I am trying to write it as best as I can. I have researched queries and they've all said that you are to leave the reader wanting more, and not give away the ending. I have met that path half way by saying Sammy is in a coma, which happens. So that means I don't have to say that Sammy dies. If I did, then most of the story would die with it because I've just laid the whole story out. Now I have the query just using your instructions. Every time I write it, someone or you come in and say that's wrong. When I don't pick things up, it is because I don't know how to write it or incorporate it in a concise manner. The query below incorporates all your suggestions. I know the plot synopsis is long winded. That's why I said it's a draft.

I don't know what "I'm not sure how one novel can sustain two such convoluted plots" means. The novel alternates between Danny's POV and his mother's POV.  When you mean convoluted plots, are you just insulting me? I'm seeking constructive criticism and have prefaced that the synopsis is a rough draft. There is a story. And a lot of it is action, with interior insights here and there.

Here's everything you taught me:

195 words

In THINK OF THE CHILDREN, responsible twelve-year-old latch key kid Daniel Hoover is a straight-A student and a wrestling champ. He struggles to raise his mentally-challenged younger brother and keep the household running. He sees a way out of his family’s staggering poverty by winning an athletic scholarship to the elite Fieldstone Place Academy. But when Sammy, the school bully, fights Daniel, something within him snaps. All the indignities he has ever faced—including the weight of his single mother’s expectations—are in his fist that knocks Sammy so hard that he ends up in a coma.  Now everything he has worked hard for hangs on whether the bully will pull through. And when Sammy’s parents decide to sue, in a desperate attempt to put things right, Daniel concocts a plan so crazy that it might just work. It has to work—his life depends on it.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN, a 97,000 word debut, is a story of a child’s indomitable spirit and fire against all odds, and a tale of hardship and hard-won triumph. It will appeal to fans of Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and, more recently, Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation.


At the risk of getting my wrist slapped again for repeating the same advice over and over again:

In THINK OF THE CHILDREN, responsible twelve-year-old latch key kid Daniel Hoover see a way out by winning an athletic scholarship to the elite Fieldstone Place Academy.

As an opening sentence this won't work because we don't get to see why he needs 'a way out' - already your agent is confused.

A straight-A student and a wrestling champ, he struggles to raise his mentally-challenged younger brother and keep the household running.

You need to reveal this at the start so we can understand where the conflict might arise.

While he accepts his lot in life, he wishes he has the opportunity to hang out at the Packard Mall like his classmates, wasting allowances at the arcades.

I can't begin to understand why you still see the need to include this ^^^ in your query. It's inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, surely.

But when Sammy, the school bully, fights Daniel, something within him snaps. All the indignities he has ever faced—his family’s staggering poverty, the weight of his single mother’s expectations—are in his fist that knocks Sammy so hard that he ends up in a coma.

This is better. But a 46-word sentence? You have to trim this to the bone.

As his fate hangs on whether the bully will pull through, he must find a way to deal with all his anger or else it will consume him.

Now you're muddying the waters. Where's the scholarship plot disappeared to? Is it just his anger Danny has to get to grips with? Or the guilt of almost killing someone? Or the shame at failing to gain his scholarship? There's so much that you're better off not mentioning any of the above here.

And when Sammy’s parents decide to sue, in a desperate attempt to put things right, even him getting into prep school, try to focus on keeping this simple Daniel concocts a plan so crazy that it might just work. It has to work—his life depends on it.

THINK OF THE CHILDREN, a 97,000 word new adult debut I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean - if it's a debut it's obviously new - and an 'adult' novel about a 12-year-old kid? How are they expected to market this?, is a cautionary tale no no no - you sound as if you're writing a sermon now rather than a novel about bullying and a story of a child’s indomitable spirit and fire against all odds. t This underlined bit is superfluous and reeks of desperation imo will appeal to fans of Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and, more recently, Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation.

As others have already mentioned - there's more of a problem here than your ability to summarise your plot into a simple 3-paragraph query. You seem incapable or unwilling to write concisely.

Your synopsis? - I skimmed it because it's long-winded.
But I'm seeing at least two separate plot threads. Daniel's story and Judith's story. I'm not sure how one novel can sustain two such convoluted plots.
Also you use 157 words to tell us that Daniel loses his temper, punches school bully SAMMY PEERYBINGLER (questionable choice of surname btw) and risks gaining his scholarship.

The closing two paragraphs look sloppy and rushed. They do you no favours because now you've stopped summarizing. You're paraphrasing one particular element of the story in way too much detail.

You record how Daniel discovers news of Sammy's death - as if that's pertinent to the plot. Why did your query fail to mention Sammy's death? Surely that's a pivotal plot element - more important than him not being able to go to the mall.

And then we get a rather flat summary of what might lie ahead. . . including how he might be expected to make amends for his crime (no longer part of the story surely).
Then his mother turns up - walks out on him - and he ends it all by killing himself.

Honestly? Not so much plot resolution as trapdoor. Or are you hiding the twist from prospective publishers.

They won't like that. Good luck with selling this to an agent or publisher.

Offline Dawn

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #53 on: May 14, 2014, 05:58:49 PM »
Augustiner, please step back from this, you are too close to this at the moment to see things straight.
Time to take it serious and get the job done

hillwalker3000

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #54 on: May 14, 2014, 06:12:58 PM »
I've been including the mall part because I keep reading about how you are supposed to start with character before leading to conflict and choice.

Ask yourself is the mall a fundamental part of Danny's CHARACTER. I don't understand how it can be.
He's a 12-year-old left to run a home and raise his brother almost single-handed. I'd expect him to have more to contend with than worrying about not visiting the mall.

That is my character in his norm before Daniel goes berserk. If you say I don't need it, I've cut it out.

You're not obliged to do as any of us on here suggests. . . but you did ask for advice on what to trim. I gave you my advice - on three occasions at least.

Again. I use the word "new adult" because that was in a post about my query. It's literary fiction for adults and a coming-of-age story.

NA fiction concerns protagonists between the ages of 18 and 25. Danny is 12. There's your first major problem.

What's that? What do I have to convey that the agent won't be left confused?

You have to tell the agent what it is Danny wants 'a way out' of. Your first sentence tells us nothing about what Danny is trying to escape from.

I am trying to write it as best as I can. I have researched queries and they've all said that you are to leave the reader wanting more, and not give away the ending.

But you're not writing this query to the reader. You're writing it to prospective agents/publishers. There's a difference. You're not allowed to hide key plot elements from them.

I have met that path half way by saying Sammy is in a coma, which happens. So that means I don't have to say that Sammy dies. If I did, then most of the story would die with it because I've just laid the whole story out.

Bingo. That's what a query is meant to do. Lay the whole story out - or at least its key elements - in three short paragraphs. The fact that Danny kills someone is key wouldn't you say?

I don't know what "I'm not sure how one novel can sustain two such convoluted plots" means. The novel alternates between Danny's POV and his mother's POV.  When you mean convoluted plots, are you just insulting me?

convoluted = complicated.
I'm not sure how you see this as an insult. The complicated sub-plot about Danny's mother and the guy who dies in prison and Danny discovering someone else is his father. . . or at least the way you present it. . . that's a separate story from the business with the wrestling scholarship and the dead bully.

By switching between two POVs it looks as if you're trying to tell two stories not one. Most established writers would struggle to juggle two plots as complex as this pair.

H3K


Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #55 on: May 14, 2014, 06:15:31 PM »
Augustiner, if you haven't done so, help yourself by reading through Query Shark.  Not just a half a page, read it and see if you can see the reasons some of the queries didn't make the cut.

http://queryshark.blogspot.com/

Do you see anything in your query that are in the failed one she shows? Can you spot the positive writing in the ones that made the cut?

Hopefully you'll say Yes to both questions.  If so, give yourself some time, stick all the work on your query in a folder on your computer or in the bottom of a drawer. Leave it there for more than an hour or a day. Give yourself several days of time away from it.

I would also suggest you let the Synopsis wait until you get the query down pat.

You can do this. Just give yourself time away so when you come back to it you can read what is actually written - not what you have in your head.


You'll be surprised after doing so that you may see some of the things people have been trying to point out to you.



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Offline Laura H

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #56 on: May 14, 2014, 06:32:49 PM »
I agree that you may benefit from stepping back from your own query and reading some others on Query Shark at this point.

It's obvious you're frustrated - take a break. Don't take the feedback personally.
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Wolfe

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #57 on: May 14, 2014, 08:18:05 PM »
NA fiction concerns protagonists between the ages of 18 and 25. Danny is 12. There's your first major problem.

That's my fault. When I read scholarship and coming-of-age, I thought college-level since it involves leaving home and similar college-level agendas. I somehow missed the age. Yes, this is Young Adult instead.

Let's do this line-by-line.


In THINK OF THE CHILDREN, responsible twelve-year-old latch key kid Daniel Hoover is a straight-A student and a wrestling champ.


First, I'm not crazy about the title. It reminds me of one of those charity commercials. And, unfortunately, that title saw use in a book published last year. Remember, you want your first line to act like a hook for your novel. Something that's blurb-worthy. Remember, the number one job for a query letter is to entice the agent to seek more. This is your opening without modifiers: Daniel is a student and a champ.

Pretty dry, right? You want your opening line to intrigue and entice.


No one trusts Jack. He's a womanizer. A thief. And a liar. Yet Stephanie wants him. And she's just killed Jack's wife to get him. She has no idea what she's gotten. Because she doesn't know Jack. But she's about to find out.

JACKED is an 80,000-word thriller.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



This is the bones of a query. Character, conflict, choices, cliffhangers. That's all. I would add more plot, but this is just an example. You want your query to read fast, to the point, and to leave unanswered questions.

Take a break and rewrite your first line. Each line after the hook should draw the reader into your plot. Practice it. Read it aloud. Listen to the sentences' rhythm. Ask if you can see it printed on the back of your book. No, queries aren't easy. But they'll teach you skills you'll also use in your novel.

Come back and post your updated lines when you're ready.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2014, 08:43:30 PM by Wolfe »

Offline augustiner

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #58 on: May 15, 2014, 11:52:38 AM »
I'm so confused. I've been reading Query Shark and all the queries are like 5 to 6 paragraph long. And the moderator never comments on that, only what needs improvement. I thought I learned here that the query should be 1 paragraph w 3-4 sentences. These aren't!

hillwalker3000

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Re: Query For Think Of The Children-an adult coming-of-age debut
« Reply #59 on: May 15, 2014, 12:35:15 PM »
I'll second everything Wolfe says. Your title is weak - and I'm also hating Sammy's surname. PEERYBINGLER? What made you choose such a mouthful?
Anyway - moving swiftly on:

Quote
I'm so confused. I've been reading Query Shark and all the queries are like 5 to 6 paragraph long. And the moderator never comments on that, only what needs improvement.

You're tying yourself in knots about something as simple as a query.

Quote
I keep reading about how you are supposed to start with character before leading to conflict and choice.

Ok - if that's the route you are trying to follow let's keep this simple. 3 short paragraphs - one introducing your CHARACTER - one revealing the CONFLICT - and one the CHOICE.

Your MC is Daniel Hoover. What do we need to know about him to establish what the story is about?

DANIEL HOOVER is a 12-year-old latch-key kid who's also a wrestling champ.

That's your CHARACTER in a nutshell. Most of the rest is CONFLICT.

1 - he's struggling to keep up with his studies while looking after his mentally-challenged younger brother
2 - he wants to win an athletics scholarship in order to escape his unhappy life
3 - he wishes he could spend time at the mall with his friends
4 - in a momentary explosion of anger he causes the death of a fellow-student

There are 4 CONFLICTS there. Which of them is the one that is pivotal to the plot? I'd suggest number 4 because it's a life-changing event.

CHOICES - you don't let on what his plans are - only that he has a crazy scheme to put everything right. In the query you will have to make clear what Danny's choices are going to be.

As for the rest of your plot - this is where your problems really begin. You have a second character who is presumably going to be as important to the story as Danny - so let's go through the same exercise.

JUDITH HOOVER is a single mother who holds down three jobs to raise her two sons.

Again the rest of your synopsis is CONFLICT.

1 - she had an affair while her husband was in prison
2 - she carries the guilt of her husband committing suicide when the affair came to light
3 - she believes her younger son was fathered by the guy she had an affair with and chooses to keep this a secret
4 - she puts on an act of being happy with her life when deep down she is not
5 - she lets slip something to Danny about his father that leads to Danny believing he might have played a part in his father's death

Now it's getting complicated - 5 conflicts, and one of them belonging to Danny. How important are any of these? Only you can decide, but it's impossible to cover them all within your query.

But there's more.
6 - Sammy's family are about to sue Danny so his future is looking increasingly bleak (for a 12-year-old child to be in such a quandary takes some believing btw - you make him sound as if he's 18)
7 - Danny has issues regarding Ricky being his half-brother
8 - Danny's mother leaves home.

Count them - 8 conflicts. That's why I said the plot was convoluted.
And still no CHOICES until right at the end when you tell us Danny decides to commit suicide. Not so much a choice as a cop-out. Has his character developed in any way? No. He's someone that things happen to by the look of it. Not the kind of MC publishers are keen on.

If this is how this story finishes you have a trapdoor ending that is going to satisfy no one.
But if you have an ace up your sleeve you have to reveal this in your query.

Was coming up with a query that difficult? Not if you break your story down the way we suggested. It's your plot that's causing you problems the way I see it.

H3K