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Fiction version of Query letter, and Synopsis - ahunter3 [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Fiction version of Query letter, and Synopsis [Sep. 4th, 2014|11:56 am]
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Here's the query letter (aka pitch letter) I'm using for agents who handle literary fiction:


Derek is a girl. He wasn't one of the boys as a kid; he admired, befriended, and socialized with the girls and always knew he was one of them, despite being male. That wasn't always accepted or understood, but he didn't care: he knew who he was.

Now he's a teenager and boys and girls are flirting and dating and his identity has become a lot more complicated: he's attracted to the girls. The OTHER girls. The female ones.

FROM A QUEERLY DIFFERENT CLOSET: THE STORY OF Q is a 95,000-word literary fiction tale set in the 1970s but aimed at today's gender-questioning world.

Junior high to college, the stage on which Derek's adolescence and early adulthood takes place, is mostly hostile to gay people; transgender isn't a word in common use yet; and against this backdrop, Derek seeks friends and companions and someone to love in a world that has no name or concept for who he is. Years of painful questioning, vulnerability and confusion are interspersed with fragile optimism and hope and a willful determination to survive.

In 1980, 20 years before the word "genderqueer" would roll off anyone's tongues, Derek attempts to come out. He's confident, excited about the social and political implications of this gender identity, and eager to find out if these ideas are as powerful to other people as they are to him. The result is incarceration in a psychiatric hospital.

Undaunted, he starts a mental patients' liberation movement within the locked ward and gets kicked out for disrupting the facility. He goes on to fall in love, to succeed in college as a women's studies major, and gets his controversial gender ideas into print as feminist theory.

This story will appeal to fans of Alex Sánchez's RAINBOW BOYS and Julie Anne Peters' LUNA, as well as to readers of nonfiction works such as Daphne Scholinski's THE LAST TIME I WORE A DRESS and Jennifer Boylan's SHE'S NOT THERE; like these titles, my book will be a resource for anyone exploring questions of identity and questioning their own sexuality.


Authors' agents often ask NONFICTION authors to submit a formal proposal, which presents the premise of the book in a longer wordier version than the query letter, explains why the author is the best person to write it and why these ideas or concepts will work well as a published book; provides a list of similar titles and how this book is different; and how the book might best be marketed and publicized.

They don't ask that of FICTION authors, apparently; instead, what is most requested (aside from the ubiquitous query letter) is a synopsis, explaining the plot trajectory on a chapter by chapter basis. I never posted my nonfiction proposal here (too long and stultifying) but I like the way the synopsis came out so without further ado...

=== SYNOPSIS ===

(page numbers based on double spaced Times New Roman 12 pt)

1) PROLOGUE starts page 1

A short 3-page teaser in which the main character Derek is beaten up at a party on very little provocation, prompting him to ponder his differences, his now-questionable sense of being accepted, and how things had led to this.

2) CHILDHOOD starts page 4

Derek in first/second grade in Los Alamos New Mexico begins to compete with the girls, aspires to do well in school in deportment as well as subject areas. Makes one close male friend. Family moves to Georgia. Polarization increases: hostility from other boys, close friends with other girls, epithets including "queer" from other children, hostility from some adults for not being a normal boy. As he gets older, girls cease to be friend with him, he is increasingly isolated and lonely. Awareness of sexual attraction towards girls takes place before he knows what it means. Derek looks forward optimistically to adolescence, thinking he will again have girls as friends and as romantic girlfriends.


The family moves back to Los Alamos. Day to day life over the five years from 8th grade to high school graduation, beginning with Derek being ostracized not just for being the new kid but for being a "faggot", subjected to extensive harassment and horrified as he discovers that sexuality is not going to bring him closer to the girls, who link up with masculine boys. Derek makes a significant effort to discard his own prim judgmental standoffishness, make friends and fit in: he joins Boy Scouts, plays in the band and sings in the choir, re-establishes contact with his boyhood friend and somewhat belatedly rebels against adult authority like the other kids. His hopes of falling in love and having a girlfriend don't quite pan out but he hopes getting out of the fairly small town and into a college environment will let his life truly begin.

4) THE LIMBO YEARS starts page 131

Derek hates the conservative southern Mississippi college and daydreams about joining the hippies and flower children he's read about, not fully realizing the people and ideas described in the library books are not culturally ascendant any more by 1977. He drops out of school and seeks to become economically self-sufficient as soon as possible by taking vocational school courses in auto mechanics. The all-male environment isolates him, dating or even meeting girls seems impossible, and he wonders if maybe people who've called him gay knew him better than he knows himself; he tries gay sex, first with the boy he's been friends with since 1st grade; then, when that wasn't very pleasant, he decides maybe it was too much like incest but gay sex with a kind and friendly stranger is even worse. Still horribly lonely, Derek is becoming increasingly confident and self-reliant until he narrowly escapes being raped and then later is assaulted at a party (the incident in the PROLOGUE). He'd had one good connection with a girl who seemed to want him as a girlfriend in all this time but he'd met her while her family was on vacation and she lives across the country in Boston. But now he's desperate for something to work out with girls so he goes to visit her there. It doesn't go well: she's amenable to making out in the basement but is not interested in him personally, and he's devastated.

5) BACK TO UNIVERSITY starts page 206

Unable to make a go of it as an auto mechanic, Derek lets his family talk him into trying college again, this time in Albuquerque at a far less conservative institution. The University of New Mexico's student body is indeed far more socially liberal and tolerant than anywhere else he's been: people who think he is gay go out of their way to let him know it's cool with them, instead of being hostile and violent. Derek tries to focus on just having a good time and maybe losing his virginity, and putting his bad experience with the girl from Boston behind him. But casual sex and flirting and dating are impersonal and the assumptions roles and attitudes are very sex-specific and don't fit him at all. He finally acknowledges to himself that he's always thought of himself as one of the girls and now realizes that this may make him incompatibly different from what's expected of males in heterosexuality. He reads about transsexualism and it resonates but he realizes he doesn't think his body is wrong... just what people think it means to have that body. Other college students keep urging him to come out and accept himself. Finally something clicks: he sees the parallel between what he's going through and what feminists have said about sexism and sex roles. He begins writing manifestos about his gender identity and sexual orientation and circulating them to other students and to his professors and to others on campus. People worry about him: they don't understand what he's driving at and he disturbs them by being so excited about it. He is asked if he'll talk to a psychiatrist and he agrees, not realizing that the "permission slip" they have him sign will result in being locked up on a locked psychiatric ward and not allowed to leave. Derek, however, is for the first time certain that there ISN'T something wrong with him, and he talks and listens to the other patients and organizes a patients' rights movement that disrupts the facility, which discharges him abruptly.

POSTLOGUE starts page 288

Derek goes to California seeking the hippies and flower children he read about, and actually finds a commune, lives there for awhile, and loses his virginity without having to take on the unwanted male sexual-initiator / sexual-aggressor role. Later, in the library, he reads about a women's studies department at a college and realizes that if he were a student there, the kinds of things he wants to talk about would be typical subject matter in the classrooms. His parents are understandably relucant to send him to college a third time so he hitches to New York and endures a period of homelessness before establishing himself and getting into the school, at which point he gets solid A grades and an enthusiastic reception by his feminist professors. He goes on to graduate school and publishes his theories about gender and sexual orientation in a peer-reviewed academic journal. Over the years that follow he gets into relationships with women, learning from each, culminating in solid yet nontraditional relationships in which he is accepted and understood as a male girl.

Total Pages: 301

Word Count: 95,993

{optional bit if writing sample is requested:}


Your contact information at YOURLITERARYAGENCY.com/submissions indicated that I should include the first 5 pages / 10 pages / 20 pages / one chapter / two chapters / whatever, as a writing sample. Pasted inline below this line:


{appropriate writing sample goes here, if requested}


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[User Picture]From: old_cutter_john
2014-09-04 05:35 pm (UTC)
Looking at this with a new mind, it stirs a lot more interest in me than did the nonfiction version, even with a new mind. Curiously enough, with a new mind, the bit about the psychiatric hospital seems beyond credibility, even though I knew it was true before putting on the new mind, and even though I know inappropriate hospitalizations were commonplace in that era. I can't predict whether that'll be a problem; but problem or no, it's a necessary part of the story.

The phrase "be friend with" needs an s at the end of friend, or some similar fix. I think part 5 of the synopsys would benefit from a few more commas.

Edited at 2014-09-04 05:36 pm (UTC)
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