A comment that gave me a real epiphany.
Naturally, being sharklike, I wished to send an email chastising her for being brilliant and insightful.
She, being clever, did not have her contact info on her blog. Or on her blog commenting profile.
But I will not be deterred.
Bethany, I'm looking at you.
And in case you're wondering, here's the comment (I underlined her comments I found particularly helpful and blue ink is a comment I added):
The problem with fantasy is that there's so much world building that it can be hard to write a sensible query without spending too much time on world-building. There's also a LOT of fantasy out there, and since high fantasy doesn't depend as much on current culture as other genres, you have more competition. There's no intrinsic reason why a high fantasy novel written in 2016 will mean more to me as a reader than one written in 1975. (This would apply to historical fiction as well)
So how do you set your query apart? I don't think the answer is by focusing on the plot. By all means, describe the stakes and the plot in the query, but that's not where your edge should come from. Your edge should come from your characters. There is nothing new under the sun, plot-wise. But fun, engaging, rascally characters? They're timeless.
Why should I care about Blackwater? Is he noble? Blah. Is he a reluctant hero? Yawn. Is he funny? Hmm... I could work with that. Brooding? I'm a sucker for brooding heroes. Is he finicky, whiny, feisty, big-hearted, foolish, intelligent, beautiful, ugly, sharp, dull? The only things I know about your characters are their circumstances. That isn't enough.
You've got a little of this with your first two paragraphs, though the shark is right. First person is confusing. But I sense reluctance, bitterness, and regret - three things that make characters interesting. You lose that in the rest of your query. Give me the regret, give me the heartache, give me the spilled blood. I want to see your character staring over the edge of a cliff. Gimme! :)
My insight: What's at stake for the hero/heroine, what s/he wants, should reveal his/her character.
I don't think I've ever said that when we've talked about getting plot on the page, but I think it will be very useful.
Thanks Bethany. Now put your damn contact info on your blog so I can swim over with a thank you note.