Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #23


Title of Manuscript: Kiss of Fire
Genre: Young Adult
Word Count: 110,000

Query:

Something is wrong with sixteen year old Joclyn Despain, and even she doesn’t know what it is. It all began when a scar appeared on her face and chased her dad away, now weird things just tend to happen around her. Joclyn spends her days hiding behind her surly mood and extra large clothes in hopes of blending in with the crowd, but it doesn’t work. After all normal people shouldn’t be able to throw their enemies ten feet in the air or fall fifteen feet without getting hurt, right?

Even if all the paranormal occurrences were normal being the best friend of the wealthiest boy in the state, Ryland LaRue, doesn’t help her to disappear. She only sticks out like a sore thumb.

Joclyn’s desperate attempt to blend in is only shattered further when her dead beat dad sends her a cursed stone for her birthday. He refers Joclyn to what she can only assume is a cult, saying that her scar has given her supernatural powers and they will save her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and Ryland’s father is threatening more than just her friendship with his son.

Joclyn finally begins to gain some stability, when Ryland finds her scar. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it.
  

150 words:

I remember my fifth birthday. My parents were in the backyard hanging the ‘Happy Birthday Joclyn’ banner that had the yellow and blue streamers surrounding it. The colors danced through the trees as the wind blew them around. My parents laughed and joked as they decorated, I danced in the doorway as I waited for my friends to arrive.
I stopped to watch a brilliant blue trail that glittered around me as something small flew before me. I only caught a glimpse of wings before a sharp stabbing pain shot into the right side of my head, leaving me feeling like I had been slammed against a brick wall. It burned like acid that spread quickly through me. I dropped to the ground as the pain spread through my body, the hot current flowing under my skin was like boiling water in my veins. My vision faded to black as the sensations grew into a torrent that split my bones apart.

5 comments:

Meagan said...

Something is wrong with sixteen year old Joclyn Despain, and even she doesn’t know what it is. --> Vague starts are something you'll definitely want to avoid. If she doesn't know what it is, it's not the thing you want to focus on off the bat.

It all began when a scar appeared on her face and chased her dad away, now weird things just tend to happen around her. Joclyn spends her days hiding behind her surly mood and extra large clothes in hopes of blending in with the crowd, but it doesn’t work. After all normal people shouldn’t be able to throw their enemies ten feet in the air or fall fifteen feet without getting hurt, right? ---> A lot of this is backstory that you can save.

Even if all the paranormal occurrences were normal being the best friend of the wealthiest boy in the state, Ryland LaRue, doesn’t help her to disappear. She only sticks out like a sore thumb. ---> Still more backstory, though it might still be important for the query itself.

Joclyn’s desperate attempt to blend in is only shattered further when her dead beat dad sends her a cursed stone for her birthday. --> After a few reads, I'm thinking this is where the real story starts for Joclyn. This is what you should start with and branch out from.

He refers Joclyn to what she can only assume is a cult, saying that her scar has given her supernatural powers and they will save her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and Ryland’s father is threatening more than just her friendship with his son. --> tighten this up, but we're staying in line with the actual story.

Joclyn finally begins to gain some stability, when Ryland finds her scar. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it. --> We need a bigger sense of what happens. She'll be hunted and killed, so what does she embark on to avoid it? Give us a reason to be curious about her experiences.

Here's a bit of a skeleton idea for you to consider working from:

Ever since the mysterious scar on sixteen-year-old Joclyn face showed up, she wants to blend in. But the attempts to fade into the background are shattered when her deadbeat Dad sends her a cursed stone for her birthday.

He refers Joclyn to what she can only assume is a cult, saying that her scar has given her supernatural powers and they will save her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and her best friend Ryland's father is threatening more than just their friendship.

Joclyn finally gains some stability when Ryland finds her scar. Not only does he know what it is, but he insists that she will be hunted and killed because of it.

--

"I remember my fifth birthday" is a nostalgic first line, but you could bring us more into the present. "The scar came on my fifth birthday" or "On my fifth birthday..." Remember that "I remember / I saw / I heard" are filtering sort of words that can put a wall between the reader and the story.

Cat said...

First: YA isn't a genre, it's an age range. You might want to add paranormal or contemporary with fantasy elements or some such.

Second, try to tighter your query by combining sentences and using stronger verbs. There are parts you can delete altogether.

In the sample, don't use "remember". It distances the reader from the text. Use something like "When I turned five" (or similar) instead.

Lindsey Frydman said...

First off, your query is interesting and the ending sentence leaves me wanting to read more. It's a good ending hook.

I agree that your query could be tightened a little more and needs a few grammatical fixes--mainly just commas. Those are the hardest part for me to always get right but I did notice this one for example, "After all normal people shouldn't" There should be a comma after the word "all".

I agree the first sentence of the blurb might be too vague--unless she spends her time trying to find out why. Or if she wants to know what her scar means, you could reword the sentence in a way that would be less vague and show us what Joclyn "wants".

While I liked the first 150 words, it is (more or less) a flashback. And as they say, flashbacks are not a good way to start. If it's important for that memory to be the first thing we read, consider turning it into a prologue. Of course prologues have their own downside but I think it would be a better choice.
Also, if it already is a prologue (I guess I don't know for certain)a better first line would be "It was my fifth birthday" or something like that.

I definitely like the premise and think it certainly has potential. I would read it.

theemptypen said...

I like Joclyn and she and Ryland seem like they’d be interesting characters to follow through the story.

Both dads creep me out, so you did a good job characterizing them in a short amount of time.

There is a lot going on in this query and it’s hard for me to settle on what the main conflict is. We’ve got dad leaving and coming back. We’ve got trying to blend in and really trying to blend in. There’s a cult and a stalker and a friend’s murderous father.

I need to know what these “weird things” that happen are. If she has super-human strength, I would think that not throwing people would be a good way to blend in. If the throwing is more of the mind-control variety, that would be helpful to know from the beginning.

Where is her scar? I’m spending too much time wondering about it. Is she wearing baggy clothes to hide it? Is it a lightening bolt on her forehead? What exactly are she and Ryland doing when he discovers it? I think if I knew up front, I wouldn’t pull myself out of the query to ask those crazy questions.

Good luck!

theemptypen said...

I like Joclyn and she and Ryland seem like they’d be interesting characters to follow through the story.

Both dads creep me out, so you did a good job characterizing them in a short amount of time.

There is a lot going on in this query and it’s hard for me to settle on what the main conflict is. We’ve got dad leaving and coming back. We’ve got trying to blend in and really trying to blend in. There’s a cult and a stalker and a friend’s murderous father.

I need to know what these “weird things” that happen are. If she has super-human strength, I would think that not throwing people would be a good way to blend in. If the throwing is more of the mind-control variety, that would be helpful to know from the beginning.

Where is her scar? I’m spending too much time wondering about it. Is she wearing baggy clothes to hide it? Is it a lightening bolt on her forehead? What exactly are she and Ryland doing when he discovers it? I think if I knew up front, I wouldn’t pull myself out of the query to ask those crazy questions.

Good luck!