Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #50


Title:  Tendril
Genre:  YA Gothic w/elements of Magical Realism
Word count:  88,000

Query:
 
The MacBride family curse decrees that Opal’s albinism and magical living hair will prevent her from finding true love. Or so she was always told by her grandmother.
 
In a cruel twist of fate, Opal’s aberrations are the lustful obsession of her uncle.  When she is forced to live with him and his wife at a Maine lighthouse, she seeks refuge at the cemetery where her recently deceased grandmother is buried.  Opal’s spectral appearance attracts a host of lost souls at the graveyard. Among her new friends are the ghost Riff Evans, and his living brother Dylan. Soon she becomes caught in a love triangle with Riff and Dylan, which makes her question nearly everything she was told about love, the MacBride curse, and herself.
 
Though her uncle’s depraved game of cat and mouse distracts Opal, not even Frost Island’s perpetual fog can obscure his master plan. As he plots to keep her his prisoner in the lighthouse, she charts a course to break the curse and create the fairy tale ending she desperately wants.  But first Opal must decide if her future happiness lies in this world, or the next.
 
 TENDRIL is a contemporary YA novel with elements of magical realism, complete at 88,000 words.  Traces of Welsh legends and Rapunzel are woven throughout. 
 
First 150 Words:
 
Our arrival at the lighthouse had been heralded by sporadic blasts of the foghorn.  The mist enveloping us was thick with the smell of sea creatures, both living and dead. 
Ned, Laura and I entered the lightkeeper’s cottage and he lumbered up the narrow staircase ahead of us, carrying my suitcase.  Laura began to unpack, setting my folded clothes on the narrow white bed.
“Darling, shouldn’t you start making dinner?” Ned asked.
“Yes, of course.”  Laura scurried away, leaving me alone with my uncle. 
Ned moved towards me.  I grabbed an armful of sweaters and held them to my chest, as if their soft wool had the protective properties of an armored breastplate.    
“When is the funeral?” The words scraped past the lump in my throat.
“Tomorrow, at ten thirty.  Just a private service with the two of us, and your Aunt Laura.  My friend ReverendWilkinson will officiate.

21 comments:

Mia Celeste said...

I like how you started with action within the first lines.

Your query promises a compelling tale. I'm fond of fairy tales so I'd pick this story up on the query alone. All the best,

Patrice said...

I love that last line of your query if her future lies in this world or the next, what an intense decision.

Like Mia Celeste said, I love fairy tales so that alone pulls me in.

--Please, check out my Pitch, #27 if you have the time :)

Unknown said...

I love that Opal has a choice between a living and a ghostly suitor, and that they're brothers adds an extra level of complexity. Have to admit, as a taphophile i like that the heroine hangs out at the cemetery. And fairy tales woven into storylines make for interesting, thought-provoking stories. Where you've been to Wales & really connected with the place/culture, it's great that you've included aspects of their folklore.

I've thought you should be a writer for years! You speak in poetry. You paint beautiful trompe l'oeil castle walls in your home. If only the editors could see your gorgeous handwriting they might skip the Times New Roman altogether...

Really looking forward to reading your first published novel.

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet said...

Dear Unknown,
I'm not sure who you are, but I love you.

Rebecca Enzor said...

I think you could simplify the beginning of the query. I tripped up on the first line and had to read it a second time. Instead of "The MacBride family curse decrees that Opal’s albinism and magical living hair will prevent her from finding true love. Or so she was always told by her grandmother." Maybe "Opal's grandmother has always said Opal's albinism and magical living hair will prevent her from finding true love due to the McBride family curse."

I'd like to know a little bit more about the Uncle and what he's trying to do to her in the query (why does he want to keep her in the lighthouse? Her magical hair? What does her magic hair do, exactly?). It seems like this plot is secondary to the love triangle, but has greater stakes.

Love the last line though - I would LOVE to read this story, based just on that, and the fact that the boys are brothers.

Loved the first 150 through and through. Great bit about the armored breastplate and "just a private service with the two of us, and.." It definitely shows what the uncle is desiring, and it's not Aunt Laura.

I'm #79 if you're looking for something to read :)

T Y said...

Hey, #48 in the HOUSE! Let's get this gothic block party started. Okay, uber cheesy greeting aside, I love the concept presented in your query letter. Lighthouses, incestuous uncle (gothic novel must: the incestuous undertones, which is exactly what the YA world needs...to creep you out!), ghosts, a love triangle between live boy and his dead brother, people chilling in cemeteries.
P.S. I really love 'a Welsh version of Rupunzel.'

This line, however, is vague: "In a cruel twist of fate, Opal’s aberrations are the lustful obsession of her uncle." Her albinism + magic hair, right? I think you could be more specific and try to inject more voice into the query.

You might also want to tweak the query to make Opal a stronger heroine. Right now, she comes across as the damsel-in-distress at the whim of two boys and her uncle. Personally, I like a stronger, kick-ass heroine, but that's just me.

150:
Love the 'smell of sea creatures' part.

Kind of confused as to who Ned is. Ned is the uncle, right? Maybe you could add, my uncle Ned, my aunt Laura...just to ease the reader in to the characters, who they are, what they do.

There is some passive voice that you could edit out. "Our arrival at the lighthouse HAD BEEN heralded by sporadic blasts of the foghorn" --> change to "The sporadic blasts of the foghorn heralded our arrival at the lighthouse."

Also, I have no idea what Ned & Laura look like. Maybe you could inject one or two lines of physical of unique physical description.
Ned sounds like a real creeper. I'd definitely read on.

Thank you so much for your critique!
And good luck on your entries!

Alexandra said...

So I love the premise of this story! And gothic w/magical realism? Yes, please!

I like your hook, though the first line did trip me a little.

I'm not sure how I feel about "In a cruel twist of fate." It's vague and I don't know that you need it. And I'm not sure about "aberrations"--Her albinism and magical hair? why are they such? Otherwise, I love your second paragraph and it felt like the end. I love that the love triangle (excuse the repetitiveness of this statement! lol) is between a dead guy and a living one.

As for the first 150, I like how you've set the tone and the conflict with the uncle! He gives me the creeps!

PatEsden said...

#49 here :)

I love your 150, but I do agree with the comment that suggested you add Uncle and Aunt the first time Ned and Laura are mentioned. It would help your wonderful beginning be even clearer.

I also agree that the first paragraph of your query might be stronger with a bit of tweaking. I like Rebecca's suggestion or you could try making the second sentence active: Or so her
grandmother always said.

Though overall I like your query and think it works, you might want to see if you can cut back on the slightly cliche statements. "Charts a course" doesn't stand out to me because of its connection to the ocean. But "game of cat and mouse" stood out as not being as unique to your story and fresh as your 150 show your writing is. What exactly do you (and/or your main character) mean by "game of cat and mouse"?

The second paragraph of the query is fantastic.

Good luck! This sounds like a great story.

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet said...

Thank you so much everyone who has posted so far. Can't say how much I appreciate the helpful suggestions. Queries and synopses will be the death of me. Of course the validation is nice too ;-) but I can take criticism so bring it on!

Marian Librarian said...

I'm glad I could hear more about this piece, it intrigues me even further.

I do agree with previous commenters that the first sentence gave me pause, and I like the more active voice version that's been offered up.

My main critique of the query portion is that I don't like the term "love triangle." It's not terribly specific as to what is going on. Is she interested in both of them? One of them? Are either of them interested in her? I find "love triangle" to be a buzz word or an industry term, and what I want to hear is more about your characters.

As to your first 150 words, I agree with the not to make it active voice (passive voice is my personal downfall). I would also like to "see" a little Ned sooner, even if he "moved towards her" in a more particular way. Her reaction implies menace, so I'd like to see a little more of it.

Thanks for the critique and good luck! I think your story sounds fantastic.

Robin said...

I love the 1st paragraph of your MS-really sets up the creepy atmosphere. And the wool sweaters being a breastplate-so good.

The query threw me off though. I'm still trying to decide if you should call it Magical Realism (mine is, I'm #51:), but it's reality with a touch of the fanatical.

Your query of ghosts, and magic hair etc. reads much more than that. But you know best-it's your MS:)

Welsh legends and a retelling of Rapunzel-I'm hooked!

Liana Brooks said...

The subject matter doesn't appeal to me, but I don't see anything wrong with the query or lines.

I would question Gothic YA, but you aren't the only one to use it, so maybe it's a thing now?

This is a Not Right For Me, but I think the query will snag you several full requests.

Good luck!
L

D. D. Falvo said...

This is amazing.
Your query is beautifully written and *very* engaging. (I am so jealous.) The first 150 sets up immediate conflict.
I can only nitpick at one teensy thing, and that is me imposing my personal eccentricities upon you (sorry!) so ignore me at will :P--In the first 150, "had" or "began to" are passive words. I would change "had been" to "was" in the first sentence, and "began to unpack" to "unpacked."
Otherwise, I think you've nailed this. :D

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet said...

Thank you again, so much everyone for all the brilliant suggestions. ("Nods head regarding passive/active voice, cryptic love triangle, Uncle/Aunt etc"). I really appreciate all the time people have spent helping.

Jessie Humphries said...

Wow, I love it. Seriously. Not just talking fluff here. I am so creeped out by the uncle part though. Is he actually molesting her or just trying to? Please say just trying. Because I don't think I can handle that.
I am not great at specific comments, but overall this is solid query first page work. I have this amazing setting in my head that makes me want to read more. And the brother love triangle is such a new twist on the overused trope. One is dead?! Wow. Great job.

Nicole Zoltack said...

Ugh, what a creepy uncle! If I were an agent, I would request pages. I would like to know more about the curse though. Not sure the first sentence in the third paragraph of the query is needed.

katherineamabel said...


Intriguing first line, and combined with the doubt planted in the second, it’s a winner. 
Love that middle paragraph. My only suggestion is rather than use cruel twist of fate, which is a pretty common phrase, show the same sentiment but with her voice somehow. How would she describe such a crappy situation?
Last paragraph – wow. I want to read this, now. Guess I’ll have to console myself with the first 150 words… And having just read your mermaid story on your blog I’m not surprised that I have nothing to say. It’s just as awesome as that was, for all the same reasons I commented on. Good luck with GUTGAA, and thanks for visiting Beyond The Hourglass Bridge.
Kat 

Shamira said...

I think this is fantastic. I would definetly want to read more. Looking forward to seeing it on the shelves!!! best of luck!

Tamara said...

Looks like you got a lot of comments on this. Normally, I might skip past it (just to help someone who hasn't gotten as much feedback) but, I have to say, this really caught my eye. Love the concept, love the setting, loved the writing.

I have a couple tiny suggestions on your query, but that's it.

This part: Soon she becomes caught in a love triangle with Riff and Dylan

The phrase "love triangle" has been really overdone in YA. I'm not sure I'd refer to it as that. Maybe you could just say, "Soon she develops feelings for both boys, which makes her etc..."

That's a really tiny thing, but I thought I'd mention it. And one last thing: Though her uncle’s depraved game of cat and mouse distracts Opal, not even Frost Island’s perpetual fog can obscure his master plan.

To me, that's a really strong sentence. I love the depraved uncle, the game of cat and mouse, the uncle's master plan. The only thing I noticed was your use of the word "distracts" Opal. Distracts her from what? Her issues with the two boys? Distracts seemed like a weaker word that didn't convey the tension of the rest of the sentence. Like...she'd be more than distracted by the terrifying specter of this uncle looming over her. Do you know what I mean?

Again, this might just be a personal preference, but I thought I'd point it out.

As for the first 150--LOVED it! I think you've really got something here. And I like that it has elements of fairy tales woven into it.

Hope this helped and nice to meet you! I just started a new blog I'm trying to get off the ground. I'd love it if you'd drop by and say hi. I'm always looking to make new writer friends. :)

robbiemacniven said...

I really don’t want to short-change you after your own crit of my stuff, but I’m struggling to think of any way I could make your pitch better. The issues of having a love triangle that’s 2/3 ghost is intriguing to say the least, the idea of that as a salient plot point intertwined with the issues regarding the lecherous uncle should combine brilliantly (though it does make me sad the uncles always get such a bad press, I’m a great uncle and I’ve never tried to molest any family members ;)
Good luck with the rest of GUTGAA and keep me updated!

robbiemacniven said...

Make that a 1/3 dead love triangle (maths was never my strong point ;)