Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #57

GENRE: YA Light Science Fiction
WORD COUNT: 85,000


When sixteen-year-old Renna Healy’s doctor-dad dragged her to Kenya two years ago for anger management training, she couldn’t imagine a worse punishment. But the practical therapy of living in extreme poverty has changed her and she’s confident she’s learned to control her temper, and is ready to return to the states. The bummer is leaving the village and her Irish boyfriend, Sean behind.
Not far into a goodbye-to-Africa-trek with her dad, a diseased lion, serving as host to a rare queen Thom beetle, attacks them, killing her dad and injuring Renna. She contracts a virus from the lion, which mutates her DNA, giving her increased senses, strength, and agility. With her new skills, the Kenyan tribe expects Renna to destroy the sick lion so that the Thom beetles will stop hatching and die before ravaging Africa. But without her dad there to help control her blind rage, which is worse than ever, the lion has the advantage in a fight.
Renna moves to Wisconsin to live with her uncle, and covertly prepare for battle. She’s determined to harness her inner beast so she can return to Africa and successfully exterminate the lion. What she doesn’t bargain for is being the new girl in the hardest place to keep a secret and control her anger—high school.
THE LION WITHIN is an 85,000 word, young adult light science fiction novel.

First 150 Words:

Insects skittered across the shower curtain. Renna ignored them and focused on the warm bucket of water running through the spout over her head. After two years in Kenya she had the timing down. Three minutes. Shampoo. Soap. Rinse. Fast.

She couldn’t remember how many days it had been since she’d thoroughly washed. The village was a dusty place and water was heavy to carry. She knew it was stupid to bathe before her last hiking date with her dad, but showering had benefits. Renna knew her boyfriend, Sean couldn’t resist running his fingers through her thick brown hair after she conditioned. Only one week, she thought, and I have to say goodbye to the first guy I’ve ever loved. She bit her lip to keep from crying, again.

A lime green beetle, about the length of her pointer finger, distracted Renna as it climbed to the middle of the shower curtain.


Unknown said...

To me, I think this is a really interesting premise, I just think your query could be a bit stronger. It felt to me that each paragraph was it's own little story, and that they weren't very connected. I don't see how we get from one point in the story to the other. I think if you tied those together more, it would make more sense.

Good beginning with the first 150 words and setting the scene and the tone. Good luck with this!

Bluestocking said...

I like your premise, but I have questions about it. What does a Thom beetle do? Is the beetle what makes the lion attack or is the beetle just hanging out until it's mature enough to eat everything? If Renna's dad dies, and the beetle infestation is that bad, wouldn't the tribe try to convince her to stay, maybe even force her to and fight the lion? And keep her father's death a secret?

I agree that if you could link the paragraphs in your query more strongly that would help a lot.

Best of luck!

Emily said...

This premise is interesting. It almost seems as though the parts of the book where she has to go to high school as part lion could be humorous.

I agree with the commenter above about the first of the query not flowing as smoothly as it could. I think you could just tighten it up a little and it would be good.

And I did think it was a little strange that she left Africa to come to the States. Besides coming here to train, I'm wondering if there could be another reason that she has to leave there. Like maybe her Visa has expired and the US makes her return, but they've got their eye on her because they think she's had some sort of mutation, so when she comes back here she goes back to regular high school to try to trick them into thinking she's a regular kid. I don't know--I'm just throwing stuff out there.

Anyway, the title is great and so were your first 150 words.

Best of luck!

Patrice said...

The title is what got me at first so good job on that but what a unique idea, this is very fresh.

First I thought mean girls, which made me want to keep reading. I like the combination of dealing with high school, losing temper especially with a beast inside and also having to save all of Africa and I guess potentially the world, if it spreads.

As for my questions and other feedback I think the other commenters expressed them well.

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

Melodie Wright said...

I love exotic settings so this caught my eye. Your query lacks a real hook right now...not having read your MS, I have no idea where your story really starts. In Wisconsin, so the whole infection-in-Africa is backstory? If so, your hook is that a teen is starting high school as a genetic mutant with a huge secret. Go with the main conflict straight away - whatever that conflict is. Solving a beetle infestation? Learning to live with a genetic mutation? Or surviving high school? I can't tell what your main conflict is from this query.
Once you've established that, your stakes and possible outcomes become clearer.
Good luck!

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Amazing comments from everyone! Thanks so much! I'll hop over to yours if you mentioned it tomorrow. I really appreciate the time. Queries are a bear, or a lion...
~ Rachel

Jennie Bennett said...

I really like the idea behind this, but then again I'm a nut for crazy DNA transformation stories.

Since others have given comments on story line, I'll point out a couple of grammatical things I noticed:

In the sentence that begins "But the practical..." Doesn't need the 'but'. It also has two and's so you may want to consider splitting up the sentences to better convey the the characters purpose.

When you first mention her boyfriend, make sure to use a comma after his name as well. (on a side note, is Sean important to the entire story becasue I only see his name once and I wonder if he really matters since she is leaving him behind in Africa. Just a thought.)

You don't need a comma after DNA.

In the last paragraph 'prepare' should be 'prepares'.

Other than that everything looks great! Good luck with the query process!

Tamara said...

I had a couple technical things I wanted to point out about the query before going into anything else.

One is: But the practical therapy of living in extreme poverty has changed her and she’s confident she’s learned to control her temper, and is ready to return to the states

That felt like it should be split into two sentences: But the practical therapy of living in poverty has changed her. She's confident she'd learned to control her anger and is ready to return to the States.

Also, is it important that Sean is Irish? It feels a little wordy in the sentence. If it's not important I'd just leave it at:
leave her boyfriend, Sean, behind.

This sentence felt a little awkward: With her new skills, the Kenyan tribe expects Renna to destroy the sick lion so that the Thorn beetles will stop hatching and die before ravaging Africa.

I thought maybe you could try something like: With her new skills, the Kenyan tribe expects Renna to destroy the sick lion before a new batch of the deadly thorn beetles hatch and ravage their land.

I really liked the last sentence but it added another aspect to the query that made me question what this story is about? There are four conflicts going on here: Her leaving behind Sean (which I'm assuming is important since you mentioned it) her father dying and leaving her alone with weird mutations she can't control, her having to fight a sick lion, and her going to high school with new abilities and uncontrollable rage).

It felt like they needed to be tied together a little more smoothly and that the main focus of the query needs to be put on one of them. Maybe two. I wish I could give you some amazing idea on how to do that!! Sorry. :(

I do think this sounds like an awesome story. I love the idea of a girl with uncontrollable rage and weird mutations that make her deadly. And I thought the first 150 was really strong.

It sounds like you're getting super close with the query, it just needs a little more tweaking.

I just started a new blog in the hopes of meeting some new friends in the YA community. If you have any more questions about this that I might be able to help with, or you're just looking for some new writer friends, feel free to stop by! Hope I helped with this and good luck. :)