Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #60


ILLUSION OF A MAJESTY
URBAN FANTASY
88,000 WORDS

Query:

Come to Florende, they said. You'll be safe there, they said. 

 Jenna Rose has just found out she's a majesty with crazy cool powers. Her whole family has been relocated to Florende, a military capitol and safe haven for majesties. Jenna attends an elite school that teaches her control and defence so when she graduates, she too, can protect the city.

 It's been fifteen years since the Cordels last attacked so no one really knows what the majesties are still fighting for. The norms are sick of the oppression. They're over doing all the dirty jobs while the majesties host parties and fancy combat events. Jenna's sister is one of those norms, and she's not used to being overlooked. 

 While the norms lash out inside Florende, the Cordels are sending in their scouts. They've heard all about Jenna, the majesty who can copy another's powers. But what they haven't heard is every time Jenna uses her power, it sends her just that little bit over the edge. 

 Jenna's school feeds her paranoia, and she's sure something big is coming. She's seen the signs, witnessed the unexplainable, but all the evidence dissolves. Soon, Jenna can't tell the difference between what's real, and what's in her head.

 Florende is collapsing from the inside. 
 Jenna's sister is helping bring it down.
 The Cordels are getting ready from the outside.
 And, piece-by-piece, Jenna feels like she's losing control.

 You'll be safe there, they said. They were wrong.

150 (or so) words:

 Nine dongs of the clock tower rang through the city. It was an hour past curfew, and if anyone found Vivien and I lurking in that alley, we were done for; especially in what we were wearing.

 A chill crawled over my skin as she leant out into the deserted street, her bleached blonde hair illuminated in the dim streetlight. She didn't look back as she grabbed my arm and dragged me after her. 

 Our heels clopped way too loudly against the cement. I kept a look out for sentries, sure one of them would pop up at any moment, especially since my silly, little sister kept snorting with drunken laughter. 

 After a month, Florende still freaked me out. The narrow, maze-like streets seemed to lead in all directions, down to the docks, where fishing and cargo ships groaned on the water and orange, flaky rust ate through the buildings. 

11 comments:

Jadzia Brandli said...

I think this sounds cool and I'd definitely read more to see if it's something I'm interested in. I like their name: majesties. And the idea of the city of Florende. Nice ending to your query too.

My only suggestion would be to maybe mention the Cordels in the first paragraph, because I was like, "What are Cordels?" and was confused for a second. Maybe say something about how Florende is a safe haven for the majesties from the Cordels.

Good luck!

Bluestocking said...

I liked your query, but it was very long. Whatever you can do to tighten it would go a long way.

There were some miscues in your first 150:

"and if anyone found Vivien and I lurking in that alley, we were done for; especially in what we were wearing"

Should be Vivien and ME

"especially in" reads awkwardly. Maybe "especially considering what we were wearing" or something.

" A chill crawled over my skin as she leant out into the deserted street, her bleached blonde hair illuminated in the dim streetlight."

I think it would help us if you sub in "Vivian" for "she" to help us keep the characters separate.

"I kept a look out for sentries, sure one of them would pop up at any moment, especially since my silly, little sister kept snorting with drunken laughter. "

Would consider breaking this up into a couple different sentences. Also, if Vivian is the sister snorting and laughing, why is she the one in the lead? I would think the older sister would lead.

Best of luck with this.

EM Castellan said...

I like your query and the premise of your story. The only thing I'm not sure about is the expression "crazy cool powers": I wanted to know from the start what these powers were. Best of luck with this!

Tamara said...

Come to Florende, they said. You'll be safe there, they said.

Jenna Rose has just found out she's a majesty with crazy cool powers.

I'd like to know right away what these crazy cool powers are and I think if you told us this line would be even stronger.

I think the next couple paragraphs are really good--very clear and easy to follow, but you start to lose me a little bit here:

Jenna's school feeds her paranoia, and she's sure something big is coming.

How does her school feed her paranoia? Does this have to be in here? It seems like it would flow just as well with the query to go from:

But what they haven't heard is every time Jenna uses her power, it sends her just that little bit over the edge.

To something like: Jenna is certain something big is coming. She's seen the signs, witnessed the unexplainable, but all the evidence dissolves.

This was a little unclear to. How did the evidence dissolve?
Did someone deliberately destroy it? Is there anyway you could switch it to something like:

She's seen the signs, witnessed the unexplainable. The only thing she's lacking is evidence. The problem is, Jenna can't tell the difference between what's real and whats in her head.

Or maybe something along those lines? You get the idea.

Florende is collapsing from the inside.
Jenna's sister is helping bring it down.
The Cordels are getting ready from the outside.
And, piece-by-piece, Jenna feels like she's losing control.

You'll be safe there, they said. They were wrong.

LOVE the ending. My only other suggestion would be to maybe join the last two paragraphs. (Not the list of things that's happening, the two before that.)

The only reason I'm suggesting it is because I saw someone comment that your query is really long. I was curious enough to paste it into Word to get the wordcount and it's really not any longer than it should be. I was thinking maybe it just looks longer because you have four paragraphs? Anyway, just an idea.

Hope this helps!! I wanted to do the query first and now I'm gonna go look at the first 150 :)

Tamara said...

Nine dongs of the clock tower rang through the city. It was an hour past curfew, and if anyone found Vivien and I

This feels like it should be me and Vivian

lurking in that alley, "that" alley read a little oddly to me. Maybe "an" alley?

we were done for; especially in what we were wearing.

A chill crawled over my skin as she leant out I'd switch "leant out" to just "leaned"

into the deserted street, her bleached blonde hair illuminated in the dim streetlight. She didn't look back as she grabbed my arm and dragged me after her.

Our heels clopped way (I'd lose the word way, the sentence feels just as strong without it) too loudly against the cement.

I kept a look out for sentries, sure one of them would pop up at any moment, especially since my silly, little sister kept snorting with drunken laughter.

After a month, Florende still freaked me out. The narrow, maze-like streets seemed to lead in all directions, down to the docks, where fishing and cargo ships groaned on the water and orange, flaky rust ate through the buildings.

Other than those few tiny suggestions, I liked this first 150 a lot. The idea of her and her drunk sister trying to sneak through a city full of drunks instantly caught my attention. Great job on this. :)

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet said...

Hi Heather, I am the first to admit that queries are NOT my thing so take whatever I say with a grain of salt...You've gotten some excellent advice from others.
The first line of your query might be a bit too vague-I've learned agents HATE vague.
Who are they? To whom are they speaking?
-crazy cool powers-crazy and cool don't tell us WHAT the powers are, you'll need to be specific, again that vague thing is problematic
-defense not defence
-so no one really knows what the majesties are still fighting for.(fix so sentence doesn't end with "for").
So how did Jenna get special powers when her sister is just a norm? I take it they're not inherited powers.
Okay, so I gather one of Jenna's powers is the ability to copycat, but since I don't know what the other majesties can do it still leaves me in the dark about the nature of majesty powers
just that little bit over the edge (a little awkward, maybe "pushes her closer to the edge of madness" at least I'm assuming that's what you mean by over the edge - if not then be clear what it does mean.
Jenna's sister is helping TO BRING it down.
The Cordels are getting ready ON the outside.
And, LITTLE BY LITTLE (because I don't really know what "pieces" you mean), Jenna feels like she's losing control.
150
Nine dongs of the clock tower rang through the city - it's not the tower ringing or donging (and I don't like the word "dongs", makes me giggle inappropriately)so maybe - The tower clock chimed (or rang) nine times, echoing through the silent city.
I agree with others on comments about ME vs. I etc.
"pop up" sounds too cute, harmless, maybe "lunge from the shadows" or something
seemed to lead in all directions, down to the docks (but this is just one direction, so hopefully your next sentences tell us where else the streets lead.)
Sounds like an exciting story - best of luck with the rest of GUTGAA!

Seth Z. Herman said...

Hey,
You have a great premise here, a lot of solid work and imagination. I think the query needs to be a little more joined-together, if that makes sense - it's a little all over the place, without enough explanation. For example, what are the Cordels? They are name-dropped without explanation. So are the "norms" - I'm guessing they're just street workers and regular folk, but that should be clear to any reader.

Also - what exactly are Jenna's powers? We know she has them, but exactly what she can do has been left out.

You have a great story here - tidy up that query and rock it out!

All the best, good luck,
Seth
#60

Ellie Heller said...

Heya!
First, just my opinion. Take it or leave it, you need to do what works for you.



Come to Florende, they said. You'll be safe there, they said. <-- I LOVE your voice here, but not sure you need the 'they said after each of these. Come to Florende. You'll be safe there. That's what they said. Or That's what they promised. (because the idea of a broken promise is stronger than 'they said').

Jenna Rose has just found out she's a majesty with crazy cool powers. Her whole family has been relocated to Florende, a military capitol and safe haven for majesties.
So after the start, your lyrical voice, you have this recitation/explanation. CUT IT - Keep this in your voice. I'm cutting and pasting from your 150 to show you (AND trying to avoid using terminology from your world):

Jenna Rose and her family have been told they'll find sanctuary in Florende where military order rules the narrow, maze-like streets and orange, flaky rust eats through the buildings (... give a parallel to the conflict going on... a contant reminder that even the strongest structures have to guard against... type thing). Jenna's family rarely sees the rust, Jenna's blossoming powers places most of them in a strata above the Norms, the non-gifted who maintain the city for the military. She attends an elite school that teaches her control over her powers and grooms her so she too will protect the city FROM - give us a little history on the enemies/ share their name here. What noone realizes is every time Jenna uses her power, it sends her a little further over the edge.

next part.
First fifteen years is NOT a long time. That's not even a 'generation'. Think of it this way: anyone who has adult children was an adult 15 years ago and they WILL remember. FIFTY years might work for this but, IMO, 15 is too short a time. Suggest, again, you don't list things here, make it personal (you'll definitely need to rewrite this in your 'voice' I'm just giving it as an examle!):

Jenna's sister is a Norm. While Jenna attends parties and fancy combat events she's doing all the dirty jobs this is a tell, instead *show* us a couple of jobs She chaffs at the institutionalized oppression of the military in Florende, and she finds she is not alone. (I'd also mention the scouts from Cordels too, perhaps.

Next part:

Florende is collapsing from the inside.
Jenna's sister is helping bring it down.
The Cordels are getting ready from the outside.
And, piece-by-piece, Jenna feels like she's losing control.

You'll be safe there, they said. They were wrong.

That's it. Two para, the poem and the top and bottom tag lines.

Of course, there's lots of other ways you could do this too, this is just a suggestion. :-)

Ellie Heller said...

I've looked every where for you and it looks like you didn't make it into the first round of the agent pitch portion of GUTAAA. I'm bummed, I think you would have done really well! Hope you're out there pitching this somewhere else!.

Heather M Bryant said...

Wow thanks Ellie! That's super sweet of you! Unfortunately I was a few seconds too late it turns out. I was pretty bummed out but I guess that's just how it goes. Hopefully I'll get through to the small press one.

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