Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #66


Title: Soul Mountain
Genre: YA Romantic Fantasy
Word Count: 67,000

Query: 

There’s only one rule on Soul Mountain: Don’t make contact with the living except for the purpose of carrying out the assignment.

Jimmy Abbott saves the living from untimely deaths. When he rescues seventeen-year-old Emily Bell from drowning in the Hudson River, he finds that sticking to this rule is a lot harder than he thought. Emily represents everything he lost when he died: life, family, and love.

And to make matters worse, she can sense him, even when he's invisible.

The moment they kiss, though, Jimmy realizes he can’t—and won’t—stay away. He’s determined to keep seeing Emily, even if it means being sent to Hell or worse, nonexistence.

When he is summoned before the Elders, he faces the hardest decision of his death: give up Emily and the love they share, or live as a fugitive in the world of the living, guaranteeing that he’ll never cross over.

150 words: 

I lie still on a hammock knotted between two trees. My best friend, Sam, lies in another one nearby. This is part of our morning ritual before the assignments are given. 

Mornings here on Soul Mountain are my favorite. They’re a few degrees cooler, the wind whistles through the white haze, and a soft creaking and chirping ripples through, reminding me of the mornings at my parents’ farm, near the Blue Ridge Mountains—back when I was alive. Here, though, all sound and motion is an illusion, a reflection of that which was, like me.

This has been my home since I died in the spring of 1988. I was eighteen. Still am, actually. That’s the thing about dying, time stands still.

Stretching, I gaze upwards. The black sky bleeds away and is replaced by the soft glow of day. When the haze finally gives way, the sun shines too brightly and the eternal reality of this natural landscape glows.

12 comments:

Elaine Smith said...

I love the 150 - it is atmospheric and I enjoyed the voice.
In the query I found the hook sentence clunky and it detracted from the introduction to the story that followed after.

Donea Lee said...

I really like the concept here ~ :) The query was a little confusing - I liked that you included the stakes, but initially I thought the choices were loneliness or sent to Hell or nonexistence. But, in the last paragraph - it says that he'll be a fugitive walking the earth for eternity with no chance of crossing over to anything, including Hell. Also - I found myself wanting to know why he's been given this assignment in death in the first place?

Your first 150 words were nice - atmospheric, like Elaine mentioned. I especially loved this line: The black sky bleeds away and is replaced by the soft glow of day. Good job!

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

Love this! What an interesting concept. I only have minor suggestions. In your query, show us what Jimmy is. This will only take one or two choice words like: Jimmy Abbott is a (guardian angel?) who saves the living... One more thing, I think you can drop "even if it means being sent to Hell..." I think it reads better without it. You show us the stakes much better in the next paragraph. That's all I have. Your query is concise, gives us what we need to know, and begs us to read about it.
Your 150 are great, too. We get a sense of character and fantasy already. Great job! Best of luck :)
~Shiela #69

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet said...

Hello there - tx for visiting my pitch, here I am returning the favor.
I read the 150 first - I'm contrary like that.
I like the voice, and the suspended animation/timelessness feel to your start.
Now for the hopefully helpful feedback-
and a soft creaking and chirping ripples through (what is creaking? the hammock? the trees? something else?)
all sound and motion is an illusion, a reflection of that which was (this is "hook-y" but when I try to really understand it I get kind of stumped. Is his reality-illusion different from everyone else's on Soul Mountain? Is Sam not experiencing a hammock and morning mist? Is Sam an illusion because he's part of what your MC is experiencing?

the eternal reality of this natural landscape glows.
(The writing is lyricial but I don't actually know what this means? I thought things weren't really real and there wasn't actually a natural landscape.)

On to the query

I thought it was EXCELLENT, right up until this part-
When he is summoned before the Elders, he faces the hardest decision of his death (what other decisions of his death were there?): give up Emily (I would omit this part -and the love they share-we get that they're in love), or live as a fugitive in the world of the living, guaranteeing that he’ll never cross over.
You need to tell me where he would normally cross over to - and why he hasn't yet done so. Does he have to save a certain # of people first or something?
Great premise. I think it's fun that we both have stories with dead boyfriends ;-)
Good luck!

Michelle 4 Laughs said...

I think your query does its job. It sets up the stakes and the conflict. Perhaps try and instill some more personality into the characters. Something like: Emily smells like sunshine and sees the good in everyone. Just a short sentence that gives her personality.

Your first hundred and fifty is solid. There is a degree of telling in it you should be aware of. Instead of telling the reader that time stands still for him you could show by using a mirror or something. Just a thought.

Laurie Dennison said...

Hi! I really like the stakes you set up at the end! I actually think you could lose the first sentence and go straight into "Jimmy Abbott saves..." and then mention what the rule is after Emily. Maybe, "When he rescues seventeen-year-old Emily Bell from drowning in the Hudson River, Jimmy is tempted to break the one rule of (guardian angels, or his title): No contact with the living after the assignment. My example is pretty clunky, but you get the idea.

I really liked the descriptions in the 150, and I love the voice in the P3. But I think you could give us a little more action in that first page, and sprinkle the descriptions in later.

Best of luck to you!

alexia said...

I really like this a lot! Good job. No crit here.

theemptypen said...

I really enjoyed this.

The only thing I can really add is that I agree with Rhiann about telling me when he would normally cross over.

I assumed that saving the living was a gig for eternity, but now it sounds like you do it for a few years and then you get to move on.

However, that complaint feels so minor since the rest of the query is so strong.

Good luck!

JenfromtheBlock said...

This is wonderful in all respects. Your writing style is lush and romantic, very fitting for a ghost love story. The only suggestion I would make is to take out the word nonexistence. End the sentence with "or worse." and let the readers' imaginations fill in the blank. I would read this in a heartbeat.

Tamara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tamara said...

Wow. That first 150 drew me right in. I love the idea of a world that exists only as reflection of someone's memory. I love the tone of the first 150. It flowed really well.

I only had one tweak on the query:

give up Emily and the love they share, or live etc...

I'd take out "and the love they share" since we already know they're in love. Giving Emily up feels strong enough by itself.

And then I had one question that confused me a bit. The query originally says if he keeps seeing Emily he'll be sent to Hell or non-existence. But then it states that if he doesn't give Emily up (meaning if he keeps seeing Emily) he won't ever cross over. So which is it? Hell, non-existence or never crossing over?

I think those stakes need to be clarified a little more, but I still really loved the query.

If you're interested in getting a critique of the first 25 pages of your book, I'm running a contest on my blog that starts Monday. I'd love to read more of this.

Even if you dont' want to enter, I'm always looking for new writer friends. Feel free to swing by and say hello. :)

Good luck with this!!

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