Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #72


Bonded
YA Fantasy
74,000 Words
Query:
Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal since the day he was born. It isn’t his fault he inherited fire magic, but according to the law, mages belong to the king. Kadren’s secret—the fires that flash from his skin—is difficult to keep. He makes one mistake and finds himself carted off as the king’s newest slave.
During his captivity, the voice of a charming water mage fills Kadren’s mind. Somehow, they’ve Bonded. The connection is maddening, yet irresistible. He knows her thoughts and fears. When she receives punishments, the pain lances through his back as if he were being whipped instead of her.
The fool girl has been enslaved her entire life and accepts her captivity as if it were normal. She worships the king and believes he has every right to order the mages beaten or killed. She is delusional and obnoxious—everything Kadren shouldn’t like, but he cannot suppress his fascination for her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.
When the chance to escape arises, Kadren should leave without her, but the Bond’s lasting connection gives the king a means to torture him through her. If he makes the wrong choice, it could very well mean her death.

First 150 Words: 
Chapter 1
Fire bells rang out in the clear mountain air and, for once, it wasn’t Kadren's fault.
He frowned but ignored the ringing. Probably one of the village children had caught a field on fire trying to be like him. They would never be like him. They used torches. As a mage, Kadren could make fire explode from his skin.
He needed to concentrate.
A flickering ball of flames hovered above his head. He focused and the orange flare spun. It weaved around Kadren. A smile formed on his lips as his skin tingled from the warmth. His hair fell into his eyes, obscuring his vision. He brushed it away.
Leaves rustled as birds fled from his fire. He stood next to a large fallen tree in the only patch of sunlight on the shadowy forest floor.
He did not always have control over the flames, so it was best if he didn't practice right under the branches.

9 comments:

Laurie Dennison said...

I'm very intrigued by your concept, and I really like the voice in the third paragraph. I'd really like to see more specifics, though. In P1, what is Kardren's mistake? Could you say, "mages belong to the king. When Kadren (does x), revealing the fires that flash from his skin, he is carted off as the king's newest slave."

I think you could also maybe combine P2 and P3, to give room for more specifics at the end. How does the chance to escape happen? I feel like I need a stronger motivation for him to go and to stay, to amp up the conflict a little.

I also really liked the opening in the 150. Great characterization!

Best of luck to you!

Donea Lee said...

The bonding of these mages with different powers, especially fire and water is really intriguing! But, the rest of the query leaves me wanting...it might be just a bit too depressing and dark for me... And I have questions ~ does he ever come face to face with the water mage? Is it just the voice in his head that bonds them? When he is beaten - does he feel the pain? Or does it work the same as with her - she feels his pain? Why wouldn't he just find her and force her to leave with him? Are they enslaved for the majority of the novel? Is there a small glimmer of hope you can incorporate into the query?

What I like in your first 150 words is that you give us your MC's challenge and his unique ability right off the bat. Going in - you really know what the book will likely be about. Nice! However - the line about the kids in the village trying to be like him lighting fires - would they really do that? If the consequence is being sent to a sadistic king's castle to be his slave? I would think everyone would hide that ability and not try to emulate it in public. Just a thought ~ :)

Best of luck with this!

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

150: I LOVE your opening line! Awesome! We get conflict and character right off the bat. Great job. I enjoyed the rest as well and would want to read on. I can tell you've worked on keeping your sentences active and have done a stellar job.

query: Strong opening. I would like to know what his mistake was. Like: When Kadren accidentally sets the tax collector on fire, he's carted off etc. I'm already hooked on the romance, too, but I also would like to know more about the stakes. Like what her death would mean to him. Couldn't live with guilt, or couldn't live without her, something like that. Overall a very solid query. Best of luck!!

~Shiela #69

Mara Valderran said...

Very strong concept and great first 150 words! The query leaves me wanting as well, though sometimes in a good way. I'd like to know more about what you mean by Bonded. How does this happen? Why does it happen with Kadren and the water mage? Do they meet? Give us a little bit more on this, how he is found out, and why he tries to escape and I think you will have a really solid query. I want to know more about the opposition. The King collects mages, but why? Prejudice? Power?
"Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest." LOVE this line!

Mara Rae said...

I thought your writing was clear and strong, which is great. I didn't need to re-read anything for clarity. But my first thought was that I needed more about the water mage to care whether or not Kadren saves her. Yes, he is Bonded to her, but in a query, it's hard to evoke how powerful that is, and the way she's described makes her a character I have a hard time caring about. Since their relationship seems like a major focus of the book, I'd develop her a little more in the query. Also, you say in the query that he's trying to keep his power a secret, but it doesn't appear that way from the first 150. I don't think it matters which it is, but I would try to make that consistent for querying. Best of luck!
Mara (#67)

Jessica L. Foster said...

Okay I am un-anonymousing myself. Thanks for the awesome feedback. It really gave me some things to think about. In fact one of your comments made my brain melt a little as tried to figure out how to fix something you pointed out (something I had never noticed before)

Anyhow, my brain has been put back together again and I have a newer version. Better? Worse?

Sixteen-year-old Kadren has been a criminal since the day he was born. It isn’t his fault he inherited fire magic, but according to the law, mages belong to the king. As careful as Kadren tries to be, his secret—the fires that flash from his skin—is difficult to keep. After one idiotic, heroic moment trying to use his magic to save the neighbor children from a fire, Kadren finds himself carted off as the king’s newest slave.

During his captivity, the voice of a charming water mage fills Kadren’s mind. Somehow, they’ve Bonded. The connection is maddening, yet irresistible.

She is as delicate and innocent as a wisp of smoke with a stubborn streak that drives him mad. The fool girl has been enslaved her entire life and accepts her captivity as if it were normal. She worships the king and believes he has every right to order the mages beaten or killed. She is delusional and obnoxious—everything Kadren shouldn’t like, but he cannot suppress his fascination for her. Her face sweeps through his thoughts like flames, consuming his every protest.

When the chance to escape arises, she refuses to go. Kadren can command fires with whispers, yet he can do nothing to change the unreasonable girl’s mind. He should leave without her, but the Bond’s connection means when she is hurt, the pain slices through him too. The king can torture her to get to him. Staying means Kadren remains a slave, but leaving could very well mean her death.

Creepy Query Girl said...

'everything Kadren shouldn't like' implies he actually does like her being obnonxious and delusional despite himself. I have a feeling this isn't the case since one of the only reasons he's considering saving her is that their connection would mean he could feel her pain. I think the concept of being bonded to someone you can't stand is really interesting but if he's going to have a fascination with her, maybe you could mention some of her better qualities as well or how he comes to discover a side of her he respects, if that ever happens. GOod luck!

Anonymous said...

I think you’ve got some great elements to your story, but I think the query takes too long in getting to them. You need to start strong, give some interesting details, set up the conflict, and then probably stop while you’re ahead. What grabs me about your premise is the fire VS water love affair, forbidden love, that the two lovers are so different ideologically as well as physically, and the fact that they are slaves. People ALWAYS root for forbidden love and they ALWAYS root for the slaves to escape and get their due—so these elements really work for me! I also like Kadren’s conflict about whether to help her escape. I just think you need to get there a lot sooner! Make the query shorter and pounce on the details that will really make us care and grab our attention.

The opening 150 words is also good, though I’d think that Kadren would be annoyed/angry with the kids for starting a fire as that might bring unwanted attention from the authorities that he’s been trying to avoid. Maybe he gets angry at the kids? Maybe he has to save them and therefore gets himself in trouble? Really, I have no sense of who Kadren is in this opening. He has fire power. That’s about all I get. I don’t have any sense of his personality and without that, I can’t picture him or really begin to care about him. Can you add a bit more so that we immediately understand where he is coming from/we can relate to him?

I hope what I wrote doesn’t come across as too critical because I do like your premise! It has great potential and I want to see it (and you) succeed!

-Craig # 76

Nichole Giles said...

Good job, Jessica! Interesting premise and I like this idea a lot. I like the second query better. Good luck with the contest.