Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #73

60,000 words


Seventeen-year-old Norah is a Tracker, a student of a government-run
military high school that specializes in the extermination of
Shifters—monsters that look like humans but can transform into
animals. For several years, Norah has trained in martial arts,
weaponry, and virtual reality simulations with only one objective in
mind: exterminate Seth, the phoenix Shifter who caused the fire that
killed her family.

When Norah infiltrates a community of Shifters hiding in the woods,
she discovers that Seth and the other Shifters are disturbingly more
human than she was raised to believe. Seth is not the ruthless monster
of her nightmares, but a seventeen-year-old boy just trying to deal
with the fear and pressure of being the leader his people expect him
to be. Seth claims that the fire was an accident due to his inability
to control his Shift, which is a far cry from what her government told
her—that Seth started the fire on purpose to rally the Shifters
against the humans.

Norah must quickly figure out who’s telling the truth—the boy who
killed her family or the potentially corrupt government that took her
in when she lost everything— before she ends up shooting point blank
at the wrong side.

POINT BLANK is a YA futuristic fantasy complete at 60,000 words. It is
told in the alternating points of view of Norah and Seth. Because of
its dystopian and sci-fi elements, POINT BLANK will appeal to fans of

First 150 words:

The Phoenix is watching. The walls of the virtual simulation room
flicker around its flames, and the legendary bird stares me down with
its scarlet, ruthless eyes.

Before its image can fade away, I get out my pistol from my pocket and
fire, again and again. The beast shrieks and takes flight. It swoops
down towards me, and its soot-colored talons reach for my face. I go
flat on my back and continue to shoot at it, aiming at its head this

The bird recoils from the bullets and flies past me, landing several feet away.

And then, the flames that make up the phoenix’s feathers bristle for a
moment, crackling like a hungry forest fire, before absorbing the
bullets. Just like it absorbed all the heat and energy from the bomb,
the grenade, and the rocket that I’d used against it in previous

The gun had been my last resort.


Jessica L. Celaya said...

Your story sounds quite cool. The first paragraph of the query feels a little clunky though. There are a lot of explainations and it just sort of bogs the reader down. Is it important to know that she is a Tracker? Is there anyway to explain what a shifter is when you talk about Seth turning into a phoenix?
Also the line about point blank seems cheese given your title.
The first 150 sounds good though. It reads smooth and is hooky.

Laurie Dennison said...

I'm also really intrigued by your concept. Jessica makes a good point about the opening-- could you maybe start with, "For years, seventeen-year-old Norah has trained in martial arts, weaponry, and virtual reality simulations with one objective in mind: exterminate Seth, the phoenix Shifter who caused the fire that killed her family." Maybe then you could mention the high school and the shifters.

Overall, I think you've got a great conflict and some nice comps. Best of luck to you!

Donea Lee said...

I also really like your concept ~ the conflict is very clear, intriguing, and I think the stakes are evident. There's also a hint at a possible romance? Even the fact that she has to overcome and possibly become friends with the person who killed her family lends to a great character arc for your MC! Awesome ~ :) I'll agree with the others, however - that the first line of your query is a little too matter-of-fact. I would switch it up and try to incorporate more voice.

I really liked your first 150 words. It's a good intro to your character,her world and even what she's trying to initially accomplish. Well done! :)

Anonymous said...

I like this and agree with Donea that you've conveyed your concept clearly in the query. I get a sense of high stakes and love the conflict between a trained Tracker hell-bent on exterminating the Shifter who killed her family only to discover that he's not the cold-blooded villain that the establishment has painted him out be. There is a hint of enemies/lovers--a surefire win in YA.

Short of summing up your entire novel again (you can tell I love your premise), I'd have to say that the mention of 'The big bad government' does whiff of dystopian, which you must watch out for...

All is good and I'd read on.

You might want to consider changing your title as it seems generic and doesn't really grab the reader. I'm willing to bet during the climax of your novel, Norah will point a gun--point blank--at Seth, but from the casual browser in a book store's perspective, I wouldn't get that. Just a thought...

Mara Valderran said...

I really love your first 150 words! I agree that the first paragraph seems bogged down with explanations and not a lot of hook. I like Laurie's suggestion of switching around the sentences. It creates more of a draw. I would add that with the sentence explaining the school and everything you might want to add that the government took her in and started training her to be a Tracker. I was thrown a bit with the third paragraph when you introduce the fact that she was essentially raised by this government. Aside from those tweaks, I really like it. :)

Mara Rae said...

I really enjoyed the first 150 as well. My only suggestion would be to change "scarlet, ruthless eyes" to "ruthless scarlet eyes."
For the query, I agree that you could inject more voice. I'd also try to make the second paragraph seem more like it's from Seth's perspective (still third person) since your novel is alternating POV and from the query, it seems like Norah is the MC. I would just do something like: "But Seth is not the ruthless monster of Norah's nightmares. The fire was an accident, caused by his inability to control his Shift, and now he's just trying to deal..."
Hope that helps!
Mara (#67)

Jessie Humphries said...

A lot of good comments here. I really like your concept here though it feels like a bit of a post-apocolyptic paranormal romance more than a fantasy. I don't know, I am no expert there. Like I don't think LEGEND would be considered Fantasy per se. More dystopian, but I understand you wanting to steer clear of that term at the moment. So maye your right on the genre.
Anyways, the query: I agree about being surprised it was alternating POV's because it definitely seemed to me that Norah was the MC. I love the stakes. I love how there is going to be a journey to find out which side is right.
The 150: I loved the simulation. But I didn't understand if the bird was digital or what. I am not getting how the bird is an image. Is it a 3D/4D techno bird? Not a big deal though. I'd keep reading.

Anonymous said...

This sounds cool—it is the type of book I’d pick up off the shelf, read the back cover, then the first page, and considering what you’ve written, I’d buy it. That being said, I think you might want to clarify one thing in the query: Seth’s age/Norah’s age when Norah’s parents were killed. It seems like Seth should be quite a bit older than Norah. If she was taken in when she was a lost/angry child, Seth must have also been a child. How did that work? Were Norah’s parents hunting him and he acted in self-defense? It just seems odd that as a kid he would have killed her parents—I don’t understand the circumstances for how that would happen and it feels like there is a “hole” in the plot there.

I would NOT call it a Dystopian because agents/publishers are no longer buying Dystopians. Call it anything else or most agents will simply cast it aside. Your book should not be cast aside. It is good.

The opening 150 words are compelling. The only change I might suggest is giving us an idea about what she is FEELING in this scene. It is kind of there, but I’m not sure if she is feeling anger, fear, desperation, frustration, etc. I’d like to know.

Best of luck!

-Craig # 76