Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #74


TITLE OF MANUSCRIPT: DISPLACED
GENRE: YA mythic fantasy
WORD COUNT: 82000 words

Query:
Sixteen-year old McKayla McCleery is the only one who can stop the evil powers that are stealing magic from our world—too bad she doesn’t believe in evil powers, or any kind of powers. McKayla just moved to Star Valley, and life is pretty good: she has a new best friend, takes lessons from the only ballet school in town, and the gorgeous guy in her physics class is finally paying attention.
Rourke is the crazy high school janitor. He keeps a giant lizard for a pet, and claims that he’s been banished here from another world. When McKayla sees Rourke dancing with more emotion, and skill than anyone she’s ever seen, she ignores the rumors, and convinces him to teach her to Irish dance.
When McKayla learns that the stunning, but eerie, woman who threatens her little sister, is the being that Rourke claims is keeping him from home, she uncovers an unbelievable family secret; a secret that endangers her dreams of dance, her chance for newfound love, and her family’s very existence.   
In order to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of both worlds, McKayla must decide what in her life is myth, and what is real.
With the wonder of STARDUST, and the dance appeal of STRICTLY BALLROOM, DISPLACED at 82,000 words, is a story of myth, magic, and mystery.

First 150 Words:
I saw my reflection in the lizard’s eyes a moment before it disappeared. It stood taller than a cocker spaniel, with a tail that trailed behind it like a thick, blue rope. I pressed a hand against my beating heart, leaning forward to watch it go down the hallway. I wondered if I should follow.
            “Eww, did you see that huge lizard?” Christa jumped up from where she had been stretching on the floor. “I swear it just winked at you.”
Water sloshed from the drinking fountain onto my leotard. I jerked back, pulling my thumb from where it still depressed the button.
            “Don’t be ridiculous, lizards don’t wink,” I said, wiping at the growing water stain on the satin.
            “I’ve never seen a lizard that big.”
            I had to agree, it creeped me out. A lot.

9 comments:

Jessica L. Foster said...

I love how your story isn't just a typical fantasy story but has dance in it.
The Rourke character seems to come out of no where. There is no mention of him and your suddenly telling us he is the janitor. Same with the eerie woman. I didn't know there was a woman after her sister and that seems important to know.
I loved the first 150 words. My only issue is the size of the lizard. was he really the size of a dog (ironically bigger than my dog) or is she exaggerating? Since your book is fantasy, if you tell the reader the lizard is that big, they believe it. Just make sure that's what you meant.

Elaine Smith said...

In the query the phrase "teach her to Irish dance" threw me right out of the story. Could you word it: "teach her Irish dancing" or "to help her learn his Irish dance steps" ?
Like Jessica, I would appreciate knowing a little more about the essential characters in the query letter too.

Donea Lee said...

I think you have a lot of fun elements in your query ~ :) The kooky, dancing janitor with the pet lizard is certainly one! But - I'll have to admit that the query seems to jump around a little. You start off with one idea, then jump to introducing your MC's everyday life. And then the janitor, the eerie woman and the sister seem to almost come out of nowhere. How is dancing going to help her? Does it have something to do with the family secret? What's really at risk for her? How will it affect her world? What - specifically - is her choice to make? I think you just need to be more specific and focused - I'd focus on McKayla and maybe what specifically changes in her normal world to make her believe/find out about her mythical world. And I maybe wouldn't introduce Rourke as his own character in his own paragraph, but as someone that McKayla meets and learns she must come to rely on. Like - "When she meets Rourke, the kooky high school janitor..." Or something along those lines. Specificity is key. :)

Also - I like the fun dialogue in your 1st 150 words! Age appropriate, for sure. But - the staging of the scene tripped me up a little. Nit-picky, perhaps, but I wondered how she got lost staring at her reflection in the eyes of a lizard if she had been bent over a water fountain getting a drink? You also mention that she bends forward again - but, wouldn't she already have been forward? And would her friend really be stretching on the floor right next to the fountain? They're in a hallway - right? And if she was really creeped out by the lizard - why does she muse about following it? Why is this your starting point - out of curiosity? Sorry - I hope that makes sense? Just the logical mechanics of the seem (if you tried to act it out, for example) don't quite make sense. But - I really like the idea of you opening up with your MC in her dance world.

I see the potential for a lot of fun in this story!! Best of luck to you ~ :)

Ranee` said...

Forgive the long comment, but it's easier for me to be coherent when I can type my thoughts right after the sentences I mean them for! :) (My thoughts in parenthesis)

Sixteen-year old McKayla McCleery is the only one who can stop the evil powers that are stealing magic from our world (later in the query it talks about "both" worlds. What is the other world and how is it connected to ours?)—too bad she doesn’t believe in evil powers, (no comma) or any kind of powers. McKayla just moved to Star Valley, and life is pretty good: she has a new best friend, takes lessons from the only ballet school in town, and the gorgeous guy in her physics class is finally paying attention ("finally paying attention" suggests she'd been crushing on him for a while, but she just moved to Star Valley). (Many query tips suggest using the first paragraph as the "hook" that BAM statement that will stand out, make the agent want to read more, and lead into the rest of the story. Be specific -- what are the evil powers? People? Things? Ideas?)
Rourke is the crazy high school janitor (as others have mentioned, this seems to jump to another idea and character). He keeps a giant lizard for a pet, (no comma) and claims that he’s been banished here (Where is here? Earth in general? Or Star Valley?) from another world. When McKayla sees Rourke dancing with more emotion, (no comma -- unless you mean it to stand out as a parenthetical, then "and skill" needs to be surrounded by commas) and skill than anyone she’s ever seen, she ignores the rumors (what rumors?), (no comma)and convinces him to teach her to Irish dance. (I'd suggest making her love of dancing more prominent in the query. Is it important to the story? Bring it out. It makes your book unique.)
When McKayla learns that the stunning, but eerie, woman who threatens her little sister, (no comma)(How is this woman threatening her sister?) is the being that Rourke claims is keeping him from home, she uncovers an unbelievable family secret; a secret that endangers her dreams of dance, her chance for newfound love, and her family’s very existence.
In order to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of both worlds (Remember to keep the query unique. Unfortunately, this is a statement that can be applied to a lot of books), McKayla must decide what in her life is myth, and what is real. (This is a good example of showing the stakes - which I've heard many times a query MUST must do. Consider that "decides" is a tame action for the stakes though. How does she act on her decisions, etc.?)
With the wonder of STARDUST, and the dance appeal of STRICTLY BALLROOM, DISPLACED at 82,000 words, is a story of myth, magic, and mystery. (I've heard over and over lately to take what is unique about your story and build the query around that. Dancing is something it seems should be focused on and perhaps more specifics about the evil powers. The link to Nathan Bransford's query article mentioned give enough specifics that the agent knows what's going on, but don't bog it down -- WAY easier said than done, right?)

Good luck! Your story sounds intriguing and unique.

Laurie Dennison said...

Hi! I love the Stardust comp - that really got me interested in reading more. Earlier in the query, I had many of Donea's same questions. I wonder if in the second paragraph you could start with McKayla seeing the "crazy high school janitor" dance, and then show how their relationship develops to lead into the family secrets. If you can get away without introducing the eerie woman yet, it might be less jumpy.

I loved how you introduced the lizard in the 150; it felt quirky and fun!

Best of luck to you!
(#70)

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

Let me start by saying how much I love your voice here! Both your query and 150 words ring with it :)

Query: I like your opening, but felt lost along the way. I love the dancing angle - does that have anything to do with the magic? If so, please show us. A query is not a place for being coy - let us in on the big family secret, especially since it appears to play into her conflict and stakes. What does she want? What's keeping her from getting it? What happens if she fails? I wish I could see a revision - I'd love to see what else you can do with your query :) Keep up the good work!

150: My only question here: is the lizard INSIDE with them or does she see it through a window? Cuz if I saw such a big lizard inside a hallway with me, I'd be screaming my head off and running out of there :) But maybe this is what's different, special about your MC. I'd read on to find out for sure. Best of luck with it!

~Shiela #69

Mara Valderran said...

I agree with what others have said about the query feeling jumpy. Maybe you could introduce everything from McKayla's POV since she is the MC? Transition from her normal life to seeing the kooky janitor and how their relationship develops. Then maybe you can transition from there into how she is starting to believe his stories about the woman (maybe leave off that she is really a creature to avoid confusion) that banished him here--especially after that woman threatens her sister. I think if you keep it all to her POV then the query will be much smoother. You have some really interesting concepts here and I love how dancing is a part of it all.

Seth Z. Herman said...

Agree with much that's been said already - the query is jumpy, albeit well written. In terms of introducing characters out of nowhere, you could compensate simply by writing:

When McKayla sees Rourke - the school janitor who keeps a giant lizard as a pet and claims to be from another world - dancing with more emotion, and skill than anyone she’s ever seen....

That way Rourke wouldn't be dropped on us.

Good luck with it!

Seth
#64

Anonymous said...

There are things I like about your query and things I think you should either cut or change. The premise/ mixing of dance and fantasy is unique and clever. As far as I know, that’s a first. Well done. Your opening hook sentence is okay, but it isn’t grabbing me. The thing that bugs me though is that the “stealing magic from our world” never shows up again in the query—I have no idea how that idea is connected to the plot. Then there are some “curve balls” thrown at me like the crazy janitor and the evil woman attacking the protagonist’s sister. Basically, this doesn’t feel “connected.” I think you need to pick a through-line (the main conflict) and stick with that while also adding some interesting bits about the “dance aspect” and all. Do you really need to mention the janitor in the query? I don’t think so. That’s a distraction. And if you’re going to mention the sister or evil woman, you need to explain that a bit more BUT you also need to make sure that your protagonist’s decisions are driving the story forward.

The line, “In order to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of both worlds, McKayla must decide what in her life is myth, and what is real” is vague in lots of places: “dark forces,” “threaten,” “destiny,” why she must “decide what in her life is myth.” All of those things are vague/unclear. It is the details that will make people interested. So all you need to do (actually this will be hard, I’m sure) is fill in those areas with details. Of course, if that makes your query much longer, you’ve got another problem.

Lastly, I believe you have some unnecessary commas (like in the line, “He keeps a giant lizard for a pet, and claims that he’s been banished here from another world” – no need for a comma there because “He” is the subject throughout the entire sentence. Nobody will reject a pitch for an extra comma, but keep an eye out for that kind of thing.

The 150 words are good—though again I’d watch out for the comma thing.

Looking back over what I’ve written it probably looks like I didn’t like your query/story but that isn’t true. I like it and want you and your story to have the best possible chance. Re-working it a bit should make a difference. Best wishes!

Craig # 76